About that abuse report in Australia, commentators and experts take aim at clerical culture.
Father Thomas Doyle:
If you want to recommend one thing, it is that there has to be a primary concern on the care of the present victims, the ones who are there, those whose souls have either been damaged beyond repair or who are seriously suffering.
Listening – letting them cry, be angry, yell, scream, whatever … and trying to help the people understand, you know: ‘You aren’t guilty of anything,'” is “more important than all the protocols, all the structures, all the policies, all the paperwork, all the talk, talk, talk that has been going on.”
Not only victims. But family members, allies, and parishioners who feel betrayed by priest or bishop. We need to make a ministry of listening. And more, telling people it is okay to vent. And we will patiently listen. It is about showing mercy, not just talk, talk, talking about it. It’s the artist’s principle. It has to be about showing, not telling.
More from Fr Doyle:
Father Doyle called clericalism “a virus that has infected the church,” leading to a culture of cover-up because people believe that churchmen “are in some form or way sacred and above ordinary people, and because of this sacredness, because of their importance, they must be held as more important and protected more.”
If I were starting to look at this, I would ponder some serious shifts:
- Candidates younger than age thirty to thirty-five would be judged as exceptions to the rule. I think there are prodigies in ministry. I don’t think it’s a reasonable assumption for the majority.
- Close all men-only seminaries and integrate students and faculty into a graduate school for theology. Maybe that means integrating lay people into an existing seminary in a diocese. If for no other reason, clergy, deacons, and lay ecclesial ministers could be all reading from the same theological page. The men-only environment fits in a monastery. Period.
- Before a candidate is considered for priesthood candidacy, there should be a serious component of ministry already in evidence in their lives. A prerequisite for graduate school would be a written reflection on that ministry experience. Something like a Masters’ thesis in length and showing the ability to integrate what a person does with who a person is.
- During studies, a continuing component of ministry in a parish is needed. Ten hours a week during academic periods, and full time during summers and a pastoral year. The thing is to make connections with people as a primary ministry of the priest. Continuing self-reflection during all this time, and professional interaction with lay people and clergy colleagues: essential.
- Instead of a transitional diaconate (or perhaps along with it) a thirty day retreat. Annual eight-day retreats while in formation. Needless to say, 6 to 8 day retreats every year thereafter.
I don’t expect these changes to really take root. Bishops don’t listen to me. But if they did, I think we would get better priests, better prepared for service, and maybe only one generation of embitterment as the fallout from the abuse and cover-up crisis. As it is, I predict a lingering discontentment and faltering steps to restoring a moral and spiritual credibility to the institutional Church.