While many Dutch Catholic blogs continue to get over-excited about the private correspondence of bishops, I want to spend some words on the abuse crisis.
Yes, it’s not the first time the topic appears here (‘abuse’ is rapidly becoming a very popular tag indeed), but in the past days I have been involved in discussions about it, and I’ve been confronted with what it takes to remain Catholic and to defend the Holy Father in this situation. So, here are some thoughts on how to deal with it, from my own non-existent expertise. Perhaps it will benefit others as well.
In no particular order:
Remain critical. The best source of news we have – newspapers, television and the Internet – is also one of the least trustworthy. Take note of what is being discussed and presented (if you can stand it all), but be aware that much of what you see and read is subjective, not reliable checked and propagandistic. The media (excluding some notable exceptions) have no desire to be objective or, heaven forbid, positive about the Church.
Context. The vast majority of abuse cases that are now coming to light date from the period between 1950 and 1975. It is important to be aware of the cultural and political climate in those days, especially in the Netherlands in the 1970s. Respected politicians and even complete parties advocated legalising pedophilia, for example. It was also the time that the sexual revolution was at its height. Everyone was encouraged to ‘liberate’ themselves sexually. Even priests and religious men and women are not immune from the influences of society. I don’t mean to say that sexual abuse of minors is therefore okay, far from it, but it should be noted that the cause does not lie in the Church, or in celibacy or whatever other characteristic of the priesthood, but in society at large.
Not endemic to the Church. The vast majority of sexual abuse of minors takes place in families. At worst, the level of abuse within the Church is the same as it is outside. Singling out the Church to banish sexual abuse will therefore have no effect. Again, it is a much wider social problem that finds its origin in the boundless liberalism of modern society.
These last two points to offer some sort of context. What about us? How can we deal with the accusations?
Pray. Pray for ourselves, for the Holy Father, for the Church, that from this situation good may come. The pope has said that he considers this a period of purification. Let it be so.
Hope. Ultimately the Church belongs to Jesus Christ. It is His Church. We can rely on the hope that He gives us through His resurrection and His Church. Despite the failings of His people, He does not change. Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be for ever (Heb. 13: 8).
Trust. Trust in the Lord that He will keep us safe from all anxiety and attacks. That means trusting the people He works through. The actions of a few must never affect our relations with priests, bishops and religious people.
Search for the truth. The truth indeed will set us free. It may be hard to find, but it will come out when it must. It may mean some hard work, but the truth is lousy at hiding forever.
Remain pastoral. As Christians we are called to live charitably. Our concern must go out to the victims but we also have duties towards the offenders. Judge when necessary, but do so pastorally. Take the specifics of the cases and all the people involved into account, and always ask: what is best for all involved?