You’ll pardon me for paraphrasing Bette Davis in All About Eve, but we’re going to be on a bumpy ride for more than one night, as we face a 900-page Grand Jury report out of Pennsylvania that has just dropped and may be read here. It will bring on a great deal of turbulence. God help us…it is unbearable.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, on the heels of an earlier statement, (an on whom a substantial measure of the report will fall hard) felt the need to issue a public statement that could get out ahead of it. You can read his statement here.
Read it all, of course, and come to your own conclusions about it. I personally wish he had addressed the systemic nature of what Pope Benedict XVI called the “filth” that has embedded itself in the church thanks some of the very bishops and leaders who have excused, or permitted, or enabled, or ignored or (God help us!) committed crimes against some and sins against many. Sins against all, if you consider that they are meant to be servants of the church. I am also troubled by this section: “In the past 30 or so years, scientific, psychological, and medical understandings of child sexual abuse evolved significantly, as did civil and church law.”
This is undeniably true. But regardless of the tardy civil reactions to child sexual abuse, regardless of how medical or psychological or scientific understandings “evolved”, had the bishops been faithful to the Gospel, the words of Christ Jesus and the teachings of the Church, what needed to happen, right from the beginning, was very clear:
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,* you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones* who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” (Matt 18:3-7)
Considered in light of their apostolic succession, why didn’t they ponder those words and tremble in their very shoes for what they must answer for, and then do the right thing?
And yes, criminal statutes have “evolved” to protect children who are victims of abuse, but how could Princes of the Church not understand grave sin when it was presented to them, and too, the evidence of criminal mistreatment of another, and the unfitness for ministry of so many?
How could a bishop, faced with something as heinous as what the late Richard Sipe outlined in a hand-delivered letter to one of their number, read of the unspeakable filth, and do nothing?
This is how a church gets sick.
As Wuerl tells CBS News, much of what we are now learning concerns what might be called “old matters” — decades-old charges. But what feels so much worse about this, coming on the heels of the McCarrick story and the worldwide headlines, is that the inaction or poor judgments of the bishops fomented everything.
We are told the Pope is the “servant of the servants” of the Church, and that our leadership are, like Jesus, meant to be the faithful “good shepherds” to the sheep — guiding them in the way they should go, and to the most fruitful and nurturing places; healing their wounds…washing their feet…laying down their lives for them.
Our bishops need to get back to thinking of themselves that way, as followers of the True bonus pastor, answerable to him for our illnesses, our wanderings, and more.
And we need to pray for them, and for all priests, and for all the victims of bad shepherds. We have to do this. We have no choice, if we want a healthy, recovered and restored Church.
If you’re not sure what to pray, perhaps a good start would be the Ninth Station of the Cross, as written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2005:
How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall! All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us (cf. Mt 8: 25).
Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.
UPDATE: The Daughters of Saint Paul, bless them, have also made available an online Guide to Making a Holy Hour of Reparation.
— Sister Anne (@nunblogger) August 14, 2018
Also, a bracing read by David Mills.
Image: Public Domain