‘How long, O Lord’ — how long to bear this pain?
Dark revelations from Pennsylvania of 300 Catholic priests, other clergy and seminarians in abuse of a thousand or more youth over several decades. It’s inconceivable to the vast majority of humanity how anyone could have deadened his conscience so completely as to perpetrate such crimes. But such crimes by clergy against children are the depths of treachery — those most trusted slaughtering innocence in those most trusting.
On cue, many bishops are again apologizing profusely for the actions of clergy … but then, there’s not much else an individual bishop can do about what happened where and when he had no control. That’s OK, as long as it galvanizes them to prevent and prosecute future crimes.
Some persons, out of love for the Roman Catholic Church, try to minimize these crimes; to them we plead, “Just stop!” — to treat a child so is an abomination. But many would tar the entire clergy with the same brush; that, too, is injustice … just as is blaming all Muslims for terrorism.
Wherever power and influence is had, there inevitably will be corruption. Even Jesus had Judas. That these crimes were perpetrated by men trusted to be men of God is what makes their crimes so utterly despicable.
But, though not often reported, there is hope. Most abuse dates back decades, and to date, few cases occurring in the 2000s have been reported — including here in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Thus, though there exist dormant cancers still needing to be excised, the body as a whole seems to be in remission. We pray it be eliminated absolutely.
First, cut out the rot lest such depredations continue, holding perpetrators criminally responsible, remembering St. Paul: “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20). Secondly, assist victims’ healing as best as possible. Few things aid that more than knowing that perpetrators are stopped and held responsible. Thirdly, moving offenders to other assignments must absolutely end; only a fool excises cancer simply to insert it somewhere else in the body.
Scripture reminds us that decadence and scandal are not new, but God never left His people, urging them to repentance and conversion. We Catholics, despite dejection at such news, seek all the more to redeem the church’s reputation and holiness by redoubling our own fidelity.
For, despite hypocrisy and treachery and even evil of some in the church, we Catholics firmly believe in the truth of the church … that she is guided by God’s Holy Spirit in truth, and that Christ remains with her as He promised (Matthew 28:20). Our hearts adapt and cry out the words of Peter to Jesus: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the [Church of the] Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).
“How long, O Lord? … How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all the day? … But I have trusted in thy steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation” (Psalm 13:1-5).
The Rev. Glenn Jones is pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.