The news that a prince of the Church, the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, had resigned the cardinalate due to sexual abuse allegations led the news last month, at least momentarily.
Horrifyingly, these kinds of stories have lost their shock value. We’ve grown accustomed to the appalling scandal since it first grabbed headlines in 2002. For some, the downfall of the cardinal was just another in a long line of these kinds of stories — terrible but at the same time, distant. Something not unheard of, a passing tidbit to ponder briefly and then forget. What’s the latest on the Russian collusion story? And what’s Carrie Underwood up to these days, Americans wonder.
For those who have suffered the agony and betrayal of sexual abuse by clergy, the resignation of the cardinal was deeply personal, ripping open old wounds. I am not one of these victims but someone I know is. I have watched him through the years and he is a broken man who never fully recovered from the selfish actions of a twisted mind. Through the decades, he’s battled alcoholism, depression and the demise of relationships. Yet, in the midst of all that misery, the love of God broke through the enormous hurt and he answered the invitation to follow Christ.
It’s been a stony path fraught with suffering and yet, through it all, an understanding deep inside shines forth from this man. He knows he is loved unconditionally by God. He says he has forgiven the priest who wreaked devastation on his life so long ago. For years, I scarcely believed him. I mean, how could a priest do something like that?
How dead wrong I was. And what pain I caused by my blindness. Priests, alas, struggle with human frailty and the tentacles of Satan just like the rest of us. There’s a spiritual battle going on out there and the consequences are life and death. This is an undeniable reality. Satan has a plan to rob and kill and destroy. He preys upon human weakness and works to undermine the Church from within. He wants nothing more than for you and me to give up all hope.
God has a plan too. His plan is for life and love and happiness. He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross and pay for all the sins of the world that had ever been committed and would ever be committed, including the horrible sin of sexual abuse. He offers hope and healing to a broken world.
Evil flourishes in dark corners, hating the light and hiding from the truth. Once exposed to the dazzling brilliance of God’s love, it cowers and crumbles.
Diocese of Phoenix
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted encourages anyone who has been a victim of child sexual abuse by any employee or volunteer of the Roman Catholic Church to please come forward by reporting to law enforcement and the Department of Child Safety and contacting the Office of Child and Youth Protection or (602) 354-2396
We Catholics must, with the help of God, unite in a concerted effort to defeat this demon of sexual abuse and the corruption that is a cancer in our Church. We must remain vigilant and do everything we can to protect children and vulnerable adults. We must speak up when boundaries are crossed. Complete your safe-environment training and for crying out loud, don’t complain about it! What you learn could spare someone a lifetime of sorrow.
And let’s recall that canon law asks us to refrain from meat on most Fridays or to at least practice some kind of penance or sacrifice. If you’re already doing that, why not add Wednesdays, too, or another day? How about the daily Rosary, as the Virgin Mary has begged us over and over again? If you’re already doing that, could you pray it with more love or devotion? Let us implore God to forgive us for the culture of death we have allowed to overtake us. Let us not be silent in the face of this terrible evil but seek to abolish it.
In the words of St. Catherine of Sienna, the 14th-century mystic who lived during one of the darkest periods of Church history, “Let us cry out as with a million voices, for it is silence that kills the world.”
Let us open our eyes to the deep suffering of the victims of sexual abuse and resolve to pray from our hearts daily for the healing of all those who have experienced this deadly sin.