I have spent the better part of an hour on the phone today talking with a woman whose family had been devastated by the scourge of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. She had discovered my blog and took the steps to find and contact me to share her story, her fears and even a few successes in the wake of the injury her family experienced.
Even though the priest has been uncovered as an offender, was sentenced and completed his prison term; even though he is forbidden from ever working as a priest again - all necessary issues to pursue justice, she states that the effects upon her siblings and parents continues to metastasize in horrific ways even now, years after the event.
Her parents marriage collapsed under the weight of guilt and recriminations at having not only bringing this "priest" into their lives as a "family friend", but also for the fact that they were unable to see the predator that lurked behind the friendly face and laughter that marked his visits with the family.
Her brothers have become addicts to pornography, have failed in relationships and one has even attempted suicide as a direct consequence of the abuse that this priest inflicted upon them
Her fear is that the Bishops in particular, but the Church as a whole does not appreciate the carnage of broken lives, lost faith and despair that litters the daily lives of victims. In this, I fear that she may be correct.
All too often the Bishops seem to heed more the voices of lawyers et al and this has seemed to muffle the message of courageous compassion and understanding that victims need to hear from those whose obligation it is to care for the needs of souls. Ecclesial condemnations of abuse are muted so as to not set loose some kind of unintended financial consequences of civil law suits that will most likely follow the reporting of abuse. This lack of courage on the part of Catholic leaders has been, and continues to be an obstacle to the faith for her and her entire family.
My friend and mentor, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus used to refer to the abuse of children by clergy as the "long lent". We need to help the victims of this abuse to find the Easter time grace of forgiveness and healing. This is the first obligation of our Bishops to address if they are truly committed to rooting out this abuse from within it' ranks.
Let anyone who reads this blog please commit to praying for those who have directly been victimized in these scandals. Today's phone call certainly reminded me of my obligation as a priest to do so.
How about you?
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