BERNARD MOYLAN. Scandals In The Church.

I am not attempting to whitewash the Church. It must take its proper responsibility for any abuse of power, learn something from its self-abasement and work even harder to implement gospel values wherever they are most needed. It may take quite some time to emerge from the present morass but it is still a task worth pursuing. The Church must still follow, even when bruised and demoralised, Christ’s injunction to work towards bringing about the kingdom of God on earth, however impossible it looks from where we now stand.

But one thing that is often forgotten when we blithely judge and heedlessly pontificate about the wrongs of others is that we are, all of us,  “broken.” It is part of being human. Who then can really cast the first stone? Who cannot have said at some point in their lives,” there but for the grace of God go I ?” Those personally chosen by Christ himself were hardly paragons of righteousness – Peter, Judas, James and John…enthusiastic at times but woefully weak as well. The evangelists and Paul have all, in their messages, brought out the idea of the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life, being the presence of Jesus to the broken. In fact, he shocked his contemporaries by his preparedness to share his own table with sinners. We cannot, therefore, forget that we are a Church of broken people, a Church of sinners. ” The Church, clasping sinners in her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. ( Lumen Gentium 8 ) “ So however bruised and demoralised, however abashed and ashamed, at this moment in history we struggle on, all too conscious of our frailties so nakedly exposed for all the world to see but  encouraged by Paul’s message from the Lord that ” my power is at best in weakness.” ( 2 Cor 12:9 ) Let us reach out hungrily for that divine power when we, at this time, are experiencing such powerlessness and ignominy within so many Church communities.

Bernard Moylan is a retired Catholic  priest in Sydney

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4 Responses to BERNARD MOYLAN. Scandals In The Church.

  1. Tom Smyth says:

    While we all might be “broken”, as Bernard Moylan the Church hierarchy still does not really understand how the vast majority of people see its criminal and negligent actions. Archbishop Coleridge’s Key note address at the Anglophone Safeguarding Conference in Rome from 18-21 June 2018, is indicative of this. He spends his time trying to explain away the hierarchy’s failures by talking about the culture within the Church in Australia. He suggested that one difference between Australian Bishops and Bishops in other jurisdictions was that the relationship between a priest and his Bishop was quite different. While in other jurisdictions there was a distinct gap between priest and Bishop, in Australia he suggested it was closer, often that of a son and his father or that of brothers.
    In his key note address entitled “The Culture of the Catholic Church and the Abuse of Minors” Archbishop Coleridge draws an analogy between parents and their wayward children and a Bishop and a paedophile priest. In the case of a parent becoming aware of a child who has committed an illegal act, the parent would be caught in the dilemma of protecting the child or reporting the offence. According to Archbishop Coleridge, a Bishop when informed that one of his priests has offended against a minor would be faced with a similar dilemma.
    I believe the relationships Archbishop Coleridge is trying to compare are quite different and make an inappropriate comparison. The relationship between a child and a parent is quite dissimilar to that of a Bishop and a priest. A priest is an adult who has undergone years of training with a specific emphasis on the pastoral element of his calling. A paedophile priest commits a crime against the most vulnerable in the community While the Bishop has a responsibility to the priest, it is not at the expense of the child. By moving the priest the Bishop knew of the likelihood of a repeat offence. I am unclear how such a relationship compares to that of parent and child.
    The evidence is that paedophile clergy, whether priests or brothers, were protected by their Bishops and Congregational Leaders with little understanding or thought for their victims. They were moved to other parishes or schools, to provide protection for the perpetrator, and often to satisfy the demands of parents who were horrified by what was alleged. Often the victims were not believed by their family members and the Bishop or Congregational Leader did nothing to support the victim. Denial, legal games and outright lies were used to disparage the claims of the victim..
    Many paedophile priests were moved time and time again. Let us be clear about the reason. It was not because of some fatherly bond between the Bishop and his priest as Archbishop Coleridge has suggested. It was to protect the reputation of the “church” and possibly the Bishop’s reputation. I wonder how many paedophile priests were reported by Bishops and Congregational Leaders.
    Archbishop Coleridge announced in his speech that lay people are to be part of the answer to the issue of child abuse within the Church. Lay people are to be part of the answer….I would say that this is a step in the right direction but where does Canon Law sit with that? Does the Bishop bind himself to the recommendations for action by these lay panels or whatever they are to be, or will he be the final arbiter as he was in the past. So is this proposed change to be only cosmetic?
    As a practising Catholic I would like to be confident that the hierarchy of the Church truly understands the issue, rather than just providing explanations and excuses for what happened. I have heard priests attack the statistics, call on people to “move on” and generally try and give some spin to the story. Alas I fear Archbishop Coleridge’s key note address is just one such case. As for the Transparency, Accountability and Inclusivity of which he spoke there is little evidence of this occurring to date. His concluding remarks were that we need a Humble Church. I believe we need a Humble Church hierarchy.

  2. Trish Martin says:

    The scandal is not because of personal failings that are sinful, rather its because the Church structure and culture has false values that allows for intolerable harm to innocent children to go un- checked.
    Issues that are most pertinent are: the vow of celibacy for all clergy; the exclusion of women which encourages the scourge of misogyny ( the belief that women are inferior); a failure to understand and acknowledge the prime value that Christ placed on childhood. There is no Theology of Childhood and yet the bible states in a number of passages that no adult can enter heaven without an interior disposition that resembles the innocence, awe and wonder that is natural to childhood.
    Collective responsibility for corporate sins means collective atonement: that is the clergy must change the way they think about women, children and their self constructed notions of power. Clericalism is an abomination.

  3. Peter Meury says:

    Sorry Bernard – who do we listen to and who do we believe? I do not believe that the solution is that simplistic! What is mainly at fault is the governance of the Church, not the media and all the other excuses, and this will have to change! Just have a look at the history of the Church and how we have come so far. I believe in the gospel values of Jesus, but do not need a Church for it! In the end we have to try to teach our youth gospel values and not the shortcomings of a system created by humans over 2000 years!

  4. George Szylkarski says:

    Spoken from the heart by a passionate deep believer. If only there were more of you!
    Had the Australian Bishops, even the Pope, used your words in response to the hurricane of sexual abuse depravities hitting the Church here and everywhere the effect could have been not unlike Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee based on the story in Mark 4.
    Unfortunately nobody did. To put it crudely the “Apostles” don’t know any more what to believe.!

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