On July 26, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson released the names of clergy from the Archdiocese of St. Louis who have had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against them.
I know that this action will result in many emotions swirling around in the hearts of our people, and understandably so. However, the decision to release the names was the right one, because it may hasten the healing to this terrible cancer that has hurt our Church for too long.
I can truly say that we priests, while embarrassed that our fellow clergy participated in these terrible crimes, want to be there for our people to help bring healing.
This crime is so devastating because it has hurt victims beneath the level of their awareness and so they are confused and understandably angry. They don’t know what happened to them and are painfully confused.
We priests, and lay faithful, want to be there to listen to the anger, confusion, frustration and hurt.
We don’t ask victims to forget about their hurts, but rather to get in touch with them so that healing can take place.
Personally, I believe that my role is to listen without being defensive to help these victims to find healing.
We want to help them especially to deal with anger in a way that does not turn them against themselves for feeling angry toward the perpetrator.
We want to listen to these victims and to help them, in a prayerful way, to ask our Lord to separate the evil perpetrated by the aggressor, from the aggressor himself/herself. In doing so, their anger then is directed against the evil.
When we ask Jesus to separate the perpetrator from the evil, we do the perpetrator a tremendous favor, but we do ourselves an even greater favor.
We are closing the door to the Accuser of the Brethren. This is huge! It protects us from holding on to anger so as to give Satan a foothold.
I encourage the caretakers of victims to search for a spiritual director to help the individual access the healing power of Jesus. The Catholic Renewal Center has people available to help the healing process.
In addition to that, the Renewal Center has some excellent resources to help the healing process. Don’t hesitate to call them for help. One of the great gifts the Renewal Center offers is the gift of inner healing. It invites Jesus to come into the midst of the hurt and do what He did when he walked this earth.
In the Gospel, Jesus says: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”
Jesus tells us that His Father is pleased to give us the kingdom and is elated that we would ask Him for it. He delights in sharing His kingdom with us.
This doesn’t just mean in the next world, but right here and now. He wants us to experience the incredible peace that His Son the Prince of Peace wishes to give us. He wants us to experience the kingdom in a new and different way, a way that is truly alive.
Those who are suffering from sexual abuse are in a state of confusion and darkness. They aren’t at peace and theirs is such a painful experience.
We can do something about this. Jesus wants to gain access to the hurting. It’s our role to be available to the hurting, listen to their story, then bring them hope by bringing them to someone with the special gift of listing to their hurts and help them through the grieving process. That is the purpose of the Catholic Renewal Center.
There are people available to meet with the victims, listen prayerfully to their hurts and bring Christ’s love and healing into those wounded areas.
I suggest to our lay people who encounter these innocent victims, first let them know that you care to listen deeply to their story. You might also refer them to a priest who will listen to their plight. If the priest needs to refer them, he has many resources to offer.
Jesus says that we must “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding.”
When people come to us for healing, we need to begin with prayer. Only God can heal, and He can use us to help Him, but we have to be prayed up so that when He sends the poor and hurting to us, we can hear what Jesus has to offer them.
I suggest to you, that as you take this issue to prayer, the Lord will bless you with compassion to reach out, and the wisdom to deal lovingly and gently with the people He sends your way.
Finally, let us keep things in perspective. God is infinite; the evil one is very finite. God’s power to heal is far greater than the evil one’s power to inflict harm. This is a marvelous time to put God’s healing power to the test.
God wants to raise up a lot of people who have discovered in their own lives the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s gifts.
Be open in prayer. Listen to where the Lord is leading you, first in your relationship with Him, then in your relationships with your family.
Through these experiences, He will teach you how to reach out to others in a healing way.