Dare We Hope?

The biggest, boldest headline doesn’t always tell the most important story. That’s the case this week with Pope Francis’ much anticipated and highly publicized meeting with victims of clergy sex abuse. Though survivor advocate groups cited deficiencies and questioned the Church’s resolve, Francis gained generally high marks for personal empathy and promise to hold bishops accountable.

But as ordinary Catholics know and this blog has reiterated many times, the root cause of our sex abuse crisis is the culture of clericalism, hierarchical arrogance and preoccupation with protecting power in the Roman church. Though not as insidious as the sexual abuse of a child, recognition of the urgent need to reform the Vatican Curia is a subset of the same core malignancy.

A sliver of light shone through the long socked-in cloud cover yesterday.  It came in the form of a copyrighted [story] by Carol Glatz for the Catholic News Service — to their credit, this is an arm of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Though it seems not to have even registered on mainline media it portends the level of awareness that must be in place for any meaningful change.  It suggests a few in church leadership are beginning to “get it” and we may have reason for hope beyond what the Pope promised.

“To some it might seem less than prudent to think that the church would go out of its way to seek out even more victims and survivors,” opening up further possibilities for lawsuits, anguish and “trouble,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told representatives from bishops’ conferences from around the world.

However, when Jesus tells pastors to leave behind their flock to seek out the one who is lost, that mandate “is itself unreasonable and imprudent but, like it or not, that is precisely what Jesus asks us to do.”

Helping perpetrators, victims, parishes, communities and people who are distanced from the church out of “disgust at what has happened to children” won’t happen with “slick public relations gestures or even from repeated words of apology,” Martin said.

“Healing cannot be delegated,” the Archbishop emphasized. It requires every church member be humble and Christ-like in lovingly embracing “wounded men and women, with all the brutality and unattractiveness of wounds.”

It will come when the church recognizes “how compromise and insensitivity and wrong decisions have damaged the witness of the church,” he said, and when its members have their own personal healing, becoming more humble and journeying close to those who are lost and hurting.

“We are not there to tell the survivors what they have to do, but together to find new ways of interacting with respect and care,” and not hoping the problems go away, but seeking them out for reconciliation, he said.

Archbishop Martin was one of a number of speakers at an annual meeting of Conference on the Safeguarding of Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults. The 2014 conference is being held this week in Rome.

In his address, the Archbishop said, “The greatest harm that we could do to the progress that has been made right across the church is to slip back into a false assurance that the crisis is a thing of the past.”

“What has happened has wounded the entire church,” he said, and “the entire church is called to put right what has happened.”

“We are not that kind of church yet: and by far,” he said.

With this awareness finally being expressed by church leadership there might finally be a toe-hold for hope in this tragic saga of clergy sexual abuse and a few cracks showing in a perverse culture of clericalism.

It’s a refreshing story and a welcome week when the most significant report coming out of Rome originates from someone other than the Pope.
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I have no intention to violate copyright laws and respect the restriction posted on the CNS story that is my source: Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed. But with good news like this, how could I not share it? I enthusiastically refer you to the full copyrighted story with the link provided above.

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