This is ministry?
Should victims and their families take comfort in the notion that if a priest didn’t abuse them, it probably would have happened anyway at school, in a medical clinic, or with a grandparent or uncle?
Let’s be clear: the secular media have gotten details wrong in their feeding frenzy over the bishops’ scandal. That shouldn’t be surprising. Journalists aren’t theologians, nor are they scientists, athletes, politicians, philosophers, or celebrities. Journalists make mistakes all the time when they lack proper depth to get details right. But they aren’t composing a catechism. They are breaking stories not about child abuse–that’s no longer news on a big scale. They are reporting that all over the world, bishops have behaved badly. It might not be insolence. But ignorant incompetence is just as damaging. And certainly newsworthy.
Through his Irish letter, the pope admits he got it wrong with the Munich priest. A bishop is responsible. End of story. Pope Benedict is not a hero yet, but he might be in the best position to be one for the healing of victims and their loved ones and for a renewed fruitfulness of modern episcopal ministry.
Our response to the errors of the media: calmly correct errors, then move on. Attacking the side players and appealing to conspiracy theories is the stuff of the family members and close friends of addicts. Alcoholics frequently protest that everyone else is screwed up. Addicts of drugs, sex, or food are quick to blame other people, even their closest family members.
The Twelve Steps contain the wisdom the Church needs. In being confronted by their errors, the hierarchy would do well to adopt steps four and five:
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Addicts do realize the roots of their addiction. Some were abused as a child. Some were raised in dysfunctional homes. Some were themselves victims of heinous crimes.
The Twelve Steps do not include this:
The urge to defend the innocent is a good urge. It was championed by the Lord himself and countless saints. We have been confronted with crimes against those not only innocent, but powerless in the face of abuse. They did not have blogs or media organs at their disposal to fight back. They suffered in silence, unlike the bishops whose protestations of innocence are not only public, but backed up by scores of defenders.
Archbishop Dolan, George Weigel, and others would do well to keep their eyes on the ball here. Correct errors simply and without undue criticism. Then attend to the deeply wounded with singlemindedness.