Good Morning All and Fr John,
I’m not too happy about some thoughts in this week’s bulletin. If we accept misconduct by a few in the Church as a justification for falling adherence to the faith then by implication the greater fall in attendances in the protestant churches must raise some interesting questions. Today, there are 20 Church of Scotland churches up for sale. Despite having married and women ministers their numbers are tumbling. When I look around and see, for example, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, aging and shrinking dramatically in size, the U.C.M., the Legion of Mary, the CMS et. al. dying out then I feel we desperately need solutions not excuses based on blaming others. If we don’t gather together to share our faith, pray, help those in difficulties then what kind of future do we have? A more tolerant society? (as long as we’re not expected to tolerate extreme stuff like praying near an abortion clinic).
Let’s pray, today, for the lost sheep and work out ways to welcome them back. I am hearing the encouragement to love my neighbour every time I go to Mass and read about my faith. Not so often elsewhere.
Here endeth the rant.
(Fr John’s reply) Thank you for including me in your email. I accept it as invitation to reply. You should not call what you write a rant. That immediately devalues it to the level of rolling of eyes. There are three letters in this week’s St Joseph’s parish newsletter – one from a mother and two from me in which I write of the wonderful gift from God of human spirituality and of Pope Francis’ visit to Canada. To which, or all, are you referring?
The most powerful words the Church has heard in our lifetime were spoken at the Stations of the Cross in Rome on Good Friday 2005: “What filth there is in the Church” was the agonising cry of two men, Pope John Paul II and soon-to-be Pope Benedict XVI. No suggestion there of “misconduct by a few.”
Pope Benedict has admitted, in two book-length interviews, that the horror of that filth brought about his resignation. Even though we know details from only a few countries the numbers are already millions of abused children and thousands of abusers. That is not misconduct by a few.
No country in Africa, Asia, Central or South America has yet heard its Catholic Church speak of child abuse, apart from Chile where Archbishop Scicluna’s 2,000 page report for Pope Francis was so horrifying that the whole hierarchy offered to resign. Pope Francis refused, telling them they would be dismissed one by one as their care for the people was investigated. This is all public knowledge. In Europe, the Church in Italy, Spain and Portugal prevented any inquiries such as we have known in Ireland and a small number of other countries. The Church in those few countries has been forced to admit its guilt and shame, long known but hidden.
The world knows. This all public knowledge. The world can count and already counts millions of children and thousands of abusers, has heard the agonising cry of two popes “What filth there is in the Church” and has made its judgement. The Church’s filth is our universal shame.
I have been involved in the question of child abuse since 1991. They were in their 20’s then, in their 50’s now, and over the years there have been and are others. What I know was beyond my imagination. For sixty years, embracing all your lifetimes, the horror of that abuse was causing the suffering of millions of children, now adults like you ranging from their 40’s to their 80’s. We know. Frightening hidden corruption through our lifetimes and worse is to come.
The decades 1940’s to the early 70’s saw full churches and strong Catholic societies. They were years of frightening hidden corruption, millions of our children being abused. Ignorance is not innocence. Our two popes told us in front of the world in 2005 “What filth there is in the Church…” We pray for healing for all who suffered and for all who suffer with and for them, and for justice.
Archbishop Longley has shown an inspiring new approach.
God bless us,
(21st August 2022)
“Archbishop Longley has shown an inspiring new approach,” I wrote in last week’s newsletter. Some of you want to know what it is. He inherited a diocese with a history of abuse and cover-ups, of hurts and lawyer-controlled insurance payments, a diocese where bank balance seemed more important than abused children.
We know that some Church officials have actually gone on the same courses that the big oil companies use to lessen insurance pay-outs when spillages and leaks have caused serious environmental damage and destroyed livelihoods. What a room that must have been. Men of God and Mammon all sat down with the common purpose of protecting their money against those whose lives and livelihoods they had ruined.
The Archbishop discovered he was not bound by these minimal payments. He could pay compensation freely and fairly as he judged. He has begun. He is inspiring. What a contrast he makes to those who saw damage-limitation as their primary duty. It wasn’t.
Their first duty was to listen to the victims and act justly – which too many diocese and religious orders have failed, even refused, to do. We thank God for someone unafraid to break ranks and put people first. Better a poor Church that acts justly than a Church authority that values assets more than people.
What sort of consciences do such religious men and their oil slick advisers have? How do they witness to God’s love for the poor and suffering? What have the trappings of power done to the minds and hearts of those who know but hide, and hide from, the truth?
We want others to follow Archbishop Longley’s example. Lives and livelihoods are more important than bank balances and dividends.
(28th September 2022)