Pope Francis has once again brought to the forefront a discussion about abuse within the Catholic Church. Gratefully, he has indicated toughness on the issue. It was not very clear at first where he stood, but he seemed to send a clear indicator this week in no uncertain terms.
But it is actions that matter. What materializes from the Vatican in coming weeks and months is what is important. The world needs results. The world needs definitive action. We need leadership, authentic transparency and pastoral care of victims. And it needs to come from Pope Francis, not just a conference that was convened on the subject.
It is not asking too much.
There is no doubt that millions of dollars have been spent on programs to prevent future abuse of children and young people. Certainly this has yielded good fruit. However, this does not shield children from the errors of humanity and/or sinfulness. Abuse still happens, though, as research has shown, it is far less rampant than in years past. Leadership (bishops and religious order superiors) has learned much more about abuse, but they still don’t know it all. Some still make stupid decisions with the best of intentions. Some probably make deliberately deceptive ones. Who knows. I think there has to be an incredible amount of training for our leaders to know how to sift through information that comes their way, and that it makes it through an external civil investigation before it gets to an internal institutional investigation.
I also think there needs to be much more victim outreach from the Church. It needs to be aggressive. She needs to coax victims out of the shadows so they can begin healing. Unless the hand of Mother Church is extended, and done so that is within reach of those who have been abused, reconciliation is far less likely to take place.
The Body of Christ is more safe today than it has been in the past. Some in leadership positions in the Church get it. Others are still working at it. I do believe they all are trying. Let’s pray that local training paired with Vatican influence will bring about greater changes in the lives of the faithful.