It is sadly true that abuse takes place in many institutions and within families. However, today’s Gospel reminds us, how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own? We need to get our own in house in order before we start trying to solve the problems of others.
“The first enemies are within us. Among us are bishops and priests and consecrated persons who have not lived up to their vocation. We have to recognise that the enemy is within.” – Not my words, but the words of Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota in his address to the synod on the protection of minors held last week in Rome.
Cardinal Tagle from the Phillipines said in his speech, “Our lack of response to the suffering of victims, even to the point of rejecting them and covering up the scandal to protect perpetrators and the institution, has injured our people, leaving a deep wound in our relationship with those we are sent to serve.”
While a Nigerian nun, Sister Veronica Openibo, called out the church’s leadership for its hypocrisy in parading themselves as the custodians of moral values, while covering up atrocities that blighted the lives of the most vulnerable members of its community.
Meanwhile one of the Pope’s most trusted advisers, Cardinal Reinhard Marx the archbishop of Munich and Freising, head of the German bishops’ conference, admitted that files documenting abuse had been “either destroyed or never created”.
He said the church’s administration had left victims’ rights “trampled underfoot” and “made it impossible” for the worldwide institution to fulfill its mission. “Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them,” Cardinal Marx continued. “The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offences were deliberately not complied with, but instead cancelled or overridden.
“These are all events that sharply contradict what the Church should stand for.”
As I prepared this homily, the final summary of the synod by the Pope was not published. I know that I am not alone in praying that it was not just a talking shop, but that real concrete action will follow.
We are still waiting for the Papal Nuncio to hand over files and testify to the independent inquiry that is taking place about abuse at St Benedict’s School, Ealing. Just as the police do not investigate themselves – there is the Independent Police Complaints Commission – so the Church should not investigate itself. We need an independent body to investigate allegations of abuse, taking care to recognise the rights of the accuser and the accused. We have seen all too recently in the UK that malicious accusations ruins innocent lives just as an abuser ruins innocent lives.
I cannot be the only person to ask myself the question; “Do I want to be part of this institution? Would I be better off walking away? Is this really what my vocation is all about?”
Then I remembered the words that were said to me at my diaconal ordination as the Book of The Gospels was given to me: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
The living word of God is as true today as it was when it was first written. The wrongful actions of some cannot change that. The real presence of Christ will be truly among us at the consecration of our gifts of bread and wine. We must hold firm to the reality of the resurrection of Christ our living Lord that we will prepare ourselves for, beginning this week as we celebrate the start of Lent with Ash Wednesday.
We must do all we can to prune the rotten branches that are within; I urge you all to write to the hierarchy demanding that real concrete action is taken. No more talking. We need an independent review board now.
Jesus didn’t often get angry. But once or twice he got absolutely furious, and it was always about the same thing: the religious elite, who in his day were the Pharisees.
“Do not imitate their actions, because they don’t practise what they preach,” he warned, telling them they were “like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside but are full of bones and decaying corpses on the inside.” (Matthew 23 v3, and v27)
We must stay and we must fight for that which is right, as there is so much that is good. The vast majority of the clergy are good men, we are blessed with them here in Bromley in Fr Tom and Fr Matthew; we must support them so that they can truly serve.
We read in John’s Gospel, Chapter 6: Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” This is the reality that we must fight for.