From the Crow's Nest / Ed Chrostowski
Catholic Church needs to continue vital work
Published 1:05 am, Thursday, April 29, 2010
Pastors' sermons are rarely applauded in Catholic churches, not because the messages are unappreciated but rather because of the traditionally whispered decorum of the sanctuary. That's what makes a recent Sunday morning Mass in Ridgefield all the more noteworthy.
As the pastor concluded his remarks, bit of tentative clapping began in the front pews and it surged to a loud crescendo as it rippled back toward the choir loft. The congregation obviously was not just politely acknowledging the preacher's eloquence. It was enthusiastically endorsing what he said. Only one man got up and walked out in a huff.
The pastor spoke of the scandals that rocked the Church when rogue priests abused children sexually. In all candor, he conceded that the Church hierarchy had been tardy in admitting that monstrous crimes had been committed, but has since condemned them. Apologies, restitution and offers of professional counseling were extended to victims, even in the realization that of course nothing can ever compensate fully for the suffering.
He emphasized that the Church remains the staunch citadel of faith that always had merited their devotion and he encouraged them not to become disheartened.
Mistakes were made by Church leaders because they are human and not infallible, the pastor said. He did not offer that as an alibi for what happened, acknowledging instead that they faltered. Nor did he blame media reports or attorneys garnering generous fees from plaintiffs and he refrained from saying what others felt -- that there did seem to be a sort of "piling on."
More needs to be done, the pastor suggested, challenging Pope Benedict to make a public act of contrition, expressing remorse, condemning past abuses in the strongest terms and outlining all that is being done to prevent any such horror in the future.
Until now, statements from the Vatican have been made by Benedict's aides and in their loyalty they have been exculpatory, sometimes doing more harm than good in burnishing the image of the Catholic Church, the pastor said. The obligation to set the record straight so that the historically noble works of the church can proceed unimpeded falls to the Pope alone as the leader of world's Catholics.
We can draw our own analogy to an architectural gem. The building has served its purpose magnificently over the years, but now a window is broken and the structure seems less prestigious and not as functional. Demolition or abandonment is out of the question; there is desperate need for this building. A prudent owner makes repairs and, blemishes now corrected, prepares it to serve impressively once again.
Repairs are well underway in the Catholic Church. The abuse has been acknowledged and condemned. Restitution and apologies have been made. All parish personnel, including volunteers, are being trained to recognize symptoms of any kind of abuse and what to do about them. Policies require reporting any allegations of abuse to civil authorities and not, as in the past, just to Church officials. It is time to move on.
The Church, then, is poised for the full redemption its public image deserves. There remains a serious hindrance in Connecticut, however. The State Legislature is contemplating a proposal, Bill No. 5473, that would remove the statute of limitations from child abuse cases. Doing that would make it possible for attorneys to file claims for allegations of abuse that was supposed to have occurred decades ago. Some are baseless and most are defenseless because alleged perpetrators, records, detailed memories and witnesses are gone.
Connecticut law already has the longest "grace period" in the nation for reporting sexual abuse of children. A victim has until the age of 48 to file a claim. It is important, too, to recognize that this is not just a matter of perverted priests. Foster parents, teachers, coaches, counselors and social workers, as well as clergy, also have been accused of predatory behavior with their young charges.
In short, then, there is no need for Bill No. 5473. In leaving a door open perpetually, it would be bad law. It can only permit the continued potential for diverting resources, energy and support from the noble work that churches and others have done so selflessly for "the least of my brethren" all over the world. Legislators ought to reject Bill No. 5473.