Putting Our Focus on Jesus
A Church responding to the sexual abuse crisis must never be comfortable with sin
The sexual abuse crisis brings into clear relief that the Church is not immune from the cancer of moral depravity. This cancer has spread throughout the Church’s leadership around the world and has deep roots. The Church must be relentless in her efforts to dig up and tear out this invasive weed so that it never grows back again.
Consequently, we need to focus our hearts, minds and lives on Jesus, who destroyed the weeds of sin on the cross with his precious blood. The clerics who have committed such heinous crimes have taken their eyes off the cross and should remember that they are ordained to pick up the cross and follow Christ.
The crisis the Church is facing stems from the fact that “for far too long we have diminished the reality of sin — we have refused to call sin a sin — and we have excused sin in the name of a mistaken notion of mercy. In our efforts to be open to the world we have become all too willing to abandon the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” Bishop Robert C. Morlino said in a letter to the faithful in his diocese. To avoid causing offense, we opt for political correctness, where becoming “meaningful” and “relevant” means being liked and accepted by the culture. In short, we have become too comfortable with sin. If we are to overcome the power of evil, we, like Christ crucified, need to get uncomfortable.
We must become so filled with the love and joy of Jesus Christ that there is no room left for sin to hide. The Church’s guiding principle for dealing with the crisis is this: We love everyone, but we always don’t love their actions; and we judge actions, we never judge people.
What can we do today, 20 years into the crisis? We must always ensure the faithful are protected by strictly enforcing the protocols issued by the (arch)diocese or eparchy for credible allegations to protect children, seminarians and vulnerable adults. The support and care for current victims and the prevention of future victims must remain the top priority.
“The love and mercy which we are called to have even for the worst of sinners does not exclude holding them accountable for their actions through a punishment proportionate to the gravity of their offense,” according to Bishop Morlino. Therefore, all clerics should be immediately removed from ministry who — where it has been verified — have committed, participated in and/or covered up sexual abuse, ignoring the protection of God’s faithful. Furthermore, they should be criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This process must also ensure that, following an investigation, the reputations of innocent clergymen remain unscathed.
In addition, rigorous psychological testing and improved human-formation programs that are in line with Church teaching should be implemented for seminarians and those in diaconate formation. The bishop must ensure that these environments provide an atmosphere conducive to the holistic formation of holy priests and deacons.
Finally, most clerics are excellent and are doing outstanding work for God’s faithful, and we must acknowledge, thank and uplift them for their faithful service to the Church. We need to pray, fast and offer sacrifices for these good men, for the clergy who have committed crimes and especially for abuse victims, that they may find healing.
We must bring the light of Christ into this present darkness. This scandal has caused many people to doubt their faith, but the light is always stronger than the darkness. If all we do is curse the darkness, nothing will change. We must understand and appreciate the fact that what the Catholic Church actually teaches is true, good and beautiful despite the hypocrisy and contradiction of Church members who do not actually live the Faith they profess. Personal sin and human weakness are not greater or more powerful than the strength of objective truth and God’s merciful love. Let us pray for an increase of clergy who will have the courage to identify themselves with the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who offered himself in love for the world and who — through the great gift of himself to us in the Eucharist — leads us to everlasting life.
DEACON HAROLD BURKE-SIVERS serves at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon.