Pastoral Thought



            Last Sunday at three of the Masses I spoke about the pain and shock we have experienced after the priestly sex abuse report in Pennsylvania, and the further evidence of cover-ups by bishops and archbishops.

            Some of you felt the temptation to cynicism or to exit the Catholic Church. But the Church is the Body of Christ and Jesus is one with His Body, including the sinful. As Peter said, “To whom else shall we go?”

            What comes to my mind is the psalm of lament “You have rejected have sold us for a cheap price...our neighbors mock and laugh at us. You have made us a joke...I am covered with shame.” (Ps 79)

            Pain, anger, repentance, hope—all come from this kind of sorrow. The terrible fact emerges that leaders in the Church concealed the abuse. Most of these bishops were capable leaders, concerned for the well-being of the church. But they put the image of the Church and their own image ahead of the spiritual and psychological good of abused children. They abetted the abusers. The shepherds allowed the wolf to attack the sheep.

            Our diocese of Wilmington has done what is humanly possible to repair this damage, by expelling abusers, recompensing victims, and enforcing strict standards for those who work with children. We can be glad of that.

            But more is needed. Our church structures need reform. Lay people, men and women, married people and parents must have consultation and decision-making power on the Church bodies who deal with clergy abuse. It is evident that clergy-only bodies lack independent oversight and also the 20-20 vision needed.

            In all important matters, the Church needs the vision of all its members, male and female, ordained and lay. Matters affecting family and human sexuality especially need their collaboration.

            Pope Francis seeks a synodal Church where decisions can arise from the experience of the local Churches and their discernment of the times. I say Amen to that. No evil will become a tragedy if we repent, reform, and learn from it.

Father John Hynes