Like all Catholics over these last weeks, I too have been full of anger, disappointment, and shame at the events reported in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The news of such evil and betrayal perpetrated by priests and bishops is shameful and shocking.
There are times when words fail. This is one of those times. What I read in the Pennsylvania grand jury report is distressing beyond words. I have to admit that I am at a loss to understand how such unspeakable evil has been allowed to fester at the heart of the Church.
The abuse of children, especially sexual abuse, is a stain on our Church and also on our nation’s collective soul. It is heartbreaking and devastating, and as we have seen time and time again it knows no bounds. It is present in the Church, in schools, in universities and in sports programs.
The past weeks have certainly stretched my faith as I am sure they have stretched your own. The tragic events brought to light are the cause of a great deal of shame, righteous anger, and a call for answers and action by many Catholics. Still more anger is rightly directed at those who have been complicit in keeping some of these serious sins from coming to light.
I understand such anger. For as a priest I too am full of a sense of betrayal and rage. And so, like you I continue to struggle to comprehend such evil that has stained our Church that I serve and love so deeply. The author Victor Hugo said: “Where there is darkness, crime will be committed. The guilty are not merely those who commit the crime, but those who cause the darkness.”
Such darkness that looms over our Church calls us to respond with faith in the light of Christ. The Church is a divine institution made of up sinful people. Our focus must remain upon our faith in Jesus Christ and his abiding presence in his bride the Church. We can find comfort and consolation in these dark days when we turn toward the Crucified and Risen Christ. The Christ who knew betrayal. The Christ who experienced righteous anger. The Christ who conquered sin.
In my own life as a priest it is Jesus Christ I turn to for divine guidance and strength in such trying times. Our Church has faced many trials in the past and will undoubtedly face more in the future. Christ, however, is the same yesterday, today and forever! And so we turn to Christ our Light, with faith and in prayer.
Pray for the healing of the victims of these crimes. Pray for justice for all those who are so deeply hurt and those who have committed such evil. Pray for our Church, that this might be a time of repentance and purification. Pray for priests especially the many who have faithfully served and bear the shame and scandal of their fallen brothers. Pray for bishops that they might act with courage and integrity in dealing with these events. And let us pray for one another that we might not lose hope and drown in despair.
Reflecting upon this evil and upon the depravity of sinners within the Church, we are often tempted to despair. The temptation to despair in light of all of this is natural. However, despite the evil and the sin, and with our righteous anger, we are called to move forward in faith, to rely upon God’s promises to us, and to work hard to make every bit of difference we that we are able.
I encourage any survivors of abuse to contact our Diocesan Office of Child Protection and Outreach, which offers resources and confidential support to any who have suffered from abuse and who seek help. They can be reached at 401-946-0728. I also encourage all to seek more information online at dioceseofprovidence.org/office-of-compliance.
On Monday, Pope Francis issued a letter to the Church in response to these events which is included in this week’s bulletin. He states: “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”
Pray for the strength and grace to face these challenges.