By Fr. Rich, O.P.
My heart is broken. It is broken for anyone abused by people they had been taught to trust. As a Catholic, every time the “Church” has her brokenness exposed, I am heartbroken. The toll in human pain and anguish is truly beyond calculation.
I also have hope. “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.” I believe that this same Spirit is found in our Church, enlightening, guiding, and lifting up the Good News of our redemption, our unity in the Eucharist.
As I write this, we have received letters from Bishop McKnight and Pope Francis. I encourage you to take the time to read them thoughtfully and prayerfully. They are our spiritual leaders and are making an effort to initiate the journey to reconciliation and change. It will be a long, often painful, challenging experience. If we undertake it grounded in the strength of Eucharistic grace and as a faith community, ultimately the Holy Spirit will prevail.
Pope Francis is clear in his intention:
Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and
to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.
Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared
to create a culture able to prevent such situations from
happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being
covered up and perpetuated.
(Pope Francis: Letter to the People of God)
Now is the time for victims to be silent no longer; our prayer ought to be for courage and strength to speak out and risk, to fear no longer exclusion or dismissal. Now is the time for compassion, gentle, unwavering, non-judgmental acceptance.
It will involve a committed effort from each of us to a greater awareness, a deeper sense of community. “Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change.” (Pope Francis: Letter to the People of God) The key here is “active participation.”
Again and again we are reminded, in circumstances such as these, of what Edmund Burke wrote in 1770, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke, in a letter addressed to Thomas Mercer). As Pope Francis points out in his letter, prayer and penitential fasting can bring us to a place where we “hunger and thirst for justice.” But we must also actively engage the systems that have perpetuated the sin.
Bishop McKnight wrote: “One thing for sure: we will be a different Church. We are in this together.” Actively together, prayerful, attentive, inquisitive, supportive; the local faith community is foundational to any systemic change, always. Always.
There will be more to come. More hidden sin will be discovered; we will be reminded, again and again, of the brokenness that we bring to the table of the Lamb. We will be reminded of the need we all have for a gentle, loving, supportive community that lifts us up in our grief. We will be reminded of the presence in our lives of Faith in the Triune God, hope in the forgiveness of sin, and the all-encompassing love that “believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”