REFORM IN THE CHURCH

Homily  August 26, 2018  21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

At this moment we are all suffering in a Church we love.  We have always known that the Church is holy because Christ is Head of the Church – the Church being the body of Christ in the world.  At the same time we have also known that the Church is made up of sinners and is always in need of penance and reform.
I have often thought that the greatest of evil can penetrate that which is holy and good.  There is a saying in Latin “corruptio optimi pessima” – corruption of the best is the worst. We see it not only in the dark side of individuals but also in institutions – including the institutional side of the Catholic Church.  It is especially devastating when the devil has entered into clergy who have been unfaithful to their calling by God and have betrayed the trust placed in them by the people of God.  It is likewise unconscionable when bishops and leaders in the Church did not act in a timely and appropriate manner, failing to realize the magnitude and gravity of the damage done to so many lives of children and young people.  As bishops we bow our heads in shame and ask pardon for our failures in leadership.
In the 1990’s the Bishops in the United States did begin to address the issue, not yet knowing the extent of  clergy abuse until 2002.  Even though cases of clergy abuse by that time had greatly declined, the full impact of what had happened in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s only became clear after the Bishops commissioned the John Jay Criminal College Studies on the extent, causes and context of clergy abuse.  The Bishops in 2002 created the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People to insure the protection and safety of children and young people in our parishes, schools and institutions in this country.  It is a policy of zero tolerance. It seems to be holding.
Almost all the cases reported by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury occurred over 30 years ago except a couple.  However, the wounds remain and serious questions have been raised about the actions taken by bishops and church leaders or lack of action.  Granted that other institutions (schools, youth associations, coaches etc)  failed as well, it is incumbent upon us as the Church to undertake further reforms in our institutional structure to repair the harm done, to make even stronger the protection of our children and young people, to hold our bishops, priests and deacons accountable for the leadership entrusted to us, and to engage fully the laity in the direction, mission and administration of the Church.
I agree with Pope Francis that the underlying cause of the current crisis can be found in clericalism which places clergy separate and above the people, giving sway to entitlement and arrogance, forgetting that we are ordained to serve.  The Church is all the people – we are all equal by our baptism as brothers and sisters in Christ.  St. Augustine said it well:
“With you I am a Christian, for you I am a bishop.”
The way for the Church is the way for anyone who sins.  We honestly confess our sins; we turn back to God; and we amend our lives taking all the necessary steps for correction, reform, and healing.
May God in His mercy give us the courage and strength to do what is right.
Bishop Stephen Blaire

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