Bishop Robert Barron's new book, "Letter to a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks on the…
The ramifications of a Church in crisis
The absolute worst ramification of the clergy abuse crisis is the damage done to the victims. These young people and adults’ lives have been scarred and ruined forever. They are desperately in need of reconciliation and healing. They are broken, and the Church did the breaking. There is much for which to atone.
We see this in its rawest form this week in an interview with one of the survivors of abuse by priests in Pennsylvania. You can hear his pain through his words, and it is tragic. I hope you will join me in praying for healing for him and for all victims of the sexual abuse crisis.
We also can’t ignore the other ramifications: People are leaving the Church; the Church has lost credibility; and there is currently great infighting regarding a response.
Those are bad enough. But there is a greater, overall issue at work here: Until the Church fully gets to the bottom of the clergy abuse crisis, specifically regarding the scandal of now-Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, it can’t really move forward with its work of evangelization.
Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire, a global media ministry, recently spoke to this point in a video on his Facebook page, and I believe his words are important for us to keep in mind as we face this difficult time.
“This scandal is a diabolical masterpiece because it undermines the work of the Church in practically every way,” he said. “Most immediately, in my case, as an evangelizer, talk about the best way to undermine any evangelical effort — an effort to propagate the Church’s teaching, to make the Church attractive to people, to draw them to Christ — what would be a more effective way to undo that work than to have priests engaging in the sexual abuse of young people?”
Bishop Barron continues, “In terms of our credibility, in terms of our role in the public forum, choose your issue — we’re undermined in every way by it. Which is why we have to come to grips fully with it. We can’t rest until the thing has been solved. And I say that with a lot of passion because the work of the Church — to worship God, to serve the poor, to evangelize, as Pope Benedict said, the three great tasks of the Church — all three of them are undermined, all three of them are compromised by this work.
“Just think for a moment now [about] the well-in-excess of billions of dollars paid out, dollars that could have and should have gone to care for the poor, the building of institutions, etc., etc., etc.,” he adds. “Just in that way, the Church’s work is dramatically undermined. So until we come fully to grips with it, you know, the Church is not going to move forward.”
Bishop Barron makes excellent points. As a Church we are stuck in the mud until we, as he said, fully come to grips with the scope of the problem. Until then, we will continue to be a Church in crisis.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of Our Sunday Visitor. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.