Walking our Faith: Would the child Jesus have been safe in the Diocese of Pittsburgh? (column)
Walking Our Faith
Last Wednesday was the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary, a holy day of obligation, so at 8 a.m. I was sitting in the front row of St. Mary’s.
As I listened to the readings and homily, I gazed at the 30-foot tall stained-glass window of Mary holding the child Jesus in her loving, protective embrace.
I listened as our new priest, Father Emmanuel read Mary’s proclamation: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord …” When Father Emmanuel reached the following words of the Magnifact, I thought they were an appropriate warning for the crisis the Catholic Church faces today. “He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.” (Luke 1:46-55)
I’ve been thinking about the report released from the grand jury in Pennsylvania which outlined in lurid detail how 300 priests had molested, sexually abused, tortured or raped 1,000 boys and girls over the past 70 years, often many times. To read the details of the grand jury report, which I have, is to look into an abyss of monstrous evil perpetrated by the very men who were ordained to care for God’s children
The newly appointed Cardinal Wuerl of Washington, D.C., was formerly the Bishop of Pittsburgh, where 100 priests were found to have sexually abused children. Which might have something to do with the nonchalance of his response when he said Cardinal McCarrick’s recent resignation after accusations of decades of sexually abusing young boys and seminarians was “not a crisis.”
On Wednesday morning, I gazed at Mary embracing the child Jesus. Do you remember when it was realized that Jesus had been left behind in Jerusalem for three days before it was discovered he was missing?
Jesus was discovered in the temple, debating with the religious scholars. I wondered as I sat in Mass, would the child Jesus have been safe if he’d been left behind in the care of one of these priests in the parish of Bishop Wuerl? If Mary had expressed her concern, would Bishop Wuerl have told her he’d take care of it, while he transferred the priest in question off to another parish where he’d be free to prey again?
Years ago, when another child abuse scandal in the Church was revealed, I was so angered by our priest seeming to brush it under the rug by saying that we should be willing to forgive others, that I considered leaving the Church, as many did and will do with this new scandal.
But as I sat in Mass on Wednesday morning, I didn’t feel anger. I felt my heart break. I will not leave St. Mary’s or my Catholic faith. I have discovered a deep love for both over the past three years in Breckenridge. We have two wonderful new priests, Father Stephen and Father Emmanuel, both dedicated faith leaders.
I also understand that my love for God, and how I find him in the liturgy of the Catholic Church is greater than the sins of a small percentage of clergy. I won’t leave, but for the love of God and my Catholic Church, I will speak out.
Since Wednesday, the Vatican has weighed in with sincere apologies, the United States Conference of Bishops has issued a three-point plan which sounds very similar to past plans, and our own Denver-based Archbishop Aquila sent an email to assure us that he has established various avenues for victims of sexual abuse to lodge complaints.
But as I read the grand jury’s report from Pennsylvania, it was evident that many parents and victims had made complaints to their clergy and bishops. That wasn’t the problem. More care was given to moving the abusing priest into rehabilitation and then to a new church, safely within the private enclave of the Church, than was done to help the abused child whose abuse was either not believed, downplayed or turned against them.
On Thursday morning, I went to Mass again. The gospel reading was a parable Jesus told about a servant who went to his master and asked for forgiveness of a debt. The generous master erased the debt and set the servant free. The servant turned around and went to someone who owed him and when that person was unable to pay, beat the person.
I wonder if this parable is a lesson for the Cardinals and Bishops who turn a blind eye to those rising in their ranks, like Cardinals McCarrick and Wuerl, seeking forgiveness from God, then asking the laity to forgive them when their children are repeatedly abused?
Once again, as with the reading from Wednesday’s gospel, we find a warning from God in Thursday’s gospel reading: “His master (God) summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to be tortured until he could pay back his whole debt.’ (Jesus said) ‘So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.’” (Matthew 18:21-19:1)
To seek forgiveness without atonement is an empty gesture. What should be done?
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, it is written, my house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:12-13)
We need a Church leader, such as our beloved Pope Francis, to obtain the resignations of bishops and cardinals, such as newly appointed Cardinal Wuerl, who turned a blind eye or enabled priests who sexually abused children and adults. The Church must establish a zero-tolerance policy where allegations of child abuse are immediately handed over to local police for investigation and criminal prosecution and the priest is no longer allowed to serve in any parish, in any capacity. The Church must no longer be a refuge for pedophiles.
Five hundred years ago, similar corruption created the Great Reformation. My Church stands at a similar crossroads. If we cannot find a Catholic leader with the courage of Jesus to cast out the pedophiles and the immoral leadership who protect them, the Catholic Church loses its moral authority to speak on behalf of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
On Thursday afternoon as the waning afternoon light filtered in, I sat in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and gazed at the stained-glass window depicting Mary holding the child Jesus. I imagined a time in the future when the Catholic Church will be the safest place for a child to find refuge.
Suzanne Anderson is giving a talk about faith and the writing life and having a book signing on Saturday, Aug. 25 from 3-5 p.m. at the Next Page Bookstore on Main Street in Frisco.
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