Everything going on in my life these days has meant a lot of walks. I've always been someone who thinks and processes experience in the solitude of walking. Everywhere I live I fall into habitual routes.
On my walk yesterday I was thinking about the big news of the indictment of bishop Finn. From there I got to remembering another priest, whom I met very early on in my religious life. He had that perfect mixture of sincere devotion and don't-take-it-all-too-seriously bemusement that seems to be the charm of us Franciscans. He was fun and full of quotes from the saints. He seemed self-confident in his love of the vocation. I looked up to him, and hoped that one day I would be like him.
Today he's in prison.
When I think about this it reminds me of how sexual abuse in the Church is still an issue. Now I'm not putting down all the programs and checks that are in place for the protection of children; I have great respect for the folks who work hard at implementing and administrating these things, and I have no doubt that they have been a great help. But I am saying that I don't think we have yet taken seriously the larger problems of the use of power and endemic emotional immaturity of which the sexual abuse of children by priests is just the horrific, criminal edge.
It gives me pause to remember that a friar who seemed in every way to fit in, and was even someone to look up to in his apparent happy adjustment to our life, and to whom I myself looked up in my first steps as a religious, is in prison as I write this post. But the betrayal I feel as I think back on myself innocently looking up to a friar who seemed so successful and cool is but the tiniest taste of the injuries of those who have been abused by priests.
But maybe God wills that tiny taste to be an invitation.
A couple of years back there was a spell when it would often come up in my prayer that I should accept some particular penance or work of reparation for the sexual abuse committed by my brother priests. I don't think I ever decided on anything. Maybe it's time to seek such a thing again in my prayer.