Friday, June 13, 2008

Time for the Beloved to love the Lover

It is amazing how deep the wounds go in the clean-up of the clergy sex scandal. Yes, it was true that a very small portion of priests abused small children. Yes, it is true that an even smaller amount of bishops covered up some of the abuse. Yes, it is true that some of the victims were just in seeking financial compensation for their psychological trauma (although, it is very possible that in some of the cases, there has been a pursuit of suing dioceses, not for justice, but for revenge).

Given this fact, recalling these issues, I remember Fr. John Corapi relating after the scandal broke that when he was in the airport and as he was walking down the concourse, he said hello to a small child. His mother came running over and with teeth bared, snarled, "Get away from him!" I can almost hear the bullet hitting his soul now.

Although our priests certainly are called to set a very high standard of holiness (just like all of us), they also are sinners. And because of that, they need mercy (just like all of us). First and foremost, priests are to be living sacrifices, laying down their life for their Bride, the Church, in an image of Christ, the Bridegroom. They are called to give up their own will so that their Bride may live. Yet because this is a war, oftentimes the battles become to much and they fall.

This is why what the Catholic Bishops are proposing is extremely important. Priesthood morale must be repaired. Put this in terms of the domestic church, the family. If the heart of the husband and father is continually stomped on, his wife and children are going to take the brunt of it. While a husband needs to receive his encouragement primarily from God, his wife, because they are one-flesh, must be prepared to come to his aid, to nurse his wounds, so that he can get back on his feet and get back into the war of serving his wife and family.

And so it is with our priests. We, as Bride, must come to the aid of our Bridegroom, and seek out ways how we can bathe and dress their wounds. So what I'm proposing is this: take your local priest our to dinner. Or better yet, have him over for a family meal. Write him an encouraging letter. Basically, do something that will help him to know that you appreciate his sacrificial life for him. And in knowing that he is loved by his Bride, he in turn will be able to get back in the ring and go back in the battle.

Article Date: Jun 13, 2008
Catholic Bishops Aim to Improve Priest Morale

ORLANDO, Fla.-- Meeting for the first time since Pope Benedict XVI visited the U.S. and spoke of the deep shame he felt over clergy sex abuse, America's Roman Catholic bishops Thursday began discussing how they can repair relations with priests after six years of scandal.

A small group of bishops and clerics, over a private lunch, started talks about the pain and trauma clergy have suffered since the crisis erupted in 2002. Embarrassment ran so deep that many priests stopped wearing their Roman collars in public at the height of the scandal.

Archbishop Roger Schwietz of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, said bishops are trying to learn directly from clergymen what church leaders should do to improve morale.

"I'm hoping with the priests to work out an equitable and just way to preserve the reputation of priests and also take accusations seriously," Schwietz said.

Most new claims that flooded dioceses over the last six years involved wrongdoing from decades ago. About 4 percent of priests who served between 1950 and 2002 were credibly accused of abuse, according to research commissioned by the bishops. But those distinctions were often lost in the public outcry over the church's failures to protect children.

Ohio Judge Michael Merz, chairman of the National Review Board, the lay panel the bishops formed to help respond to the scandal, said he learned of one priest who was stretching in a public gym when a passer-by said, "Are you waiting for a boy to lie down next to you?"

Benedict, who took the extraordinary step of meeting privately with victims during his April visit, compared the suffering of innocent clergy to "Christ in his Passion."

"We haven't spent enough time acknowledging the yeoman's' work the priests are doing," said Bishop William Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn.

Bishop Gregory Aymond, chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Children & Young People, said bishops began mapping out the healing project more than a year ago. The talks are starting small, with prelates asking priests from different church regions for suggestions and information about the concerns of fellow clergy, said Aymond, of Austin, Tex.

Bishops said the troubles in the priest-bishop relationship vary from diocese to diocese, depending partly on how hard the scandal hit locally.

The discussions are taking place as church leaders prepare to review their national policy on preventing abuse and responding to molestation claims. The plan, called the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," will be re-evaluated in two years.

The National Review Board met earlier this week to start examining how they should conduct the reappraisal, Merz said.

It was clear Thursday that the situation for accused priests would be a key part of the process. Under the bishops' plan, developed in 2002 at the height of the crisis, guilty clergy are either barred from all church work or, if the Vatican permits, ousted from the priesthood.

However, the policy doesn't address how dioceses should monitor and house the accused clerics who are prohibited from working but remain priests. Bishops have struggled with that responsibility, and some victims say children remain vulnerable to the men as a result.

But many priests have complained that the bishops' current plan, adopted under intense public pressure, unfairly requires the same penalties for all clergy, without regard for the individual circumstances.

Merz said the bishops' new attention to priests in no way signals a return to old attitudes, when some church leaders stopped investigating abuse claims if an accused of clergyman denied any wrongdoing.

"It's not a matter of protecting priests," said Merz, who is a victim of sex abuse. "It's a matter of repairing the relationship."

The bishops are scheduled to adopt a statement outlining Catholic opposition to embryonic stem cell research before ending the public part of their meeting Friday morning.



At 4:37 AM, Blogger Doug said...

"Yes, it is true that an even smaller amount of bishops covered up some of the abuse."

Smaller amount??? Try over 60%.

Oh, BTW, I heard Pacwa tell the same airport story as Corapi. My God, dirty looks in an do they hold up.


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