Date: Sunday, September 02, 2018
There is a beautiful name for God in the Letter of Saint James: “Father of Lights.” “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creatures … Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
“Spotlight” is the name of a movie and the name of an investigative team of reporters from the Boston Globe that revealed the abuse of children and teens by priests and the cover up by the Cardinal. Priests were sent for therapy and/or reassigned without ever informing the police or warning parishioners about the priest’s predatory behavior. The priority of the Cardinal was face-saving rather than saving the children.
After the resignation of the Cardinal and his face-saving reassignment in Rome, U.S. Bishops met in Dallas to compose the Charter for Protecting Children and Young People. Virtus training was made mandatory in Dioceses and priests even with one offense were removed. It seemed that the Church hierarchy in the U.S. was finally coming to grips with the problem of abuse until this “summer of shame.” It was disclosed that a Cardinal of the Church, after two settlements for misconduct, continued with prominence and influence. It is alleged by an Archbishop and former nuncio that Pope Francis had been informed of the Cardinal’s gross behavior. A Grand Jury released a shocking report on child/teen abuse and it’s systematic coverup by bishops in Pennsylvania. And now Bishop Malone acknowledges that he kept two priests in ministry knowing that there were pending accusations. There have been calls for both Pope Francis and Bishop Malone to resign.
In our Gospel pharisees and scribes criticize the disciples of Jesus for not following ritual rules of cleanliness and purification that would demonstrate their faithful observance to Gentiles. Jesus counters that they are more worried about appearance and less concerned with their interior lives – the inner disposition of the soul. Sadly, the Church has exhibited more alarm about public perception of clergy than about the safety and welfare of children, teens and adults.
Bishop Malone says he will not resign at this time of crisis -- “can the Shepherd abandon the flock?” -- but he can do better by establishing a task force to change protocols on abuse of children, teens and adults and to set up a special office on ethical behavior. He will also create a committee to prepare for outside review of chancery files. He promises to include lay persons and elected officials.
Lay involvement begins at the local parish. Deacon Jim Jaworski and Deb Keenan met with our lay leaders to assess the impact of the crisis on our faith community and to explore ways the laity can help address and amend clerical abuse. I will ask our Pastoral Council to do the same. I trust that the laity will find a way to make their voice heard in demanding not just changes in protocol but structural change.
The highest priority remains the well-being of children, teens and adults who have been deeply harmed or who are at risk of abuse by priests. May the Father of Lights give us birth in the truth with contrition of heart, confession of sin and true conversion.