So I’m not Catholic but I really did appreciate Pope Francis and his words regarding sexual abuse in the church, specifically the over 1000 victims in Pennsylvania. As far as I know this may well be the first ever official statement from the Vatican and it is beautifully worded. Here it is as presented by the BBC.
My favorite parts,
“The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands….”
“….We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite. With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”
I also appreciated his focus on the problems of clericalism and how our response to sexual abuse must be a community wide response, multi faceted and involving everyone. Therein lies the nature of the problem, abuse can only exist in toxic systems, in secrecy where authority and power are valued above morality, integrity, protection, and caring for the least of these.
The protestant world, even the secular world, would be wise to pay attention because the sexual abuse of children has far-reaching consequences, not just to individuals, but to society as a whole. It is the theft of a child’s mind, body, and spirit, and probably responsible for the myriad of secondary issues that afflict us as a society, from addiction to suicide, from gender identity disorders, to the erosion of the family structure, to abortion and self harm, to people falling away from faith itself.
Many people also have no idea how prevalent child sexual abuse is, like literally the theft of a child’s mind, body, and spirit right under our noses, and what is so frustrating is that us, as “the church,” should have been right on it from day one.
“The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands….”
Right? The problem being, He shouldn’t have had to show us. There should never have been any doubt about whose side we should have been on. The sexual exploitation of children is not even about taking sides or trying to be fair, it is simply about standing up against evil….. or failing to do so.
Matthew 18:Six says, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
There should never be any doubt about, “on whose side the Lord stands.”