By Drew Darnell
My heart aches. As an Anglican Priest, reading about the crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, I am devastated. When I read through the grand jury report of the abuses at the hands of clergy, physical sickness overwhelmed me. These acts are of the most vile and evil nature. Bishops are tasked with leading the Church and caring for the faithful and when something like this happens, smooth PR campaigns fail in the mission of leading and caring. True leadership should take responsibility for errors made under their watch. True caring means that there is no limit to what you do to make sure that the victims are cared for and that the millions of hurting faithful are reassured that you are there to fight for truth and will protect minors from these evils.
The response from the Vatican and the pope has been underwhelming at best. We need strong leadership from Pope Francis and the Vatican in this situation. We need direct and decisive actions to address the corruption. It’s action that the victims are demanding. It’s action that the faithful are demanding. I am a big believer in due diligence and allowing the facts to be presented but this is not a situation where the facts are in question. Actually, if anything, we are finding out more and more how high the cover-up reaches as the latest allegations are that Pope Francis was aware of Cardinal McCarrick’s abuses. If this is indeed true, the extent of the cover-up reaches every corner of the church.
So where does that leave us today? Priests, both Roman Catholic and not, are being physically attacked because of the scandal. Priests and nuns are being spat upon because of their association with the Roman Catholic Church and the abuses that were done by fellow clergy. The faithful are reeling from the abuse and cover-up wondering what happens next. The world is mocking the church and not just the Roman Catholic Church.
So what do we do now? As stated, I am not Roman Catholic. I am an Anglican Priest in the Orthodox Anglican Church. So you might be wondering what does this all matter to me or what my response will be. While many other Christians have seized the opportunity to pile on, I don’t feel that is helpful to anyone. My heart aches for the victims, for the faithful priests, and for all of the Roman Catholics who are just as outraged as I am. I feel that there is only one way forward with those that are hurting and that is standing in solidarity with them and not in condemnation of them.
I believe that there are two things that we can and should do:
1) Pray. We all need to be faithful in our prayers at this critical time. No matter what your church background is, now is the time to be dedicated in prayer. Whenever there is trial, tribulation, and trouble, we have to turn to our only hope, Jesus. And there is no lack of people for whom we need to be praying daily.
We need to pray for the victims and their families. The evil that was done to them is something that we can’t take away but we certainly can pray for them as they work through the implications of the abuse and the cover-up, understanding that this will almost certainly haunt them for the rest of their lives.
We should also be praying for all of the priests and deacons who are spending their lives being faithful and obedient and are now dealing with the fallout from these evils. They have questions. They have doubts. They have anxiety. They want answers. And in the meantime, they have to keep loving and serving the people in their care.
We must also be in prayer for the many faithful Catholics who are struggling to put this all together and figure out what to do, what to believe, and how to move forward.
This last one is hard but we should be praying for the abusers. We should pray that they will repent of the evils that they have done. We should pray that they would accept whatever justice is decided for them. And we should pray that God would be merciful to them. This one was hard for me to add but it was an abuse victim (not related to this scandal) who told me that this is something we must do. From her perspective, it was an important part of her healing in praying for those that had wronged her. While we can’t pray on behalf of the victims, we can join together in prayer that justice will be served and that ultimately God would have mercy upon their souls.
2) Be merciful. People are hurting. People are feeling broken, battered, and bruised. While we express rage towards the abusers, we must remember that there are many, many more victims. Not everyone will deal with what is going on in the same way. Some will be so crushed that they feel hopeless and will start dealing with depression. Others will be so full of rage that they will lash out at everyone. Still yet, some will not know how to process this and may cycle through a variety of emotions. Remember that so many are going through soul crushing things right now and we should be compassionate to each other.
This past Sunday, our Gospel passage was the parable of the Good Samaritan. In it, we see a priest and then a Levite fail to help a man who has been robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho. Then a Samaritan comes, treats the battered man’s wounds with oil and wine, binds them up, and takes him to an inn. The next day the Samaritan provides money to the innkeeper to care for the victim until the Samaritan can return. Jesus asked the lawyer, which one was the neighbor? The right response was the one who was merciful. How we deal with each other as we move forward is critical and the call from Christ is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Look for those around you that are dealing with what is going on and be merciful. Remember the victims and their families. When you come across someone who has experienced mistreatment, treat them with mercy. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)
The days ahead in regards to this scandal are guaranteed to be hard and painful. The victims will be reminded publicly of the pains and abuses they endured. Whatever the future days may bring, one thing is clear: Christ’s grace is sufficient. We must not seek to find refuge anywhere except in the only One in whom our refuge is secure, our just and merciful Judge. No matter how dark it may get, Christ is the light.