The Catholic moment we are experiencing has revealed much about sexual immorality among and between clergy and the associated abuse of power that enabled and concealed the immorality for so long. The #MeToo movement that has gained steam over the last two years has shone light into the darkness of similar enablement and concealment. As these issues are exposed, one particularly bright light is this article by WaPo journalist Elizabeth Bruening.
The article is a tremendous piece, and one that is particularly insightful in today’s climate. It is the kind of investigation we can use in the Church today, but I fear it also discusses the kind of reception that evidence-based reporting might receive in the Church among those who have the power to act. If bishops–or Pope Francis himself–is not ready to act on the results of an investigation, then we’ll be exacerbating the growing lack of trust and respect for many in the hierarchy. They need to be ready to act on whatever is uncovered. They need, as Bruening notes, to be ready to address “how systems of power can warp the consciences of otherwise ordinary people when it comes to prosecuting or even reporting sexual assault.”
Which raises a corollary issue. As much as the laity or faithful clergy eager and ready to receive the results of any inquiry, I wonder whether they are actually prepared. In fact, I think we need to prepare specifically for the investigation itself, the results that come from it, and the necessary consequences of whatever is revealed. Call for an investigation, for sure. It’s absolutely necessary. But prepare our hearts and minds for the results.
This is similar to a medical situation in which any patient will benefit from a clear and thorough diagnosis. You only ask a doctor to perform a check up both if you think there is something wrong and you want to know the cause. That’s because once you know the type and extent of the problem, you can address it properly. But that does not mean that receiving a diagnosis will be easy, that the treatment will be pleasant, or that you’ll want to take the medicine that is prescribed.
And when we see priest resignations, parish consolidations or closures, and the like, we need to be ready. And that preparation starts now. The penances and prayers we are doing in reparation now must also push us toward the future. We are in this for the long haul, and we need to be ready.