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Time for reparation for the sins of the fathers

De Facto
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Time for reparation for the sins of the fathers



Liamy MacNally

The good priests must be cringing. A hierarchy intent on saving face is dragging these fine and holy men - wounded healers – through the mire of ecclesiastical mediocrity. Why are bishops constantly back-peddling when a scandal is revealed? This only adds insult to injury for people already immersed in deep pain after being abused. Today the perception is that the bishops simply still do not get it. They appear to be immune from reality. Unfortunately for the many decent men among the hierarchy they are all being painted with the same brush. It is down to perception. The result is that they become further alienated from those who have been wounded and heap pain upon cathedral pain. They also become estranged from the faithful.  
It is the drip-feed of scandal after scandal that is effectively destroying what is left of the church’s credibility. The guardians of the church, the bishops, are wreaking that destruction. Once a scandal breaks they create another one in their ongoing fumbling attempts at a cover-up, defences and appeals. Cardinal Brady himself stated that the ‘slow drip’ of information has to stop and people must come clean. The only ones guilty of the drip-effect are themselves. They are no sooner dealing with one aspect of a scandal than another blows up in their faces. You could not script it. It is so pathetic to be laughable if it were not so serious.
Cardinal Brady’s story of being present to take statements from two children who were abused is not new. It was spread across the papers in 1997. Today’s reaction is down to the perception society now has of the church leaders. Incompetent, incoherent and inept are gentle descriptions of their current inabilities to deal with people whose lives have been destroyed by clergy.
We keep hearing the church being described as ‘the people of God.’ One has to question this model of church. The description is nice as an idea but as a reality it is far from the truth. The people of God have been left leaderless, speechless and forsaken in a fog of uncertainty. The model in use is a hierarchical model. The people are just there, without any sense of power or experience of power. Everything revolves around the clerical mind, or clericalism.
Kevin Seasoltz, OSB, writing in the current issue of The Furrow states: “One of the causes assigned to the sexual abuse crisis in the Church has been the long-standing prevalence of clericalism among bishops and priests. The term designates a constellation of relationships, behavioural patterns, status symbols and ideas in which bishops and priests, especially diocesan priests, live and function as ministers in the Church. It is closely associated with a triumphal lifestyle…. From their elevated status, the ordained were able to load on lay men and women heavy moral burdens which they themselves did not at times carry with integrity. As the investigation of the sexual abuse cases has shown, the guilty clerics ministered in a Church which set high standards of morality, especially in the area of human sexuality, for lay men and women, while they themselves blatantly violated those same standards.”
Today, St Peter, as married man, would not be accepted as a priest because the Church has trumped that call with a call to celibacy. This ‘dual call’ suited the Church as a replacement for red martyrdom. The ‘white martyrdom’ of the unmarried state became the Church’s favourite. It also prevented the loss of the Church’s lands and property when it was introduced in the 12th century!  
Cardinal Brady spoke about the ‘wounded healer.’ He wondered if there is a place for such a person in leading the Irish church. The church needs wounded healers. The church is in the mess it is because of a lack of such people in leadership roles. Wounded healers are the antithesis of those who espouse triumphal clericalism. When will Bishops realise that the greatest sin is forgetting that they must admit themselves to the pool of sinners?     
The real triumph is that of failure. The good priests – the wounded healers – are the only hope for a clergy that has dragged down the church. Many older people often said that the church would never be destroyed by the people of God but by the clergy. It is time, in fact it is long overdue, that the church sets about a course of reparation for the sins of abuse. It is the season of sackcloth and ashes but like many things in the church it has been reduced to a nice ‘holy’ term rather than a practice.
The Pope’s letter is being digested this week. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it contains what people need to hear, including apologies and reparation?

Papal letter is ‘completely and utterly inadequate’