Perhaps no other issue is likely to have a great effect on the congregations of the Catholic Church in the USA than the sexual abuse scandal. Recent events now illustrate that investigations, repercussions and follow on actions will have a profound impact on all forms of communication with everyone currently engaged with the Church, regardless of their role.
Renewal from the bottom, not the top
There will be many attempts in the coming months and years to implement whatever systematic change is needed to bring “credibility” back to the Church on this topic. A wise priest, a pastoral advisor at the seminary in Boston, describes this as a two-generation process. He might be right. So, in the meantime, as we don’t have two generations to wait, we need to do something that might have an impact now.
In reading much of the expressions of regret/guilt from the leaders of the Church there is a sense we are not going to “the Foot of the Cross” as per Cardinal Wuerl, just asking for forgiveness, but are in some cases using the Cross as a place to hide behind. Forgiveness is necessary and needed, but it does not change things for the future. In some sense leaders are trying to protect their legacy, excuse themselves, which may be understandable, but not helpful. It does not reassure us if changes are not made.
Having just moved to California from the parish, the staff here had been caucusing to see what we might do directly. Here are three points which I think fit beautifully into the character of St. Eulalia’s, (a parish near Boston, MA) which I will admit has informed the model in use here at the retreat center.
1. A Sacred Space. Making each mission, the team and its focus tied directly to the spirituality of the Jesus Christ as the reaffirming message. Always ensuring we keep the mission focused the sacredness of our location, the gifts, worship practices and tools in the parish. One where others can bring the message to each other and those who need to hear it. We are all evangelists.
2. A Safe Space. Our individual locations need to be “overly” safe places in terms of any activity we offer from a spiritual or support perspective. This of course goes without saying, and should be a given for everyone, but will need to be emphasized for the many ministries which involve the vulnerable in the parish.
3. An Open Door with Open Minds. The global Church has messages which are sometimes divisive and dualistic in nature. With reducing flocks in the USA, there needs to be means where others can connect with Catholic Spirituality without rules and regulations being the first thing we present to someone.
Therefore, methods for “preaching and evangelization” should perhaps be considered at just as important as the homily from the pulpit, or a presentation during a formation program. Exploration of new means to present the message in contemplative and accessible forms may help us reach others at the beginning of their journey, where they may not have made it to the Foot of the Cross, but as still struggling down a path which will ultimately lead them there.
There is hope, and, with Christ in us, we are the bearers of this gift.
Late Afternoon Light
Late afternoon sun provides heat without the burning,
Light without squinting,
An unshaded warmth.
As if peace was airborne.
To hold and caress me.