Every so often, I would encounter a person who dropped out of the Confirmation process in the parish. The reasons varied. Usually it meant the young woman or man was taking their commitment seriously to do reflection on what the sacrament meant in their lives.
So often, people go through a sacramental process and it’s hard not to wonder if anything is there for them.
I remember the stance of a retired auxiliary bishop, Robert Morneau, some years ago. He had admitted a single error in dealing with a victim of sex abuse. For that, he withdrew from public ministry and committed the rest of his life to prayer and penance.
It seemed ironic that all the laity ever wanted from their bishops was the frank admission of guilt and sin, and the resolution to do better for victims and against the perpetuation of a predator cult in the clergy. Honestly, I think a very sincere apology would have been enough to head things off in the era of 1965 to the early 90s. And probably to 2001.
Many bishops, post-Charter, continued to put the institution ahead of justice. As many culturewar bishops preached on the “loss of a sense of sin,” few enough saw they were indicting themselves. And truthfully, if the shepherds can’t see their own faults, one–they can’t confess them, and two, they can’t demonstrate to others how to repent, reform, and be open to renewal.
Over the years, some Catholics have fussed that I have seemed to be so hard on bishops. At least two bishops have complained to two of my pastors. It was my experience as a drastically imperfect parent that led me to see my faults as a father. I was fortunate to have a wife, and later, a forgiving daughter. But I still take my responsibility as a family man to own up to my errors and make amends when I can. That my daughter is so quick to admit fault and ask forgiveness and grant it suggests that my wife’s rearing and maybe a bit of mine achieved something.
Translating that sense to the clerical hierarchy, I’d have to say the role of a bishop is little different. Ideally, one leans on people who have a strong sense of what must be done and said and given good example. Then one takes responsibility for the hard stuff. Especially to say publicly, “I have sinned. I am sorry.”
So, I noticed another bishop pulling out of active ministry, citing a slow and inadequate response to abuse and cover up. Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s words, translated, I presume:
With my resignation I would like to make clear that I am willing to personally bear responsibility not only for any mistakes I might have made but for the church as an institution which I have helped to shape and mold over the past decades.
Lent 2021 was a formative time for the cardinal. He consulted with Pope Francis during Eastertime, and on Friday made the resignation public. An explanation regarding the formative moment at a liturgy of repentance last year:
I held a service in the cathedral where we were asking for forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse and there I said the sentence, ‘”We have failed,” and when I was home I thought who is “we”? Do I not also belong there?
It is easy to say such words but much more difficult and that is why it took some months to make it out with yourself what this means for you personally.
From the Rheinische Post:
The president of the lay-led Central Committee of German Catholics said its members were deeply shaken. “The wrong one is leaving,” Thomas Sternberg said.
I suspect that is so. It always seems those with a moral compass are quick to concede fault, and the ones who cling to power, status, or money are the ones who have much guilt to avoid.