Don’t Leave; LEAD!
My experience of the past weeks is that many of us are struggling with our responses to the sexual abuse by priests revealed in the Pennsylvania grand jury report. Some of us are overwhelmed by feelings of disgust at the harm done to children. Others are experiencing strong feelings of anger at Church structures and those most responsible for both abuse and cover-up. Probably all of us wonder what we can do to bring about healing that is rich in compassion and love for the victims and all others affected by the abuse of clerical authority.
The Gospel for this weekend poses some questions that might be helpful to us in choosing both prayers and actions that indicate our desire to correct wrongs. We acknowledge the immense hurt of so many. We individually and communally choose actions of prayer, fasting, and using our voices to name the actions of the abusers as evil, sinful, and criminal. We choose to live lives of holiness in the midst of the darkness many are experiencing.
In the Gospel from John that we will hear this weekend, Jesus notices that many of his followers are no longer accompanying him, following him. He says to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answers him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
This is the choice that each of us is faced with. Do I stay or go? Believe or not? Do we trust Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit will always be with us?
Fr. Mike Schmitz addresses the multiple abuses of authority and our response in a very honest and powerful video released just a few days ago. At the end of his presentation, he exhorts us as Jesus would to not leave the Church over the crisis because this is too difficult. He asks us to LEAD by lives of holiness. Here is the video:
There are so many other good resources available in various places. Articles have been written, homilies from other churches have been shared, and people everywhere have been searching for how best to strengthen our resolve to respond in faith, hope, and charity. I have had numerous conversations with parishioners and friends these last few days who are struggling with how to respond. In each case, I am asking the Holy Spirit to continue to guide us and give us wisdom, to be voices of hope and healing for all.
One of the resources that I recommend comes from J.S. Paluch Publishing. These are the prayers the St. Francis staff prayed this week at our Thursday morning staff meeting and prayer time:
As we struggle with the immensity of the scandal of sexual abuse, let us pray that the light of Christ present in our hearts pierce the darkness of the sin that has been exposed in our midst.
For the Spirit of Truth to empower us to voice our outrage, express our alarm, and turn our energies toward a better future, let us pray to the Lord.
For the grace and honesty to convey our anger to Church leaders, and to recognize and demand that God’s quest for justice also be carried out within the Church, let us pray to the Lord.
For all of us who, whether by inaction or indifference, bear some responsibility for the suffering of those who were abused, let us pray to the Lord.
For the reform of systems and structures that perpetuate the corrupt use of power or authority so that the Church can more faithfully reveal God-among-us, let us pray to the Lord
For those who have suffered abuse: May they be uplifted by our support, concern, and advocacy on their behalf, let us pray to the Lord.
For us, as we continue our abiding love for the Eucharist: May we see in Jesus someone who knows our anger and intense sorrow during this time of trial, let us pray to the Lord.
For all who provide help for those who have been abused: for counselors, therapist, and advocates, let us pray to the Lord.
O God of compassion, we pray that your divine Wisdom guide us to your eternal truths, helping us to see and address the many kinds of abuse perpetuated in our midst.
We make this and all these prayers in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Please do watch Fr. Mike’s video. Don’t leave; LEAD!