Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation tackles the last of three significant problems, and the one most on peoples’ minds these days. You can access the full document on this link at the Vatican site.
Ending every form of abuse
95. Recently, urgent appeals have been made for us to hear the cry of the victims of different kinds of abuse perpetrated by some bishops, priests, religious and laypersons. These sins cause their victims “sufferings that can last a lifetime and that no repentance can remedy. This phenomenon is widespread in society and it also affects the Church and represents a serious obstacle to her mission”.[FD 29]
The issue has been hashed out in many places at many times, and certainly this site is no exception. Urgent appeals originally went to bishops. Today it’s in the hands of what appears to be the top of an administrative pyramid. In a way, the previous two papacies, with the priority of centralizing power in Rome, have set the stage for a last gasp test with Pope Francis. If he fails to reform the papacy and curia on this, and fails to find proper bishops to restore local confidence, the Church’s mission will find itself beset by more than one obstacle. Roman Catholicism could just fade into a backwater, taking a back seat to other Christians, other religions, or none of the above. I think we’d be hard-pressed to say it would be people leaving the Church as much as it has been a hierarchy leaving the Body behind.
96. It is true that “the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors is, and historically has been, a widespread phenomenon in all cultures and societies”, especially within families and in various institutions; its extent has become known primarily “thanks to changes in public opinion”. Even so, this problem, while it is universal and “gravely affects our societies as a whole… is in no way less monstrous when it takes place within the Church”. Indeed, “in people’s justified anger, the Church sees the reflection of the wrath of God, betrayed and insulted”.[Address at the Conclusion of the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church (24 February 2019): L’Osservatore Romano, 25-26 February 2019, 10]
Bottom line: at the moment, the hierarchy is part of the problem and has yet to emerge with any hope of being part of the restoration process. It’s a long and sad road from being able to assist those in need, be they survivors, allies, friends, or healers.
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