Now that Pope Francis has reacted to this latest clerical sexual scandal that erupted in the US recently, let us see how those beautiful intentions and words in his letter can be translated into action.
“Looking ahead to the future,” he said in that letter, “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”
These are strong words. But then again, if there are no implementing orders, systems and processes installed to put them into deeds, then they would just be hot air! The way things are now, we have basis to presume, even if based mostly on hearsays, that there must be also local cases involved. Let’s not be coy.
Let’s see if we can be up front also and get to see names and faces of priests and bishops involved in these scandals. The time of hiding, pretension and hypocrisy is over. It should be history already.
This does not mean that we can be indiscriminate and reckless in sorting out the details of these cases. To be sure, they have to be handled with utmost delicacy. It would be totally inhuman and unchristian if we would just go through this process without charity, compassion, mercy.
There has to be patience, restraint, moderation, respect for the name of people, and some degree of tolerance. There has to be the proper use of what is known as silence of office, the proper keeping of secrets that need not be divulged to the public.
Yes, as the Pope quoted in his letter, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” (1 Cor 12,26) We should not be surprised if we are made to suffer together with that one member who suffers because of a weakness, an offense, a sin. In fact, we should be ready and willing to go through it. We have to understand that it’s part of our human condition here on earth.
But there should also be some kind of intolerance according to the spirit spelled out in that gospel message when Christ said: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your body to depart into hell.” (Mt 5,29- 30)
These words of Christ just cannot be applied only to our individual bodies. They can be applied also to the Church which is also a body—in fact, it is the mystical body of Christ with Christ as its head and we as its members. That is why, in that letter of the Pope, he invites all the members not only to suffer with the one who suffers but also to actively participate in the effort to help that member and to heal the whole body, the Church.
In a sense, while all of us are involved in the problem, all of us should also be involved in finding the solution to the problem. Let us not waste time wallowing in the mud of depression and lamentation, simply pointing the blame on the others. Let us all find ways to solve the problem.
But let us never forget that while we should do our best to solve the problems, we can never reach that point when we can say that we won’t have any problem at all. While here, we and the whole Church will always be a work in progress. We are on a pilgrimage whose destination, where there will be no more tears and pain, no more problems and scandals, can only be in heaven, not here.