Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Response to Clergy Abuse in Pennsyvania

Photo: Keith Kelly via flikr
This week, a major report was published in Pennsylvania detailing how 301 priests sexually abused at least 1000 victims in every diocese in the state. Even more damning that previous similar reports, this one detailed how priests, bishops, and other church leaders conspired to commit and cover up these crimes over decades.

There is so much about this scandal that makes me angry.

I'm angry that anyone would sexually abuse children. It's beyond awful and even worse that they knowingly covered up the crimes. It's terrible to think about the number of lives that have been forever altered by this abuse.

I'm angry that the actions of these priests besmirch my profession and the Church I love. I'm angry that MY integrity is suspect because I wear the same uniform as them. (Though these offenses are the least of the crimes they've committed.)

I'm especially angry that it seems every level of leadership so radically failed to be the Church, the Body of Christ for the sake of the world. Christians are called to be light to the world, to care for the vulnerable and serve the needy, yet church leaders took advantage of the vulnerable, served their own desires, and worked to keep it all in the dark. For years and years. Shame on them.

I'm angry that after almost twenty years of clergy abuse being reported, Roman Catholic leaders still struggle to make a sincere apology and have an earnest investigation of their records to punish and defrock anyone who committed these crimes or covered them up. Truth and justice are core to Christian principles and yet church spokespeople often seem more concerned with protecting their reputation and money. (It was reported this week that some church leaders fought to prevent this report from going public over fears it would lead to bankruptcies. Again: shame.)

And this is not an anti-Catholic rant; I have deep love and admiration for many Roman Catholic people and institutions and would use these same words were it my own denomination. My love for my Roman Catholic sisters and brothers is partly why I'm so furious. How could something with so much good be used to defend and hide evil for so long?

As a Lutheran, I believe we are "simultaneous saint and sinner," imperfect people in need of God's grace. I believe there is forgiveness for our failures, but we must confess our brokenness, bring the sin into the light to be transformed. The church should be leading the world in how to name sin, practice justice, and seek restoration, but here it followed the world's lead in practicing selfishness, abuse of power, and worship of money.

Every Christian institution should look hard at this and pledge that we will do better. We seek to be righteous, but when we fail, we must confess our sin, seek justice, and face consequences when necessary. We must side with and support victims, even when it may cost us.

As a Christian, I also believe in resurrection and that God can bring new life out of terrible events. I pray that can happen here, but before there can be resurrection, we need to make sure this past is dead and buried.

From the Gray,

Pastor Ari

“The past is gone, but something might be found to take its place.” -Gin Blossoms, “Hey Jealousy"

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