The Church and the Abuse Crisis Response: Three Key Thoughts
Though it’s been 14 years since the Church sex abuse scandal initially broke, many people are still asking important questions about the progress of reform and the steps being taken by the Church prevent such a crisis from ever happening again. This is especially because the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church was so heart-wrenching, and because the aftermath and healing process is so vital to the health of children, the Church, and society as a whole.
To be sure, the Catholic Church as an institution has always been against the abuse of children — against the un-love of anyone, really — and always will be against it. It was the actions of individuals within the Church that are at issue, both the abusers themselves and those who covered up said abuses.
There are three things I’ll reference that may help anyone interested in knowing the Church’s way out of this crisis: The response by the Catholic Church in America, a video by a prominent American bishop and evangelist, and a book for further reading.
Since 2002, when the abuse scandal was first reported on by the Boston Globe, the number of things done by the Catholic Church ought to be encouraging to many, if not all. One great example: Every diocese in America is now required to have a comprehensive, robust safe-environment training program mandated for people looking to work with minors within its boundaries. That requirement was included in a June 2002 document by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which can be read in its entirety here.
Another really great resource to help make sense of the crisis in context is a video by Bishop Robert Barron, the face of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He talks about a passage from the Book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament, wherein Jerusalem, the Holy City meant to be a pillar of God’s presence on earth, had been corrupted and was in desperate need of a cleansing and restoration. Bishop Barron uses this, especially the painful nature of Jerusalem’s restoration, as a parallel to talk about the deep corruption that was this abuse scandal.
The key point in Bishop Barron’s analysis — in which he surmises that this is the worst crisis the Church has ever endured — is that the Lord always seeks to cleanse, to convert, to restore His creation. In fact, he challenges those upset over the scandal, particularly those who may choose to leave the Church, that leaving is not the answer. Noting the “remnant” that Ezekiel writes about, around with the restoration is built, Bishop Barron encourages us to be part of the solution in that regard, to stay in the Church and build it up instead of abandoning it.
Finally, I want to mention a book, written by a non-Catholic professor soon after the scandal broke, that will shed objective light on what the abuse crisis actually consisted of and provide context by which we can properly understand it. Called Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis, author Philip Jenkins talks dispassionately about this incredibly emotional issue, noting that the goal here should be true justice for victims, and not a vilification of an entire institution simply as a matter of course.
The book can be found for relatively cheap on Amazon, and a helpful synopsis by the author himself can be read at Zenit. Also, a rundown of the key points made by the author in his book are summarized by another blogger here. (Note for anyone who clicks this third link: keep in mind that the list is fact-based and not an effort to minimize legitimate wounds).
Once again, there are a great many things that can be a source of encouragement for all who were affected by this horrific chapter in the Church’s history. Though they can never erase the transgressions of the past, the safe Church in which we now live can be a beacon of hope for all who come after us.
A version of this post originally appeared at Spokane Faith & Values.