At all Masses this weekend, during our Prayers of the Faithful, we will be incorporating prayers specifically for Archbishop Rodi and all the bishops who will be meeting in Baltimore this week for their semi-annual gathering. In following the strong recommendations of Pope Francis to the best of their ability, they will be dedicating their first day to prayer, fasting, and Mass as gestures of atonement; the meetings themselves will focus on analysis of why the clergy sexual abuse of children and cover-up scandal took root, and what can be done to hold bishops involved in cover-ups to be held accountable. Most especially, this should be a time of repentance and restitution for all those victims who have suffered so horribly for so long—in the silence of being shamed.
More fully in line with Pope Francis’ wishes, all the American bishops will spend a retreat week at St Mary of the Lake seminary in Mundelein, IL (where I spent some of my sabbatical a couple of years ago). It’ll be the dead of winter (a phrase Mobilians can scarcely comprehend, but Chicagoans certainly can). The retreat will begin 2 January, and it will be led by the Vatican’s preacher, Capuchin Fr Raniero Cantalamessa. Additionally, there will be an emergency mini-synod of heads of national episcopal conferences in Rome during February, to try to solve the problem and end the string of sins.
Why did this evil plague us in the first place? I have heard many answers: it’s all about homosexuality; it’s all about celibacy; it’s all about clericalism; it’s all about what was abandoned at Vatican II… My thought, speaking only as an individual, is that if folks want to discover “THE Answer,” they will certainly be mistaken because they are being simplistic. I am convinced that there are multiple aspects to the creation of the culture within which such sin could not only take place, but those involved could actually advance in Church standing. These aspects must ALL be faced and rooted out.
We will indeed be praying for Archbishop Rodi in a special way in these next days and months, and for all the bishops—of the United States, and of the larger Catholic world. Let’s not forget that this scandal has touched other local churches as well, including Ireland, Australia, Chile, Germany, Poland, and so on. Satan is invidious and insidious: evil and deceptive. He has wormed his way into the heart of the Church’s structure. But let’s also remember that he cannot ever worm his way into the actual heart of the Church—that Heart (as well as Head) is Jesus Christ. Our Lord defeated Satan on the Cross, but D-Day isn’t VE-Day just yet, and the “enemy of our human nature” is doing all he can, while falling from the sky like lightning, to drag down as many as he can. I’m not particularly apocalyptic, but I do recommend that we read and meditate on Matthew 24:24. It’s the “false messiah” of prestige, of being “too big to fail,” of contempt for our destiny in Christ: the everlasting Beatific Vision that he threw away. For ourselves, with all the hurt and anger and disappointment and disgust, let’s remember again the words of St Augustine (which I quoted some weeks ago): “We place our faith not in a man, but in the Lord.”