The recent announcement of the resignation of the American Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals (the first Cardinal to do so since 1927) following allegations of sexual abuse has highlighted the all-embracing nature of the problem.
Co-incidentally RTE broadcast the 2015 film “Spotlight”. This was largely based on the investigative work of the Boston Globe newspaper which published its results in January 2002. Initial work showed that victims were young and from poor backgrounds. Many came from broken homes and in some cases there was no
adult figure for the youth to turn to. In fact, the Priest may have been the first meaningful relationship the youngster had experienced. There was also a certain glamour in running errands for a Priest. It gave some purpose and meaning to an otherwise miserable life.
The Priests, there were around 260 of them out of a diocese of 1,500, were sent to different parishes or to rehabilitation. Their plight was the unenviable one of living a lie. One when interviewed maintained “I never took pleasure in it” which in his view made it OK.
It was the cover up by the hierarchy that compounded the crimes which the journalists decided to expose. There existed within the dioceses a type of court which dispensed its own justice. This had the effect of taking abuse cases involving Priests out of the civil courts and making the legal papers inaccessible. The absence of documents seemed an insuperable hurdle until a journalist learned that there were publicly available documents that confirmed Cardinal Law was made aware of the problem and ignored it. These documents were consulted and the matter brought out into the open with its publication. The Boston Globe’s offices were inundated by phone calls from victims of clerical sexual abuse who never thought they would see the day when their stories would be believed.
Cardinal Law resigned in December 2002 and was eventually promoted to the prestigious Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. In the press today Marie Collins, the Irish survivor of abuse who was on the Pope’s enquiry panel, tweeted, it would have meant so much more if Cardinal McCarrick had been removed rather than allowed to resign.
We live in a broken world with those in power fulfilling the axiom ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Those with no power have different temptations (St Matthew Chapter 5 verse 28). None are sinless not even one (Psalm 14 verses 2/3). The temptation to see yourself as an exception must be resisted otherwise the remedy will seem irrelevant to you. Do you hear the word “All we like sheep have gone astray, each turning to his own way” (Isaiah 53 verse 6). We are born wanderers! We want our own way. We don’t want the Shepherd!
“The Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all” The remedy is not to try to be better. It’s not the system. It’s faith in a sin-bearing Saviour. Trust Him not self.