Pastor’s Keyboard: Many have called or asked me in person, “How are you doing?”. Almost without thinking, I answer with the words that usually express my day, “Wonderful!”. But then my brain suddenly clicks on and reminds me that these words are not true, I’m not feeling wonderful, I feel deep pain and sadness over what has happened and what is happening in the church that I love and have pledged my life too.
Yes, most of the events that are described in the Pennsylvania Report happened decades ago. Yes, most, if not all, the priest, deacons, and laymen who perpetrated these crimes against God’s children are dead or long removed from ministry. And yes, most of the bishops who allowed these horrors are dead or retired. Yet there is still the reality that it happened and was covered up by men who, despite listening to psychologists, should have known better than to keep moving these men into situations where they endangered children.
The other great sadness comes from seeing the effect of these revelations on you and my fellow priest. Like you, we priest have experienced shock, anger, and great sadness. How could this happen?
As one who has spent time giving spiritual direction and counseling to adults who were abused by non-clergy in the past, I know the horror that it causes for a lifetime. In the midst of this is the temptation to despair, for those who experienced the abuse and for those who are experiencing the sadness of what has come to light through the reports.
So, what gives me hope for our church and for those who have been so abused? What gives me hope are the words of Jesus and the sacraments, and the words a number of you who have reached out to me and reminded me that despite the betrayal and evil done by those who did these crimes or who handled them improperly “Jesus is still present with us and can use even these revelations to purify the church and clean out the evil that was not named and rejected in the past”. Or to use the words in last week’s homily, “My faith may be shaken but it Will Not Be Taken!”.
The Church, as the Body of Christ, can and will recover and will have stronger and better shepherds who will work tirelessly to do all they can to prevent these evils and to take seriously any accusations in the future. I am convinced more than ever that it will take all of us to make this happen.
So, what can we do now? The saints of old who lived in very bad times, whether because of the conditions in the world or problems within the church, always started with their own interior life and worked out from there. I think we must do the same. We must seek to become saints (people who are not perfect but faithful). We need to especially have strong prayer lives and offer up prayers and sacrifices for our souls, and especially for those wounded by bad shepherds. We must make sure that our bishop and the holy father hear our voice as we advocate for greater accountability. Especially through the use of independent lay boards of experts to investigate and make judgements that the pope can use if there are allegations against priest or bishops in the future. There is a lot to be done and we must all be involved through our own striving to grow closer to the Lord and His teachings and by being involved in our parish, archdiocese, and the church.
Yes, I have not been able to say I’m feeling wonderful these past two weeks, but I can say I’m hopeful and will strive to remain faithful to the Lord and His church. Please pray for me and know that I always pray for you in every Mass and Holy Hour every day of my life.
Your Brother and Father in Christ,
Fr. Scott Woods