by Sr Julie Myers, OSF
Words. Where are they when my heart needs to speak? Words. They, too, struggle to give voice to my thoughts. I’m in shock and wrestle with so many mixed emotions. There is a bleak darkness that shrouds our Church structure so much so that even one’s faith in God is being challenged.
Our world is reeling from yet another sex abuse crisis in our Catholic Church. The crisis became apparent in the 1990’s in countries such as Canada, Australia, Ireland, Chile, Europe, and slowly in the United States. I thought the Boston Globe’s news break in 2002 was the big bang explosion that would forever change the face of our Church. Yet, here we are 16 years later with six dioceses being split open revealing the reality of its hidden sinfulness. And the investigations will not stop with Pennsylvania—thank God.
The news channels and various online sources are flooded with reports, blogs and comments—there is so much to read and ponder. But what do we, as a people of faith, do with what we are reading and hearing? How do we channel our shock, anger, sadness and shame? How do we tend to the overwhelming sorrow we feel for the children who have been victimized and their innocence forever destroyed? How do we show compassion for the now adult survivors who spend most of their energy hiding the scars and nightmares of their souls? How do we support the priests who are not involved and weep as deeply as anyone else about this horrific scandal?
I am reminded of a verse in our Franciscan Rule of Life: “Let all be carefully attentive not to become angry or upset because of another’s sin. For anger and disturbance impede love in themselves and in others.” (TOR Rule 24)
In pondering the wisdom of St. Francis of Assisi, I am realizing what his message is really saying to us today. Anger is not a bad thing—if we use its energy in a positive way. This takes time, thought, prayer and sincere dialogue. Anger causes us to wrestle with the tough questions and requires that each one of us find our voice. It can be our positive energy source.
It’s time to sincerely look at our current church structures and take note of who is not permitted around the altar. We are living in a world and a time like no other. Women have found their voice and the laity are no longer uneducated. Family units are broken down and there is a spiritual hunger in our world that needs to be fed from the pews and the various stark paths people find themselves on.
It’s so important that we begin to talk about the impact this crisis is having upon each individual and our beloved Church. We cannot lose sight of the fact that this is a crisis of the Catholic Church structure, and should not be that of our Catholic faith in which we have been immersed through Baptism. Our faith is in God! Not in buildings, or structures of power, or fine gold or rich materials or human beings. The Church belongs to the faithful!
Personally, I don’t believe the solution to this global crisis of the Catholic Church is simply about creating better policies or providing monetary compensations to victims. It’s much bigger and deeper than that. As a people of faith, we have a responsibility to bring this crisis into our daily prayer and thoughtful conversations. It is crucial that we reverence the rightful place of anger in our hearts and allow its energy to stir our voices and actively advocate for change and rebuilding of our Church. “Prayer changes people and people change things!” (Burton Hillis)