Longing for Light

East Hampton Star

Nov. 27, 2019

By Mark Joseph Williams

We all face darkness along the human journey. I have. On the eve of another Advent, as Christmastime nears, I give thanks to him, Emmanuel, God, father, son, and the Holy Spirit for his grace alive in me, a survivor of clerical sexual abuse.

Sr. Joan Chittister, a Benedictine author, wrote, “Weeping is a very life-giving thing. It wisens the soul of the individual and it sounds alarms in society. The Book of Ecclesiastes may be nowhere more correct than here. There is definitely a time for weeping. If we do not weep on a personal level, we shall never understand other human beings.”

At the beginning of Lent in 2011, a few months before the landmark John Jay College of Criminal Justice report was released about the possible causes of clergy sexual abuse — a study commissioned by the American Roman Catholic bishops — news came out of Philadelphia: Thirty-seven priests credibly accused of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior toward minors remained largely active in some ministerial capacity. Twenty-one have since been suspended. Back then, too, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston led a delegation to Ireland to evaluate the life of the church there. He proclaimed in so many words that Catholicism would be virtually gone from the rhythm of Irish culture in 10 years.

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