The Broken Church
Aug 27, 2018
I have little energy left to become angry at the report of the Pennsylvania grand jury about clergy sexual abuse; all that is left is sorrow. I read the Pope’s letter to us concerning sexual abuse in the Church and found little solace in it. There are so many words, but little action to bring about the changes necessary to really reform the Church. One of the chief problems, as the Pope points toward it, is clericalism among those who are called to serve the Church. This sickness begins to be formed the moment a young man enters into the seminary. Everywhere he goes he is treated as someone different from the rest of the Church. Too often I have heard in hushed tones, “He is a seminarian”, as if he is something above the rest of the members of the Church. Sadly as time goes by he begins to believe he is above the rest of us and the rules do not apply to him.
I was saved from this by a mother who reminded me regularly that I was nobody special. In my college years in the seminary my mother treated me differently and I finally told her that my real ambition was to be a veterinarian but I was in the seminary to get a free college education. For most of the rest of the four years she avoided telling anyone that I was studying for the priesthood. When I told her that I was going on to the major seminary she was so frustrated with me that she began reminding me that I was no one special. It was her greatest gift to me, though I do not think she realized it.
What we are witnessing in this present age is the systemic corruption of many in the clerical state, from the top (the bishops) to the rest of the clergy. I do not believe that the bishops talked that much with each other about the abuse happening in each of their dioceses. In the darkness of sin they covered all of this up and pretended that there was nothing wrong in their particular diocese since it might indicate their own brokenness. I suspect they felt bad for the guys who got caught and were happy that they had not been caught themselves.
Now is the time to talk, first about their own individual failures, and then about the Church as a whole. The victims (survivors) need to be embraced, loved and welcomed by the rest of the faithful. Too often as people are getting weary of this topic I hear amongst the faithful the question, “Why can’t the victims just get over this?” They should not have to do this, but instead we should be helping them to live with the pain that has been foisted on them by broken members of the clergy. We have to do something more than praying for the survivors, we need to actively reach out and love them as brothers and sisters in our broken Church.