Spiritual Support in the Wake of the Sexual Abuse Crisis

Vatican Radio
June 25, 2015

[with audio]

Participants at a 2012 penitential liturgy in the Rome church of St Ignatius pray for forgiveness and healing from sexual abuse - AFP

Representatives of bishops conferences from 15 English speaking countries met at the Pontifical Gregorian University this week to discuss a spiritual and theological response to the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The annual meeting of the Anglophone conference on the Safeguarding of Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults, which concluded on Wednesday, was jointly hosted by the Gregorian’s Centre for Child Protection and the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference.

Participants raised challenging questions about the meaning of redemption or reconciliation for survivors of sexual abuse. They also discussed the anger and confusion of so many Catholics who’ve left the Church as a result of the abuse crisis.

Among the renowned theologians addressing the conference was Sr Sara Butler, president of the Academy of Catholic Theology in Washington D.C. and former member of the International Theological Commission….

Sr Sara says people who’ve heard about the sex abuse crisis begin to wonder whether the sacraments celebrated by priests who were offenders are valid…..

She looks back at the history of the Church, starting with the Diocletian persecution in North Africa in the early 4th century, through to later reformers who sought to stop the sexual abuses of the clergy of their day by saying that the sacraments were not valid…..

She notes that most Catholics are primarily concerned with the safety of their children, but these theological reflections can help those trying to assist friends or family members who’ve left the Church. She explains they can be reassured that there is “a real mediation of grace through the sacraments”, and even if the minister is a sinner, “it doesn’t mean that Christ is not present or active in the Church”….

Also taking part in the meeting was the chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee on Child and Youth Protection, Bishop Edward Burns of Juneau, Alaska. He told Philippa Hitchen more about the priorities of the American Church in helping to heal the wounds caused by the sex abuse crisis….

Bishop Burns says it’s essential, firstly, to reach out to victims and to all who’ve been hurt by the crisis and, secondly, to be proactive in creating a safe environment in the Church. In the U.S. over the past year, he says, over two million adults and five million children have been learning about safeguarding procedures….

Bishop Burns shares reflections from Irish Jesuit Father James Corkery who spoke about what salvation means “for those who’ve been sinned against” and how priests can be representatives of Jesus’ love, mercy and compassion. He says “we’re being called to hang with those who’ve been abused, just as Jesus hung on the Cross”…..








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