The irony of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury’s Report on clergy sex abuse hitting the newspapers and broadcasts at the time of the Catholic feast of the Assumption is almost as startling as the occurrence of the scandal itself. According to tradition, Mary, the mother of Jesus “when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory,” (CCC 966). In scriptures we get only snippets of her life – at the appearance of Angel Gabriel, at a Cana wedding feast, at the foot of the cross, being most notable. All three instances portray Mary as being a humble and praying woman. Humble and praying. Lacking that -- Is that what went wrong in the lives of the “priest predators”?
From Willow Creek to Pennsylvania, from ancient scriptures to today’s latest tweets, this tragedy of abuse has long been with us. There are many opinions about what went wrong – the seminaries, the hierarchy, the church at large, the individual priests, power/dominance, celibacy/homosexuality, the cover-up. Perhaps a non-existent prayer life. On the Assumption day when many honor Mary, we notice her humility and piety. In her prayer known as the Magnificat, Mary turned in humility to prayerful praise: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” (cf. Luke 1:39-56) What kind of prayer life does a priest predator have? What kind of prayer life do we have?
It would do church authorities well to meditate upon this contemporary version of Mary’s Magnificat (according the
The Message translation
by Eugene Peterson):
God's mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
Some say this latest revelation of abuse is just the tip of the iceberg. We do look for a radical movement in the church. Its history is fraught with schism, sinfulness, and silent sinister schemes. Let us pray for a transformation of the clergy and the authorities, for atonement and accountability, and for a church that reflects the face of Christ.
It has often been said that prayer changes us. In these dark days of a wounded church, let us pray the most revered prayer of all, The Lord’s Prayer, especially the plea, “thy kingdom come!” Then, we need to be aware – with humility and piety -- of how our lives reflect God’s kingdom in our midst. Let us respond with compassion for the victims, with faith in the future, with hope for the caregivers of clergy and victims, and love for scriptures that bring us promise for healing, and trust in our God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. --by Jan