The revelations of details of past sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church and its potential cover up by bishops may not have been surprising. Nevertheless, they are very painful to hear.
Some of us recall the horrible memories of the abuse scandal when it swept the Church in the early 2000s. Yet for younger Catholics — those who were children at the turn of the millennium — the recent revelations of the handling of abusive priests and the possibility of an episcopal cover-up are fresh wounds.
To say it frankly: the trust of the faithful has been broken. How much more hurt can we take? How much more hurt must the victims of these crimes endure?
Yet, even in this brokenness, we are all part of one mystical Body of Christ. When one suffers, we all suffer. We stand with Christ on the cross. As the Church seeks specific actions in addressing the sin of sexual abuse, we should consider the small, yet powerful ways in which we as Catholics can facilitate the healing of the Church.
Since we’re at the foot of the cross, it’s appropriate that we pray and fast. In so doing, we participate in the suffering of Christ and merit God’s grace. Our prayers should be for the reform of the Church, the holiness of the clergy, and for those who have suffered abuse at their hands. We also must pray for the reparation our own sins and the sins of others. Our Lady of Fatima said to “pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them.”
These innocent children of Fatima went to great lengths to atone for the conversion of sinners. That message is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.
Also, we must not give in to the temptation to judge all clergy for the evil actions of others. We know that the vast majority of priests are good men who strive to live holy lives with a selfless love for the Church. We should encourage them to be the best they can be, and partner with them in building up the Body of Christ.
At times this might mean challenging them to fulfill their vocations, just as they must challenge us to do the same. We should likewise encourage them to not remain silent about the sin of abuse. If your parish priest hasn’t preached on this issue, encourage him to do so.
Finally, and especially for those Catholics with children, continue your presence at Mass. In leading through example, you are demonstrating that we come to Mass to celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice, and through that community we are part of one mystical Body of Christ.