an epitaph for justice

lament: for the children

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse

Two days ago, the Grand Jury report on sexual abuse across six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania was released. The allegations are horrifying and disgusting. In my own Diocese (of Pittsburgh), there were 99 priests accused of child sex abuse over the past 70 years. Even though most of the clergy abuse occurred 30 or more years ago (and most of these clergy are now deceased), that such abuse was rampant is disheartening. Many policies have changed over the past 30 years, but we must continue to seek systematic changes, that such behavior is never permitted and justice swiftly executed, especially among those who are gifted Holy Orders.

As a Catholic, I must listen and lament, especially for those who were abused. For any clergy, now is not the time to be fearful, but to respond in humility and in love.

How can we act any differently? The story that most shocks me, is that of a young boy, told to pose as Christ naked upon the cross while a gaggle of priests took photographs, their giggling voices mocking Christ (ref, page 234-235).

We cannot respond with defensiveness; we can only join in the suffering of Jesus on the Cross and those innocent victims, betrayed and crucified by those who said they loved Him.

As a Catholic who just entered into the Church, I mourn at the brokenness that has persisted. We must continue to seek greater transparency, to not be fearful of the past, to face it that we might be truly healed by Christ, becoming more truly His Bride. We must be swift with justice, removing from ministry those who are accused, and laicizing those who are found guilty. And, we must never stop pursuing justice, even if it is painful; restitution and reparations must continue even if it bleeds us dry.

The church tells people that confession is good for the soul. It needs to practice what it preaches. If it wants forgiveness, it must confess its sins, have deep sorrow for these sins, do penance and amend its ways.

- Fr. Thomas Reese