This homily should have been given last Sunday, but I didn’t preach at the 5 pm because of the ordinations, and Irish Fest weekend is always our lowest attendance of the year. So I waited until this weekend, which gave me more time to read and pray and reflect, and the Gospel today helped me formulate what I want to say. (What I HAD planned to say in the homily on today’s scriptures you will find in my bulletin letter).
My first reaction to all the recent news about abuse and cover ups was, “will we ever be able to put this behind us?” Personally, I find this very difficult to deal with. I was provincial of the Salvatorians when the first wave hit, and I left office wiped out and dejected. For years I refused any leadership roles in the community. Then I joined the Pius community at a very difficult time for all of you as you lived through this experience yourself, and my heart went out to all of you. Now, the grand jury report: my home diocese is Scranton and I find a pastor of my home parish, who was a good friend of my mother, listed there, along with another priest I knew. I’ve had calls from relatives asking me about this. Where do we go with all of this?
I’ve read a lot these past two weeks. Some ideas that struck me:
Last Saturday I watched the ordination of two deacons, with all these thoughts swirling in my head. I was struck by the words the bishop said to the deacons as he handed them the book of the Gospels: receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, preach what you believe, and practice what you preach. That is not what has happened in the abuse of power that glares through these scandals. While we all fail to live perfectly the commitments we have made, those who assume more responsibility and power bring more devastation when we fail to live up to our commitments.
Jesus asked Peter, and each of us, to make a definitive commitment, with the following question: Do you, too, want to leave? We answered with Peter in our baptism, and reaffirm it on a daily basis by making good decisions, by being with the community, by receiving the Eucharist, etc.: Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of everlasting life.
I ask you to reaffirm that commitment as lay people. The Body of Christ is 99% lay people. The Church’s work and ministries would not exist without lay people. Your involvement is crucial to breaking the clerical culture. I quote again from Pope Francis’ letter: Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”. Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to a [cancer] in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.
The Church is YOUR Church, you are the Body of Christ. Move it forward with your involvement and prayers. And pray for all of us, the Body of Christ, especially those harmed physically and in their spiritual life by these scandalous crimes.
If you have questions or wish to talk with me, I am always available.