We knew it was coming and how unpleasant as it became headline radio news last week. Child abuse by Priest in the Archdiocese of Birmingham was reported on by an independent inquiry. Some priests were named, and so were archbishops referred to. The overwhelming judgement was that much of the abuse would not have happened if Church authorities had put children (and their families) first instead of protecting the good (!) name of the Catholic Church. The institution mattered more than the children to those in authority. We pray for the children and their families.
We pray for the families of the shamed priests and bishops. Because they love those men they will feel for them, have to visit them in prison, be aware always of how despised they are and share that shame.
Would people, good Catholic people, be cruel to the families of the shamed priests? A priest left the priesthood to marry. His mother, a widow, was sad but also badly hurt by the attitude of parishioners who started to shun and ignore her. She spoke with me. She was lonely. She imagined people talking about her now that they weren’t talking to her, and had to imagine them despising her son. I felt very sorry for her but there was nothing I could do. I had seen it happen elsewhere: a priest was preparing a couple for marriage – and fell in love with the girl and ran away with her! Her parents were shunned by the parish and had to go to another church.
Soon the independent inquiry will be looking at our own Nottingham diocese. One of our priests (now dismissed from the priesthood) was recently sentenced in court and we must be ready for more bad news. We have to know. If we don’t we can’t protect those in danger. By not wanting to know, pretending there was no problem, the Church has failed so many. The independent inquiries are opening up what we tried to hide.
Around the world the scandal has spread, in some countries the Church devastated and despised. We pray. The children and the families first, then the people of the Church, then the families of the abusers, and, finally, the abusers who need the help to begin again. Will you pray for all four?
God bless us,
(30th June 2019)