Much has been written and continues to be written about the most recent sexual abuse bombshells in the Catholic Church. I keep putting off writing a blog post about it, hoping that I can calm down and write something thoughtful, not simply rant from a place of deep anger.
WARNING. I am not even attempting a balanced commentary. Is there a dialogue to be had? Can you defend the indefensible?
The first bombshell was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s long history of sexual misconduct and abuse of diocesan seminarians. A shock to most, but apparently not to many seminarians, priests and bishops who knew McCarrick.
The second was the grand jury report from Pennyslvania, based on internal documents from six dioceses, which concluded that over 300 predator priests had abused more than 1,000 child victims.
This past weekend, the abuse crisis took centre stage at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, as it should have. The church cannot and should not preach about the beauty and gift of family life without acknowledging the horrific violence perpetrated on her children by ministers of the church.
Without acknowledging the damage it has done to each and every life affected by clerical/church abuse.
Without acknowledging the loss of moral and spiritual credibility of its leadership. A leadership who has self-righteously instilled fear and guilt into women and men for centuries for not living up to its sexual teachings – teachings that tried to control our right to freedom over our fertility, freedom to choose whom we love, how we love them, and whom we marry.
YES, we the People of God are angry and disgusted. WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!
YES, something has to be done. NOW.
NO, that “something” isn’t for us to join priests and bishops in prayerful fasting and penance. WE ARE NOT THE PERPERTRATORS.
NO, this is not the time to finally open leadership in the church to the laity. We have been denied a voice and active role in all other decision making. Victims and their supporters have been speaking truth to power for decades about clerical sexual abuse, only to be ignored or silenced. THIS IS YOUR MESS. OWN IT. FIX IT.
NO, this is not a gay problem. It is AN ABUSE OF POWER PROBLEM.
YES, the root of all this evil is clericalism with it’s elitist, self-promoting and self-protecting culture of princely titles and princely garb; YOUR HOLINESS, YOUR EMMINENCE, YOUR EXCELLENCY, YOUR VERY REVEREND FATHER.
YES, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Pennsylvania is only one state in America. America is only one country. THIS IS A GLOBAL PROBLEM FOR THE CHURCH.
YES, sexual abuse is a crime. YES, those who help to cover up sexual abuse are guilty of aiding and abetting a crime. THE ABUSE AND THE COVER-UP ARE BOTH CRIMES.
These crimes must be punished. NOT with canonical slaps on the wrists. NOT by whisking away the perpetrators to safe houses or monasteries to hide them from public scrutiny. THESE CRIMES MUST BE PROSECUTED IN SECULAR COURTS OF LAW.
For those of us yearning for a new church, we have often talked about the need for the current structures to implode in order for real change to happen. The gospels are filled with images of pruning, dying and rising to new life. The coming months, years, decades will be a time of pruning and dying. We will not see new life overnight, but it will come. It must come.
For some, the current crisis will be the final straw that pushes them out of the church doors forever, if they haven’t left already. Others will stay and fight the good battle for the church they love. And, fight they must. Silence and turning a blind eye enables evil to continue.
The mighty are falling from their thrones. And, fall they must.