Two days after the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on the gut-wrenching abusive incidents by clergy, and subsequent cover-ups by the leadership, the Vatican has released a statement via director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, that “expresses shame…the pope is on victims’ side”.

Here is the full statement:

I agree with Matthew Schmitz that the sympathetic words are well-done, but “the pope is on your side” strikes me as weak; when I read it my first thought was, “Well, good, because, duh! Where else should the pope be but on the side of the wounded lambs? But now he has to back up his words with some real action.”

In essentials, the statement is a good one, and if it seems “a day late” to Americans, who like things to move quickly, we can be thankful that is only a day late, and not also “a dollar short”. So to speak.

While the PA report is concerned with the abuse of minors, I do think this statement could have been stronger still had it also acknowledged the suffering and sense of betrayal experienced by those young men who have entered our seminaries full of faith and trust, only to be targeted and objectified. Such an acknowledgement would have signaled to all of us — and to the worldwide church — a recognition that the church suffers from a systemic illness the pope sees and means to address.

Meanwhile, it is a little depressing to see people on social media (and popping up on some news outlets) who are already trying to “debunk” the Grand Jury report, or “give perspective”. If they mean well, it’s just coming off like damage control and an attempt to minimize something very grave. All that does is reinforce the notion that “handling scandal”, and protecting the institutions (which is how we got here) are as important as the destructive effects of abuse and entrenched corruption on so many hearts, minds, and souls.

They are not. The Church remains the Bride of Christ, who is the Bridegroom ever-faithful. Between the love of the Bridegroom and the promptings of the Holy Spirit upon willing workers, the Church will be seen to, protected, redeemed and restored, so there is no need to rush in with wall-paper and spackle, as though human efforts at spin can do the trick.

Here is the truth: The Bride of Christ is ill, and we (in the form of his Body, the Church) are now being called to identify the causes — yes, multiple — of her affliction, so they may be vanquished. The presenting illness of 2002 has been effectively treated through the application of the Dallas Charter, but a stronger treatment — a difficult but powerful sort of chemo therapy — is clearly still needed to bring about full healing.

Precisely what kind of chemo can only be determined after a thorough, objective forensic investigation that is able to identify both the path of the corruption and its source.

This is our job — yours and mine, and our priests and leaders, all together. This is the great calling of our time: to assist the Bridegroom and the Holy Spirit in the complete restoration of the health of the Bride. If we fail, we will answer to Christ for the loss of souls, and not just the Catholic ones. The Church is the taproot of Christianity and the centering pole that provides light and breath to all the offshoot vines. Should that pole collapse, the faith of millions will be snuffed out.

We have much work to do, in so many directions, and we haven’t even fully developed some of the medicinal protocols that will be needed. Let us get to it!

Image: Public Domain