A Year, Or Even More, Here And There

Somewhat cross-posting from my fb page. But a bit more in detail. Then I noticed a Pittsburgh initiative.

Bishop David Zubik has announced a Year of Repentance in which all clergy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh are asked to fast and pray for the purification of the Church in light of the scandal of child sexual abuse, and all Catholics are invited to join in. A diocesan-wide service to liturgically inaugurate the Year of Repentance will be held Sunday, September 23, 2018 at 3 p.m. in Saint Paul Cathedral, Oakland.

“Faced with the sinful actions of the members of our own ranks of the clergy, who are called to manifest the example of Christ, we feel both shame and sorrow, and are reminded of our own sinfulness and the need for mercy,” Bishop Zubik wrote in a letter to all priests, deacons and seminarians of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Mmm. It was sixteen years ago that clergy were targeted (and among those documented cases of abuse, rightly) and they and lay people were marched off to child-protection classes. Don’t get me wrong: what I learned about abuse and predation piggy-backed well with my experience in foster-adopt classes and workshops as we were preparing for the arrival of the young adopted miss in 1998-2001.

But let’s be clear: abuse among priests has been in decline since improved psychological testing post-Vatican II in the last century, and has continued since the vigilance of lay people in this century. And yes, insurance interests.

An interesting suggestion here:

Bishop Zubik also asked the clergy to consider restoring the practice of reciting the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel after all Masses, a prayer that calls on Saint Michael to protect the faithful against all evil.

An old school formula for a Church more damaged by the excesses of that old school.

On fb, I suggested more visible and more drastic symbols, some of which I’ve floated here in the past. Those who have failed as shepherds could renounce the signs of office.

  • All failed clergy could renounce the chasuble at liturgy for only a simple colored stole over the alb.
  • Wear secular clothes in public–no clergy black, no “choir dress” under any circumstances. Certainly no colors–piping or sashes–associated with monsignors, bishops, or cardinals.
  • Leaving the presider seat at liturgy vacant–designating that clergy sit amongst the lay people in pews or chairs, approaching the altar once lay people have prepared it for the Eucharist.
  • For bishops, replace the crozier with a sliver of wood for the pain and scandal caused.
  • Replace the mitre with a simple black yarmulke.
  • Replace with wool of the pallium with a canvas collar.
  • A scandal-ridden metropolitan see could cede its archbishopric to another diocese.
  • A black band on all diocesan heraldry.
  • Renouncing all honorifics except “Father.” No degree letters, no “Rev,” no “Rt. Rev.,” nothing.

A fb friend posted something on avoiding despair. I’m not worried about despair for myself. I’m more worried about lasting anger. But I do think bishops and certain clergy need to do more than suggest activities for the rest of us. When serious sinners in the ancient Church wished for a return, they entered into the Order of Penitents. Lay people and clergy certainly joined them for Lent. Some degree of solidarity is vital for unity. But the various actions associated with the Order, making pilgrimages, altering one’s diet, abstaining from various luxuries, caring for the needy–these are signs that wayward clergy of all levels could undertake as a public sign of intent and penance.

In the ancient Church, bishops received penitents when their period of reform and renewal was completed. That discernment was also made by the bishops, presumably with their clergy. Seems like a review board of survivors are best-placed to monitor and approve an end to a penitential period. I don’t think a bishop is qualified to say it will end in less than a year. Some dioceses, it may take a bit longer.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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