Monday, December 13, 2010

The Catholic Abuse Crisis and the Call to Be a Listening Church: Another Blast from the Past

And, as a counterpoint to what I just posted a bit ago, on the callous response of Vatican officials to the abuse situation in the Irish Catholic church, here's another excerpt from one of my journals of the past.  I wrote this on 8 Jan. 2004, after the national audit that followed the shocking revelations about clerical abuse of minors by American priests in 2002:

In the literature being written in the wake of the bishops' national audit following the 2002 revelations of the extent of sexual abuse in the church, the theme of listening predominates.  The reasons it does so, I think:

1. By tradition, bishops are called to listen to the voice of their flock, especially (if they intend to be good shepherds) to the voices of those who are wounded and hurting.

2. Vatican II underscored this, noting that bishops seek to listen to the sensus fidelium.

3. The current crisis reveals how far we've moved away from these traditional models of pastoral leadership in the direction of a corporate business model of leadership.  The shock is that many people now don't even any longer recognize that 1 and 2 are a traditional part of bishops' role.

4. The audit and the crisis itself have profound ecclesiological implications, as they juxtapose what the tradition says about the pastoral (and listening) role of bishops, and what bishops have made of their role under the restorationist regime.

5. Reasons people absolutely have to be heard:

---not hearing survivors of clerical sexual abuse re-victimizes them

---not listening erases human beings

---the story people seek to tell is who they are

---not listening to people diminishes the church itself, which has to hear people's stories and heal those who are hurting in order to be whole itself

---ironically, suppressing the stories of survivors of abuse doesn't protect the church at all: it diminishes the church, keeps it from being a sacramental sign in the world.

Note the 6 Jan. New York Times article "Clerics' Abuse Victims Say Lay Boards Ignore Them: "the desire to be heard courses through many abuse victims."  And citing Sharon Witbeck, "They can't find out how victims feel if they don't talk to them.  Most victims say they just want to be heard."

And the 6 Jan. AP article by Rachel Zoll, "Audit: Church Sex Abuse Policy Has Holes": a key problem the audit turned up is that the bishops have been unwilling to hear victims, have solicited too little comment from them.  The report says bishops should fulfill their pledge of one-on-one meetings with survivors of abuse.  Kathleen McChesney: "We have a long way to go in that area."

No comments: