Church needs a re­build but faith will per­se­vere

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - OPINION - ed pane ED PANE is a li­censed clin­i­cal so­cial worker and cer­ti­fied ad­vanced al­co­hol and drug coun­selor. He pro­vides pri­vate psy­chother­apy and coun­sel­ing in Hazleton. In­surances are ac­cepted. He can be reached at 570-436-7022 or at ed­pane@panecon­sult­

This is a col­umn for the gen­eral pub­lic, but in a spe­cial way for the Catholic faith­ful.

I thought about cre­at­ing the Mill­stone Award years ago, I wrote a col­umn about it and even de­signed how it would look. But I wrote with an anger I could barely con­tain and noth­ing good has ever come from my rage. To­day, I am writ­ing through heart­break for all who have suf­fered and had their lives shat­tered both through the as­saults on their bod­ies and the as­saults on their faith. And I’m writ­ing with the first hope I’ve had in many years.

The Mill­stone Award wasn’t for the priests who mo­lested and raped count­less chil­dren; they’re the easy tar­gets. The award was for the car­di­nals and bish­ops with­out whom the scope of this tragedy could have never oc­curred. The Penn­syl­va­nia grand jury re­port on the dio­ce­ses of Allentown, Erie, Greens­burg, Har­ris­burg, Pitts­burgh and Scran­ton show their bish­ops’ and car­di­nals’ com­plic­ity in what hap­pened. Clergy child sex­ual abuse been known all along by bish­ops, car­di­nals and cer­tainly popes. They knew it ex­isted since they all rose through the lower ranks to their lofty po­si­tions.

We’ve learned about the lengths dio­ce­ses went to cover up the crimes. Ex­hibits in the Penn­syl­va­nia at­tor­ney gen­eral re­port in­clude pleas from pas­tors to their bish­ops to do some­thing. They in­clude the an­guished let­ters of vic­tims and their par­ents. One of the ex­hibits is a let­ter from an Erie law firm, re­quested by a dio­cese, with de­tailed sug­ges­tions about how to avoid large pay­ments to vic­tims.

A few years ago, the Academy Award-win­ning movie “Spot­light” por­trayed the role of Bos­ton Car­di­nal Bernard Law in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the trans­fers of priest abusers to new parishes. One priest is al­leged to have abused more than 130 chil­dren. Car­di­nal Law’s con­se­quence was to be trans­ferred to Rome by Pope (now Saint) John Paul II and made arch­bishop of the Basil­ica Santa Maria Mag­gione, the largest Catholic Mar­ian church in that city. There he served with­out con­se­quence or con­dem­na­tion un­til his death in De­cem­ber 2017.

And so it went un­til the re­lease of the Penn­syl­va­nia grand jury re­port where the car­di­nals’ and bish­ops’ knowl­edge and par­tic­i­pa­tion could no longer be de­nied. It was fol­lowed by con­tri­tion and pledges of co­op­er­a­tion.

There is a world of dif­fer­ence be­tween “We were wrong” and “We got caught.” They got caught.

As I write this, a U.S. dis­trict at­tor­ney is ex­am­in­ing fed­eral crim­i­nal charges against the in­sti­tu­tional church. Other states’ at­tor­neys gen­eral are do­ing the same. It is my hope and prayer they do so. The Catholic Church can­not fix it­self. It needs in­de­pen­dent out­side in­ves­ti­ga­tors to un­cover what’s been de­lib­er­ately hid­den. Those who hid it must be named, charged if pos­si­ble, and ideally thrown out.

The church can­not in­ves­ti­gate it­self be­cause it has never truly in­ves­ti­gated it­self. Catholic lead­er­ship failed the faith and the faith­ful.

But faith and re­li­gion aren’t the same thing. Re­li­gions are in­sti­tu­tions, dog­mas, and rules to hold the or­ga­ni­za­tion and its peo­ple to­gether. Faith is dif­fer­ent, it’s per­sonal. For Chris­tians, it’s our in­di­vid­ual con­nec­tion with an itin­er­ant Jew­ish preacher walk­ing a dirt a road in Pales­tine 2,000 years ago. We hear the sim­ple mes­sage of love, faith and com­mit­ment. We hear the one who taught us we could call God “Abba,” Daddy. He wasn’t the es­tab­lish­ment.

Risk­ing de­struc­tion of the church as it has been known is the only way to save it, to re­turn it to the sim­ple values of Je­sus. There is noth­ing Christ-like in this tragedy. To their mourn­ing and pain, Catholics should add hope that some­thing more real, purer will rise from these ashes. The in­sti­tu­tion of the church needs re­build, but the faith­ful can find hope in their in­di­vid­ual com­mit­ment to Je­sus. The Catholic faith will per­se­vere.

This col­umn started with a quote from the New Tes­ta­ment. In light of all that I have writ­ten, per­haps an­other one is a good way to end it. It’s from the gospel of John 11:35:

“Je­sus wept.”

“Woe to any­one who causes one of these lit­tle ones to stum­ble and lose faith. It would be bet­ter for them if a large mill­stone were hung around their neck and they were cast into the sea.” — Mark 9:42

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