We are living in very difficult times in our Catholic Church, not just in this country but throughout the world. The findings from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation into six dioceses, including the systematic cover-up of child sexual abuse by the hierarchy, is beyond painful and distressing to read. That this report comes on the heels of the revelations about Cardinal McCarrick in July, and the offer of resignation by the entire conference of Chilean bishops in May, indicates a deeply ingrained systemic protection of abusers and a blatant and callous disregard of abused children, young people and vulnerable adults in the Catholic Church. This is nothing new: we have been buffeted for years by a wave of scandals in dioceses throughout the U.S., Ireland and Australia, to name but a few.
We have lived this horror before in our own Archdiocese. We have experienced firsthand what it means to shine the light on the darkness of an institution which has failed to regulate itself and hold itself accountable, not just to the Gospel values, ideals and truths which it purports to uphold, but to the People of God whom it is called to shepherd, nurture and protect.
Many Catholics have thrown up their hands in disgust and walked away from the Church. The temptation to give up on the Church is understandable, until you remember that the Church is US, it is you and me, it is the whole People of God. To be clear: the Church is NOT the hierarchy—they are one part of the institution, not the whole of it.
As the People of God, each one of us is called upon to do what we can to heal the Church and restore it to its spiritual roots, so that we can collectively and with integrity carry out the mission of love entrusted to us by Christ. We cannot do this as the laity alone or as the ordained and hierarchy alone, but rather as a community rooted in the encounter of Christ in the Eucharist. The Church needs each of us to reform it and to make it an institution of integrity, consistency, and, above all else, a place where all people, no matter how vulnerable and powerless, will be able to find Christ in the way they are welcomed and loved, and treated with respect and dignity.
By baptism, you are an important part of that task of healing and reforming the Church to carry out its mission of being Christ’s love in the world. There are many ways in which you can make the Church a place which is safe, welcoming and loving. Get involved in the parish, if you are not already active. Join a ministry. Take the message of Christ’s love into the world around you through service to the poor and marginalized. Claim your Catholic identity. The more active and engaged we are as a community of Catholics, and the more we allow Christ to enlarge our hearts and move us to action, then the more his mission of love will be revealed in our midst.
There are reasons to be hopeful about change in the Church amidst the sea of scandals and bad news. Since 2002, there have been significant changes in the way the institutional Church operates in the United States which have markedly diminished the possibility of abuse. It is important to note that the vast majority of the appalling instances of abuse cited by the Pennsylvania report occurred before 2002.
Since 2004, in our Archdiocese, the Office of Safeguard the Children (STC) has trained more than 329,000 adults, including bishops, priests, deacons, staff and volunteers, in the VIRTUS® child abuse prevention adult awareness programs and more than 1.4 million children and young people in the children’s program. More than 168,000 adults, including bishops, priests, deacons, staff and volunteers, have been fingerprinted as part of a program of background checks for Church and school personnel and volunteers.
The Archdiocese understands that the healing and support of victim-survivors of abuse is of paramount importance. The Office of Victims Assistance Ministry of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has worked to create a safe and compassionate environment for victims to come forward while ensuring that civil authorities are notified, and victims are provided with counseling and other assistance in the healing process. The Victims Assistance Ministry serves to help victim-survivors who have been victims of sexual abuse by a priest, deacon, or individual representing the Catholic Church.
Here at Holy Family Church, we have a robust Safeguard the Children ministry which meets regularly to implement the policies and procedures of the Archdiocese, as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of what we are doing. Those of you who have received persistent calls, emails and letters about being Live Scanned and Virtus-trained know how seriously our staff and ministry leaders take their Safeguard the Children responsibilities. By participating in these essential programs, you are also helping to protect and safeguard children, young people and vulnerable adults, so please ensure you are in compliance.
As we, the People of God, discern collectively how best to move forward as the Body of Christ over these next months, we urge you to pray for the victims and their families who continue to suffer incalculable damage from the wounds of abuse and institutional callousness. If you are a victim of abuse, whatever the circumstances, please know that we stand with you with great love and compassion and we are here ready to support and help you however we can.
Pray for wisdom and courage for our bishops so that they may be open to new ways of episcopal transparency and accountability. Pray for our priests, who continue to do the beautiful work of bringing Christ’s love to the world, but who are suffering under the weight of these sins of the Church. Finally, let us pray for one another to discern how God is calling us to participate in the healing of our Church, and that our discernment may lead us to action.
Loving Father, we, the people of God, beseech you, through the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, to grant these prayers. Amen.
Parish Life Director Pastor Emeritus