Royal Commission – a beginning: December 8, 2013

The Royal Commission and the Catholic Church

Over the coming weeks and months, the Catholic Church will be in the limelight of the Royal Commission into the Institutional Abuse of children. The investigation will be focused on how the Church responded to the accusations of abuse with the “Towards Healing” process. Initially, we have been told, there will be four experiences of abuse accusations that will be examined. This is bound to cause a great deal of distress amongst Catholics, which we, here at St Anthony’s, will share.

However, the experiences of victims of sexual abuse need to be brought to light and addressed, no matter what distress is caused by these revelations. So I would encourage all the parishioners to be aware of what is happening by looking at the Royal Commission website (http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au) to see the whole story rather than rely on the media reporting, which we know will be sensationalised and partial.

During some recent reading, I discovered a most apt statement by Fr. Walter Burghardt, a Jesuit scholar who endured imprisonment at the hands of the Nazi regime and who was also interrogated by the Church’s “Holy Office” for his views on Scripture and Theology. It offers us, I think, a glimmer of hope in the situation we now find ourselves in.

“In the course of half a century, I have seen more Catholic corruption than you have read of. I have tasted it. I have been reasonably corrupt myself. And yet I [take] joy in this Church – this living, pulsing, sinning people of God, love it with a crucifying passion. Why? For all the Catholic hate, I experience here a community of love. For all the institutional idiocy, I find here a tradition of reason. For all the individual repressions, I breathe here an air of freedom. For all the fear of sex, I discover here the redemption of my body. In an age so inhuman, I touch here the tears of compassion. In a world so grim and humourless, I share here rich joy and laughter. In the midst of death I hear an incomparable stress on life. For all the apparent absence of God, I sense here the real presence of Christ.”

Donald Cozzens “Notes from the Underground” Orbis Books, Maryknoll, USA, 2013. pp. 36 – 37

I offer this not as an excuse for irreparable damage caused by the abuse of children by clergy but as a reflection on the Church as a whole – you and me – as we attempt to learn and grow from this experience. During the coming weeks and months I will be keeping the Parish updated on what has been happening and what is resulting from these investigations. I do apologise to parishioners who find this topic distressing – I do too – but we need to open our eyes and address the situation in order that such actions can never happen again.

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