FATHER GENERAL'S MISSIONARY MEDITATION THE CONSECRATED VOCATION AND THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST ABUSE
The priest, the religious is not simply a professional person; he is someone who is seen, in some way, as being a bridge to God. So much the greater, then, is the sorrow when such a person lets us down.
These days, the press is full of reports about abuse, and especially abuse by priests and religious. After the focus in recent years on Canada, the United States and Ireland, now the attention of the media is directed also at Holland, Austria and Germany. The case of Germany touches me personally more than the others because it is about my Mother Church, just as it is also the Mother Church of the present pope. The pope too, as former bishop of Munich, is brought to question.
In what follows, I am going to speak in as much as I am a priest and a missionary religious. Three things come to my heart and to my mind.
First of all, I recognize with sorrow that sexual and physical abuse against dependent persons is a crime and is all the worse when it is a questions of minors. Such an assault can deeply disturb a person for life. Personally, it makes me ill to hear of such cases and I would like to ask pardon in the name of the Church because we have not been able to better protect these innocents and persons who trusted us.
Secondly, I must make the observation that there is unfairness in many of these accusations. For many years, I have been asking myself, and not only I, if the special attention given to the Church in this matter is not unfair. In mid-March, Joerg-Uwe Hahn, the Justice Minister for the German state of Hesse, said that since the year 2000, in the state, they have investigated 54 cases of sexual abuse committed by teachers, priests and members of recreational club staffs (in all of Germany, there are 300 accusations of abuse against the Catholic Church). In contrast, he said that there were 3,832 cases of abuse in Hesse in 2008 which did not involve the churches, a clear sign that the majority of cases take place in families.
We note, therefore, that yes, in these public opinion campaigns, not everything is just and balanced, and that raises questions. We note as well that, depending on the laws, in the case of those who work for the Church, the sums in question can be enormous since they are dealing with a large institution. The Catholic Church in the United States of America has paid as much as a billion and a half dollars in compensation, and in Ireland, the sum will reach hundreds of millions as well! Will all this money reach where it is most needed? One must keep in mind that these payments not only punish the guilty Catholics but also affect many others of the faithful; we think too of the selling of churches and the repercussions on many missionary and social activities, including abroad, in the poorest countries.
I thought that all of this needed to be said as well, to put the matter in perspective. We need to defend equal treatment for everyone.
But there’s one more point, a third one. I must admit that in a certain sense, public opinion is correct in scrutinizing the clergy and the religious with more attention. It’s normal that public persons be looked upon and judged more severely, and the media do that routinely: neither politicians, nor artists nor athletes can escape it. In the case of ministers of the Church, it is natural that they be more critical since the Church takes a public stance of honesty and integrity.
In the eyes of the faith, one must add the fact that abuse by ministers of the Church and by religious is not only a crime of public persons who profess a lofty ideal, but it is also a scandal. It puts an obstacle in the way of faith in God and can cause many people to stumble over that which is most important in human existence: our relationship with God and our openness to His Word, the source of life and of resurrection. What our Lord Himself says about scandals is serious: “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:2) This applies also to those of us who hold some authority in the Church and we do not prevent abuse. Personally, as a priest and religious, I feel ashamed. I also want to offer my help so that they can be healed of the wounds that have been inflicted, as much as it is still possible.
Furthermore, I want to say that as clergy and religious, we must learn a couple of lessons.
First, we must realize that no one wants to see us on a pedestal, pretending that our conduct is first and foremost always perfect. Everyone wants us to be human beings, and if there is sinfulness, that must be admitted and the damage must be repaired.
On the other hand, we must accept that people want to see us close to all, in service of all and especially in solidarity with the poor. Instead of taking our celibacy as a pretext for separating ourselves from normal life, let us live it as a way of life that makes everyone our family.
I conclude by saying that this public scrutiny over abuse, while it is very harsh and not very balanced, must not intimidate us as priests, religious and ministers. It must serve to purify us, indeed, and make us keep our feet on the ground and not in the clouds. Christ told us: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” (Jn 15:16) We have consecrated ourselves to a life similar to that of Christ, of Mary, of Paul and of so many others. It is a beautiful and necessary vocation. It is an existence that must give witness to the abundant life that is offered us and to its source who is Christ, an existence which tells us that Easter Sunday is as real as Good Friday.
 Original English: As to mid-March, in Germany there are some 300 abuse claims against the Catholic church.. Joerg-Uwe Hahn, the justice minister for the German state of Hesse, said that since 2000, 54 cases of sexual abuse by teachers, priests and recreational club staffers have been investigated in the state. In contrast, there were 3,832 abuse cases in Hesse in 2008 that did not involve churches, a clear sign that most abuse cases occur in families.
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