Easter and the Child Abuse Scandals
Today’s round of Easter Sermons must have been one of the most eagerly awaited in the last 2000 years. That the media all seemed to have pre-written the ideal sermon and then proceeded to mark everyone’s attempts against an idealised sermon is both sad and annoying. But amongst the range, there were definitely some who showed what Easter is all about: our failings and search for forgiveness. Even the Anglican Primate, Archbishop Rowan, had something very useful to say
Just to get Rowan’s debacle out of the way: my feeling is that he stated not an opinion, but a painful fact. There are many who have felt pain and disconnection from the Roman Catholic church in recent weeks as the events have unfolded, and to be honest, should we blame them. But perhaps Rowan’s comments were not helpful, pointing out something that is painfully obvious.
Further to this, I do wonder, perhaps after some self-examination, that Archbishop Rowan has not yet been accused of being overly friendly to those feeling disposed and confused. There are few other groupings of Christians more likely to gain numerically from the fall-out, particularly in England, than the Anglican Church. That no Catholic has accused him of this is either charitable, a sign of over-confidence at the loyalty of hitherto-Catholics, or calculation on not planting the idea in people’s minds. It will be interesting to see if perhaps some number of people will make a step across, rather than the far more lamentable step away from all of the Church.
Either way, Anglicans must be open minded, open hearted, and remember that they too are not without blemish, also needing to bring cases to light such as the abuses currently before the Canadian justice system concerning boarding schools run through the Anglican Church in Canada (the first of several cases to come to mind).
And it is the honesty to admit what has happened and to deal with it, publicly where necessary, that struck me as the best of the various themes on offer from Catholic bishops around Europe. Some appear to have been on the defensive, unable to fully accept what is going on around them, perhaps too proud to admit fault. But others have spoken of the need to tackle the problem head on:
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau said the Church needed to examine its dark aspects.
"Today particularly we must set out together and examine inconceivable events, awful crimes, the Church’s dark aspects as well as our shadowy sides," said Archbishop Zollitsch, who is head of the country’s bishops’ conference. (From this BBC Article)
Perhaps there is a need for the Church itself to reflect on St Paul’s words, and to take them to heart institutionally: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”. How then, especially at the critical time of Easter, can the Church, any church, effectively proclaim truth whilst hiding its own depravity?
Now, the Pope’s own reaction does seem rather muted amongst all the comments we have heard thus far. That he is actually implicated in any of this is rather difficult to clarify. He is certainly not accused of having overseen signing of pledges of silence by victims, for instance. Whatever has happened, it is clear that the strongest blame lies further down the system. The Pope has responsibilities to handle this situation properly, but he has yet to fail in this area. None of this changes my wish that he get on and nudge a small number of relatively senior church officials towards resigning. As with any organisation, is it truly proper that its leader comment on that which is under full investigation, no matter how much the media would prefer immediate mud-slinging?
But ultimately this must be a reminder to everyone, inside or outside the church, that no institution can do more than mimic the kingdom of heaven. Any mimicry is inherently flawed. After all, is not someone who projects an image of perfection off putting and annoying? The Church, even those further away from ‘Rome’ have a long way to go in rebuilding a relationship with wider society. And that can only begin by taking serious, concerted action in the weeks to come.
To the world; don’t stop demanding honesty from the Church.
To the Church; remember that we are sinners also.