I have a dream this morning: that Pope Francis might choose to listen to Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and not whatever dreadful handlers (Carl Anderson?) he's now listening to about how he should respond to the abuse crisis. In his recent homily for the third Sunday in ordinary time, Bishop Gumbleton states,
If there's been an offense against another, we go first and be reconciled. What I'm referring to is something that became very prominent in the news this week. It was reported on national news that the Chicago archdiocese, because of court order, released the personnel files on priests who had abused victims. Over the decades, these priests have been sheltered and then moved from one parish to another, and for a long time, never really held accountable.
Now finally, the files come out, and it's clear that the bishops were much more concerned about protecting the good name of the church, preventing what they call scandal. They did such things as recently as the year 2000. Cardinal [Francis] George wrote a letter to a priest in prison whose prison sentence he was seeking to reduce, and he writes, "It would be a great fulfillment of the millennium spirit to see your captive heart set free."
The cardinal was saying how marvelous it would be if this priest would be released from jail. But there's no letter to the victim. There's no letter going to the victim, saying, "Yes, we need to be reconciled and go and be reconciled," with the perpetrator coming, admitting the guilt, and asking forgiveness. The victims in these cases have just been ignored. Further back, a priest wrote to Cardinal [Joseph] Bernardin from jail, "How full of shame I feel for having betrayed you and the archdiocese."
No shame or sense of having to make reconciliation with the person whom he abused or the many people he abused. There's been a big gap in what is happening in the church and what Pope John Paul II called, "A cancer on the body of Christ" -- the sex abuse scandal. We still haven't gotten to the real way and the only way that this healing could take place. The victims or survivors are still treated as though they're adversaries.
There is only a single gospel path to the end of the abuse crisis in my Catholic church. That path is, as Bishop Gumbleton states, the path of healing and reconciliation. This path requires church officials to admit their wrongdoing in protecting abusive priests and treating those who have been abused as subhuman.
For many of us, our ability to hear the gospel proclaimed in any effective way at all in our church now depends on the willingness of our pastoral leaders to live by the gospel that they proclaim to the rest of us. We continue to wait . . . .
The graphic is Sven Mueller's "One Path" photo, which he has generously made available for sharing at the deviantART site.