Monday, April 5, 2010

Agony and Yearning

My dear friends,

Over the last few weeks my mind and heart have been grappling with the continued attacks on the Church over the handling of priests who have abused others. On one side I am shocked and saddened by the public description of the abusers and their superiors. On another level I am just furious over the injustice done to the victims. Not just their abuse, but what seems to be a long-standing dismissal of the possibility they might have needed a response from the Church at the time the abuse was discovered, a response greater than a request that they keep quiet about it.

Then there is the way-out-of-proportion dumping on the Church over practices that, in their day, were normative for almost every area of society. I have a problem with the modern media which seems to make no distinction between a man who abused pre-pubescent children and an adult abuse with other adults, or even older teens. There seems to be no recognition that the best psychology of the day until very recently believed that abusers, no matter who they abused, could be healed. There also did not seem to be any understanding that, up until very recently, the children would be permanently injured in their ability to relate to others throughout the rest of their lives.

Of course there is also the deep pockets theory concerning lawsuits. If one cannot get anything, legal or civil, from the perpetrator of a crime, punish all those individuals or institutions who, according to our understanding now, should have known better and had some relationship of superior or employer to the perpetrator, even after fifty or more years. Lawyers who sue for great profit disgust me. I do not blame the individuals who were hurt. They could very well have simply asked for help in dealing with the past, and have had justice and mercy on their side. Lawyers turn it into a feeding frenzy, like sharks in bloody water.

The greatest evidence of this all being just another way of discrediting the Catholic Church was the lifting of the statute of limitations for such crimes (in California), JUST FOR CATHOLIC CLERGY. All others remained protected by a statutory limit created in realization that there is very little that can be proved for or against a crime after many years have gone by. It is even harder to get at the truth when the people involved have died. Yet some self-serving lawyers smelled a good deal wherein they gained enormous return for themselves and did very little to actually help the victims.

The present and continuing legal attacks and public smear tactics are an injustice meted against a Church that did indeed need to become aware of a major problem. But that same Church has changed dramatically and is probably much safer in head and members today than many other groups who continue to deal with children and vulnerable adults. The public outcry was a needed moment in history, not just for the Church, but for those other groups, large and small, who have similar if not worse problems in their recent past. Unfortunately for the Church, She is seen as a rich source of cash and as a monolithic unity that is easy picking for any lawyer willing to stretch the truth and smear the good name of many who have had no part in the abuse of a tiny portion of its members.

I hope and pray that true justice will be done, that victims be healed, and those incapable of being healed of their evil ways may be restrained for the rest of their lives. I also pray for that mutual forgiveness that is the root of our understanding of Christ's message of love.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespasses against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

3 comments:

Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P. said...

Keep in touch, Vincent. In the union of prayer ...

--AT op

Faith said...

Think of our "cloistered brothers" (See http://sites.google.com/site/ourladyofmercychapter? ) who have suffered abuse from relatives, friends, people in authority, etc.. They just have to wonder why no one has gone after their abusers. Why is the focus on priests? Perhaps it's money? The media is after money because sex sells. And lawyers are after money when they dig up cases from 30 years ago, and the abusers are dead. If the media and lawyers were interested in the victims of abuse, wouldn't they go after all abusers?

Matt said...

Well said Fr. Vincent, thanks for your honesty and courage in writing such a post. We need to pray more than ever for our beloved Church and Her priests. Prayers from Omaha to you! Miss you!