Posted by: sisterbernice | April 23, 2010


There continues to be unrelenting reporting of the church sex abuse scandal.  In some ways this is rightfully so.  People have been hurt and the church has not been responsive, proactive nor sensitive.  It has been in fact unChristian.  Why?  That is for others to discuss and so the press does a service.  But the reporting is also skewed, dangerous and re-victimizing. 

There is a lot of anti-Catholic bias and anti-papal ideology being expressed-the sins of a few are being visited upon all.  I doubt many Catholics really pay attention to the Vatican – most Catholics don’t but what is the Vatican.  It is not a corporation.  It is the “rock” upon which a church stands.  It houses Peter.  Peter’s job is not to be the head administrator.  His job and the others working there are to be the head priests.  A responsible job – yes but they aren’t overseers of the clergy.  They are overseers of the faith.  Their job is to protect and witness to the faith, providing the necessary means to protect the sacraments.  Canon law is not criminal law.  The press treats the Church as if it is a separate and parallel government in the United States with canon law equivalent to civil law – that’s absurd.   And while the Holy See does have its sovreignty and the Pope is head, actual governance is the responsibilty of the bishops in each diocese.  It is almost similar to state vs. federal repsonsibility but the responsibility is not government and policy – it is doctrine and sacraments.  There is  a huge difference.  As a a lay person reading canon law there is a policy recognizing civil responsibility as do the treaties that the Holy See signs.  In those treaties, governments do recognize the right of canon law.  Why don’t we hear more about the complexity of these issues – why is it black and white reporting and analysis?

None of the above excuses the inaction of bishops but the issues are also dangerous for the lawyers contentions can be applied to every school district, every social service agency, every community group, every individual.  So, will we start suing one another over failures to report sexual abuse, especially in the past?  I’m sure I just made people really angry because the victims do deserve justice and healing.  They deserve recognition.  BUT, the abuse of the Church is small compared to the rest of society.   No, this is the tip of a very large iceberg and do we want to go there?  Are there other avenues for justice?

Do lawsuits really help or do they re-victimize the victim?  Even if a settlement is reached, the victim is rarely comforted, they don’t really win.  They are caught up in the legal process and must endure endless attacks of the spirit.  This is especially true when the guilty party is really the perpetrator, and not the hierarchy, but it is the hierarchy being sued.  We can complain about the bishops but they still didn’t do the crime.  And, each bishop’s decisions will have mixed reasons and motivations when examined.  I think this is the most intersting part of the story and actually a very human, not bureaucratic part of the story.  What do  you do when faced with this situation?  All of you should shout – fire the priest.  So we fire the priest, we take him to court, he’s fined, imprisoned, he’s out again, he abuses again.  This is a no-win situation that society needs to face.  But if you are that lonely bishop what do you do?  if you believe in the sacraments, now you have a bigger headache on your hands.  It doesn’t matter should be the answer – call the police, fire him anyway but the rub is that until the mandated reporting law in `1974, this dilemma was faced by many an administrator throughout the country and why the Church cases open Pandora’s box.  Paradoxically, the outcry against the church may also be the outcry for us to become a better society, to become better parents – how do we put this in action?  And so, victims are re-victimized because they are fighting for an end to abuse and suffering but it won’t end unless people embrace morals and values that say this is wrong and really mean it.  That parents stop abusing first, and that adult be adults.  And what actually teaches this – religions.  To try to topple any church is to kill the solution.

So, I pray and invite all of you to as well for the conversion of the Church, the bishops, the priests and the laity.  I pray for the healing of the victims so that they will have peace in their lives.  And, I pray for society to embrace the loving kindness of the Lord and to follow His way.

To that end: I pray the sorrowful mysteries, Pope Benedicts prayer for the Irish victims, and the following:

Lord Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, go back into my memory as I sleep. Every hurt that has ever been done to me, heal that hurt. Every hurt that I have ever caused another person, heal that hurt. All the relationships that have been damaged in my whole life that I am not aware of , heal those relationships. But, O Lord, if there is anything that I need to do, If I need to go to a person because he or she is still suffering from my hand, bring to my awareness that person. I choose to forgive, and I ask to be forgiven. Remove whatever bitterness may be in my heart, Lord, and fill the empty spaces with your love. Amen.  found at Daily Word of Life: Catholic Prayers



  1. Dear Sister Bernice:

    Thank you for this blog. I have linked it to my own blog page and have reposted this and your purpose on my own site here.

    God Bless You Abundantly

    Michael Brandon

    • Thank you Michael, I hope you will pray every Friday too.

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