The charges against Cardinal Pell are another distressing blow to us Catholics. Speaking personally, I share the Cardinal’s hope that this development is a good one, putting an end to ‘trial by media.’
Fr Paddy has prepared a document related to this issue which he is distributing in the Hamilton parish this weekend. I have also prepared copies which you’re welcome to take home and study.
I won’t repeat what is presented in the document, but I will briefly repeat remarks I’ve previously made on the subject of the clergy abuse scandal, and our response as Australian Catholics.
In the first place, we must never forget our Lord’s parting words to his disciples: “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you. A peace the world cannot give, is my gift to you.”
This is a gift that is readily available to us, again and again. When bad news, or anything else in the world distresses us, depriving us of God’s peace, we need only “plug into” the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, for example, for every minute spent watching distressing content on TV, such minutes might be matched in contemplation of an icon or holy picture. For every minute spent reading distressing content in newspapers, another minute might be spent reading the Holy Gospels.
In relation to the present news, these practices can remind us that Christ is the head of the Catholic Church. He is the reason we are Catholic. And he is always present to us here, in the tabernacle. In the Eucharist we have the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.
Insofar as we foster a spirit of prayer and supernatural outlook, we will never be deprived of the Lord’s peace for long.
In the second place, it’s good to remember that the clergy abuse scandal is not a distraction from the Church’s mission; it is part of the mission the Lord gives us.
St Vincent de Paul famously advised:
Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God.
A similar lesson might be applied to present events. We can pray, with real optimism and confidence, that good comes from the Church’s present humiliation.
In some respects, I think the Catholic Church has become a scapegoat. As long as our larger society can rail against crimes in the Church, it can ignore the horrendous crimes our present generation of children must navigate. But eventually, the painful trials and healing which we have experienced in the Church will need to be experienced in other sections of Australian society. And the Church will then be a light to the nation, because the Church is Christ. And he’s done all this before — bearing the cross, enduring impenetrable darkness, and ultimately overcoming the darkness.
So, to paraphrase St Vincent de Paul:
Do not become upset or feel guilty because the evangelising mission of the Church is interrupted by the fallout and response to the clergy abuse scandal. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. Remember that this very service is performed for God.
None of this is a distraction. This is where we need to focus our energy. Our prayer. It may be painful to us individually, and as the Church, but this is where God has called us. And God knows what He is about.