For years I have been praying and daily offering the intention of my sorrow for the victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Though the issues are complicated and I don't feel as if I have it all figured out, I have come to believe that this only the tragic and criminal edge of larger sicknesses that enabled both the abuse and the negligence in responding.
Nothing shocks me anymore, both because we are saturated with terrible revelations, but also because I have seen the roots of the whole thing at work. One time I met a priest and jokingly remarked to myself that I would see him in the newspaper. A couple of weeks later, there he was, not for the sexual abuse of children, thank God, but for another sort of criminal sex offense.
What does a person do with such a "coincidence?" Laugh? Cry? In my own prayer, I have to come to realize that I need to do something.
For every priest who has abused children, there are many more who are just creepy without doing anything criminal. My eye must be upon them too. With whatever authority or jurisdiction the Holy Spirit gives me, I must always be working to keep them away from any child at risk of losing his integrity or dignity in even the slightest way. In my own teaching and pastoral care of the young, I must make myself the intense servant of their dignity and freedom, doing and suffering whatever I can in the name of their flourishing. Even if I did this at every moment for the rest of my earthly life it would hardly amount to any reparation, but at least it would be something.
I must ask the Lord for the grace, willingness, and opportunity to do hard penance on behalf of my brother priests. I must be ready to accept with patience the public suspicion and anger we have brought upon ourselves.
I need to do something. Yes, dioceses have put procedures and trainings in place to protect children, and I have no doubt that they will work. I am an administrator of such procedures where I work, and I believe in them. But they don't approach the sicknesses in the priesthood itself.
I have to come to realize that at some level my own vocation has to be a lived as a response to this situation. I'm not sure exactly what this means or what it will look like, but it has become increasingly clear to me that through the ins and outs of my own journey, the Holy Spirit has been preparing me for this. Pray for me for the courage to be faithful to it.
It has been hard to write this post without crying, but that's the least I can do.