Friday, August 26, 2011

It is worse than I thought

The Scandal Continues

Here Our Lady holds her son in her arms. In Catholic spirituality she is known as "Our Lady of Sorrows". I cannot help but think that her heart is broken every time she has to face the daily account of clergy sexual abuse of children. I had no idea it was this bad. Today's Boston Globe lists 159 archdiocesan clerics who have been accused of abusing children sexually. It is indeed much worse than I thought. Some charges have been dismissed but there are far too many who appear to have been the agents of a child's undoing. Lest we forget, Jesus gets very agitated about the undoing of a child; "If anyone causes on of these my little ones to stumble, it would be better if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he be thrown into the sea" (Matthew 18:6) Those are strong words for a fellow known for his capacity to forgive and have compassion.
This is very serious stuff. The scandal reaches across the country, into Canada, Ireland, Germany. There are those who raise questions about the oversight of this whole mess in all the above mentioned places. Even the Holy Father's oversight in his former Archdiocese has been under scrutiny.
One cannot help but wonder in all this how well celibacy is holding up as a valid discipline for clergy. It is abundantly clear that clergy are human beings, and human beings have sexual drives. It is as simple as that. To impose such a discipline without a fuller understanding of how pent up sexual energies may express themselves over time is very risky business.
We (The Episcopal Church) discovered that clergy can act out more than 20 years ago and began mandating that every single priest be subjected to a background check every single time s/he moves from one congregation to another. And more to the point, we contracted an outside agency to do those background checks. Obviously we are a whole long way from pure, but we are making headway. AND at least we allow our clergy; male and female, to marry and to love those they promised to love.
Furthermore, when the Church does its own discipline, it becomes suspect. It raises eyebrows. It makes one think of the wolf watching the henhouse. When the hens keep showing up dead, one begins to suspect the wolf. It may make some sense to get background checks done on every single priest, and to contract that work to an outside agency.
Many clergy rail on about abortion, and I mean in rather uncharitable ways, and end up calling those of us who are pro-choice "murderers". May I point out that we must get our priorities right. Lets worry about the children we have on the planet right now, and lets protect them from predators inside and outside the church. My God, imagine we have come to the point where we have to speak so bluntly.
To raise the credibility of the church, lets hear her raise her voice for the victims of abuse, the victims of poverty, homelessness, war refugees and so on. Lets take care of the living breathing children we have in front of us right now. Then we'll can stand on a much more secure ethical footing when we speak to the issues of family planning, abortion and so on.
In the meantime, I must hasten to express my profound gratitude to all those who serve the church faithfully and keep the vows they made some time ago. There is this one assuring thing. The church has survived a very long time with human beings running the show and we will continue so. And the Gospel light of Jesus will continue to shine through it all. And the radiant faces of the faithful who show up day after day to make manifest the love of God to this sin-sick world, will continue to reflect the Glory of God.
And when we act so, Our Lady's sorrows are not so much to bear. She will continue to embrace her child in her arms, until all human suffering is brought within God's embrace.
May God bless us all.
Fr. Paul


MarkDownunder said...

I echo your sorrow, Paul, but I note that the church only allows (requires?) heterosexual clergy to marry their opposite sex partners. As you have pointed out, the entire Christian faith has a long way to go on sexuality. But is this abuse really an expression of sexuality (however distorted or abusive)? I'm not entirely convinced that it is.

Fr. Paul said...

There is one itsy bitsy tiny corner of the faith world that makes no distinction even based on orientation...Episcopalians now allow gay clergy and gay partners to marry in Massachusetts and a few other places. It is a long hard battle...but it is coming. Thanks for the comment