Dysfunctional Church stares into the abuse abyss

Eureka Street

Michael Kelly November 26, 2012

Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities begins: ‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.’ If we take St Paul seriously, the worst of times can be the best of times for Christians. In his biblical account of faith, he sees adversity, trial, rejection and hardship as the nodal points for growth. ‘We have no other boast but the Cross.’

This time in the Church in Australia is tragic. The intervention by Cardinal Pell in mid-November highlighted an all too familiar pattern of defensiveness that generated plenty of heat, lots of ‘I told you so’ observations from his critics and no advance in understanding that this is a time of unmatched shame for the Church.

Fortunately, other voices among the bishops — and not just retired ones — have weighed in with appropriate contrition and compassion.

While countless Catholics, me among them, feel nothing but shame and sorrow at both the abuse of victims and its insensitive and selfish handling by authorities in dioceses and religious congregations, it is far from clear how best an ordinary Catholic could and should respond to this spectacle of culpability.

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