I’ve been reading the materials from, and reactions to, the recently-concluded meeting at the Vatican on sexual abuse and its management (or lack of it) by the world’s bishops.
My overall sense is that church leadership and church members are living in two different worlds.
On the one hand, church officials are largely positive about the meeting’s outcome, while admitting that there is much more work to be done. To take just two examples, here’s the president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo:
I’m more happy right now over what I see and what has happened in these days, and when I get back home, I think I can go before the bishops’ administrative committee and all the bishops and say, that I think there is some affirmation from this meeting of what we wanted to do.
And from Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a member of the Organizing Committee and Head of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University:
“[A] qualitative and quantitative leap along a decade-long journey that will continue.”
On the other hand, from Anne Barrett Doyle, a leader of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks incidents of abuse in the church:
Pope Francis’ talk today was a stunning letdown, a catastrophic misreading of the grief and outrage of the faithful, As the world’s Catholics cry out for concrete change, the pope instead provides tepid promises, all of which we’ve heard before.
And a (prescient?) comment from Fr. Thomas Doyle, the canon lawyer who back in 1985 co-wrote a scathing report (distributed to all the U.S. bishops of the time) about clergy abuse of minors (which was largely ignored):
They’re going to pray and they’re going to meditate. But it’s totally useless. You shouldn’t have to have something like this in 2019.
My own sympathies are with Fr. Doyle. But here we are, with promises from the Holy Father and from bishops that concrete actions will be taken, and soon. We shall see. I encourage all Catholics (some of whom, I know, are hanging onto trust in the bishops by their fingernails, and some of whom have lost it entirely) to remember that Christ will not desert His Church. The Word and the Sacraments are still available to you, for the sake of your own holiness and salvation. Other struggling Catholics need to see you at Mass as silent support for their own discipleship. For their sake and yours, don’t give up.
Lent is meant to be a time of spiritual struggle. The ordinary disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving direct us in normal times, but these times are anything but normal in our church. Perhaps this year’s Lent should focus on disciplines like these: careful investigation to get good information; avoiding jumping to conclusions; relying on analysis, not emotion; and, most important, hope.
Until next week, peace.