I have been away for a few blessed days, with a broken phone and no social media, but I've returned to the gut-wrenching news related to the release of the Pennsylvania #GrandJuryReport.
A few thoughts..
Fellow Catholics (including bishops): STOP speaking as though "the Church" is a perfect Platonic form that exists apart from the flesh and blood, flawed and sinful human beings who make it up. WE are the Church. This isn't just about "a few bad apples" or "individual sins."
Yes, we Catholics believe that the Church is both human and divine, but we're divine by nature of our founder, Jesus, and even his chosen leader, Peter, demonstrated questionable leadership right at the outset of the ministry by denying his master. But he repented. Himself.
Many of the statements from bishops I'm reading, or the defenses from pious faithful on Twitter, are acting as though all of this was someone else's fault. "Person A" did a bad thing, and "Person B" may not have handled it correctly, but "the Church" is not to blame.
We are the Church. And this isn't some isolated incident or random pattern. The abuse scandal reveals, incontrovertibly, a toxic culture of secrecy and criminal conspiracy that is utterly incompatible with the Gospel. And this culture is institutionalized.
Whether it's the CIA, the mafia, a college fraternity, or the Catholic hierarchy, organizations have cultures that permit/exacerbate these types of behaviors, and the organization can never just say, "It isn't us, it was just a couple of bad actors."
Doesn't work that way.
The instinctive response of too many in leadership in the Catholic Church right now will be to look at which *individuals* knew what, to assign *individual* blame and perhaps hand people over for prosecution, and to say, "See? We've addressed the problem."
Because it's the system that has prioritized secrecy and a perverse form of loyalty that says, "If you keep quiet about this or help make it go away" (if you're a "Company Man") there could be a promotion for you down the road. Maybe even a mitre, if you play your cards right
It's not just that these horrible things were taking place, it's that the Church (led by the hierarchy) had created an institutional culture in which others who knew about it were incentivized to keep it secret. That's not merely individual sin. That's a systemic disease.
As much as it pains me to type this, each of us Catholics, has to take accounting of how we've been part of this. And where we go from here. But it's not at all unreasonable of faithful to demand greater accountability, transparency, and repentance than we've received so far.
Please don't come back @ me with, "But most priests are good and holy men," and all that. Believe me. I know that better than most! I've been on the payroll of the Church at almost every level for about 20 years in multiple dioceses across the U.S.
That's not the point.
I'm immensely blessed to know literally hundreds of amazing, selfless, holy men who are ordained as priests. I also know many thousands more holy lay women/men who teach religious ed, volunteer in soup kitchens, take communion to the homebound, etc.
Not the point right now.
The point is, we're like a fraternity that's just gotten busted for a string of sexual assaults, and some folks are like, "But Tyler is valedictorian, and Timmy serves meals to the homeless! Not everyone is bad!"
This isn't the moment for an organizational apologia.
On a personal level, I honestly don't know what I'm going to say when I start teaching RCIA in a few weeks with young adults who want to join the Church.
"So you want to become Catholic, huh? That's awesome!"
I could rattle off statistics about how the Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of humanitarian aid in the world. I could cite all the amazing work being done by Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, and myriad anonymous individuals every day.
I could create powerpoint slides with brilliant theological insights from Augustine, Aquinas, Avery Dulles, and everyone in between. I could cite powerful, beautiful quotes from the writings of Pope Francis and show youtube clips of World Youth Day...
But, at the end of the day, I think that all of us in direct pastoral ministry are going to have to answer a whole lot of tough questions ourselves, through earnest interior prayer, before we can start sharing "The Joy of the Gospel" with others.
I think parish youth ministers, Confirmation catechists, Catholic school teachers... all are going to have to answer really pointed, really difficult, really important questions as we start this new school year about what it means to be part of the Church in the year 2018
...And those answers can't just be that, "the Church" is divine and perfect and pure, and that a few sinful individuals have failed to live out its mission unimpeachably. That's just not going to cut it.
We're all in this. Prayer comes first, but action is imperative.
Follow-Up: Many Catholics are asking, "What can we do?" (besides prayer, which is necessary)
Here's what you can do: send a letter/email to your local bishop. Copy the directors of development/stewardship, CFO/COO, and communications.
Share a bit about yourself. Share a bit about how you're feeling right now. (Not TOO much, or it won't get read.)
And state that you won't be contributing financially to things like the diocesan appeal until certain specific actions are taken. My suggestions would be:
State that you won't contribute financially until there's: (a) an independent lay review board overseeing handling of abuse allegations; (b) a separate, transparent account for pastoral ministry, Catholic charities, teacher salaries, etc. overseen by a lay board, not bishop.
The best way for bishops to ensure that vital Church services like soup kitchens, youth retreats, multicultural ministry, and myriad others continue to operate, would be to set up a separate, lay-administered fund that can't be touched for settlements, lawyers, or PR firms.
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Michael Bayer skriver også en kommentar til en af hans egne tweets - en tankevækkende kommentar: