Clunky Atonement

Here’s one instance where a traditional Catholic suggestion comes off with a clunk:

On the final day of their three-day spring general meeting, the bishops reiterated a call from Pope Benedict and encouraged the faithful to pray intensely to “make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm”.

Abuse survivor Marie Collins:

It’s the bishops that survivors would want to see making reparation or atonement, humbling themselves in some way.

It’s insulting to think they’re expecting people to come out. The ordinary people are waiting to see them do something.

It is insulting. It’s also overly optimistic, premature, and imprudent.

A hero would pray for her persecutors. A saint would intercede for her rapist. Clearly, that sort of heroism and sanctity is not taught by the Irish hierarchy. In words or deeds. Will it come from the Gospels?

A lesson from Marriage Encounter is appropriate here. My wife and I learned about the value and importance of language from our first Encounter as an engaged couple. It’s simple:

Use “I” language.

When in a situation, particularly where offense has been given, and forgiveness and growth is sought, it is essential to use “I” language. It’s not just psychobabble. But it seems painfully obvious many Irish bishops, and perhaps the pope, are at the babble stage when it comes to understanding the scope of the bitterness in the Church at the immoral lawlessness that has taken place with the full cooperation of some bishops.

Instead of “The pope says you can atone,” the message needs to be more along the lines of, “I regret. I am sorry. I will make amends. Forgive me.”

Once the bishops learn this, we will begin to make progress. Meanwhile, stay on the lookout for examples of holiness. We need them more than ever in this messed-up Church.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Ministry, sex abuse. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Clunky Atonement

  1. Christian Cosas says:

    A little humility can go a long way, especially in this season of Lent. But humility seems to be anathema to many of our church leaders.

  2. Liam says:

    I language can be a problem in certain contexts.

    Like my pastor (an unhappy marriage, shall we say), who is given to open meetings by saying, “As your pastor, I have decided [x]….”

    Sometimes, it’s not all about you. Sometimes, it is.

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      The arrogance of that statement is that no one chose him to be “their” pastor. He was imposed from the outside.

  3. Jen says:

    Yeah…that kind of language is what bugs me the most about the parish closest to me.

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