Thursday, August 23, 2012

Save the Children!

Save the Children

This is a precocious child who likes to ham it up in front of a camera. I am a priest!
She loves a good story. So did my children when they were younger. Thankfully in the Episcopal Church clergy can marry and have children, love them, bring them up and tell them stories so that laughter and joy can be a normative and healthy way of life.

And even now, after 40 years of ordination, I can tell stories to children. They love to hear them as much as I love to tell them. 

When the disciples of Jesus tried to keep the children away from him, he would say; "Suffer the little children to come unto me!" Meaning "allow the children to come to me"..."suffer" is a nice old English word meaning "allow".

Then Jesus would say "Suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven."  (Matthew 19:14). Look into the child's eyes and and you can see heaven as plain as day.

So now, here's the thing. How do we safeguard them? Especially in the church? When I do story time with our children, one of the little ones insists on calling me "God". I do try to correct the little fella. But such is his absolute trust in me, such is his sense of awe in the church, such is his sense that "This is God's House" just like mom and dad tell him each week when they come to church, that he reasons, with some justification, that the man up front with all the vestments, and who presides as the altar of God must himself be God.

How can any priest betray such a trust?
How can any priest exploit such a one for unspeakable horrible purposes?
I like most will shudder to think of such a thing.

In fact Jesus himself said this of his precious little ones;

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.' (Matthew 18:6"

These are very strong words for a Gentle and Compassionate Savior. The matter of clergy sexual abuse of children is perhaps the worst scandal to hit the church in many centuries. It has undermined much of the church's moral authority.

The Roman Catholic Church needs to learn what we learned years ago.
  1. Do background checks on all clergy often and at the very least when they go from one church to another. This should be done by a professional outside agency to protect the church, the clergy and most of all the children.
  2. Every single staff person and every single person who works with children must be required to take a course in safeguarding and protecting children
We have not solved all of our problem by a long shot. But we have come a very long way. AND I must say that allowing clergy to marry has some obvious benefits. It is plain healthy and wholesome for clergy as well as any other person on the planet to have an outlet for that love which is, at least in my case, irrepressible. If I did not have my wife and children to love honor and cherish, I shudder to think what might become of me.

There is something else that needs to be said. If Rome expects to have any moral authority when it comes to its teachings on birth control and abortion, it needs to begin with the children we have on the planet now!

For the life of me, I cannot understand why we don't hear an outcry every single week from the pulpit of every church in America for the way in which our children have been abused and exploited, often from within the church itself!

Where is the moral indignation? 
Where is the outrage?

If find it hard to take the rhetoric around birth control and abortion when I do not hear a commensurate  sense of outrage against the neglect and abuse of the living breathing children we have with us now.

Jesus said to us; "Suffer the little ones to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven".

He told them stories, he probably laughed and played with them just like a child. After all, Jesus also said; 

‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. ~Matthew 18

Blessings on all children of God. And please God, and all the people; keep them safe!

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom that we may work to assure their safety as they grow into a sometimes dangerous world, for the sake of the One who taught us that of such is the kingdom of heaven. Amen.

Fr. Paul

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