I return again to the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church because I don't want the words of Pope Francis in a letter written to all the world's 1.2 billion Catholics to be lost in our 24-hour news cycles.
"The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity.
"The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: 'he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty' (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite."
The quote from Mary, mother of Jesus, is found in what has come to be called The Magnificat. It is soaring Hebrew poetry in which Mary praises God and describes some core attributes of the divine. Among those is what theologians call God's preferential option for the poor. That is, God's heart aches for those in want, in need, in pain. And God is righteously indignant about more wealthy and powerful people who do nothing to aid those who have been hurt.
Hear what Pope Francis is admitting: The church itself not only did nothing to aid those injured in the abuse scandal, the church did the opposite -- it tried to cover things up and make it appear as if those injured were being untruthful.
It is a remarkable, if late, mea culpa. What the world waits to learn now, of course, is whether this pope can cleanse the filth out of the church and buttress (or create) the structures designed to prevent any more children from being injured. That will require some deep structural adjustments in the church, and all possibilities must be on the table, from a married priesthood to the ordination of women to an understanding among the people in the pews that they are the ones who hold power.
Good journalism from such outlets as The National Catholic Reporter and The Boston Globe has helped bring to light the debauchery in the priesthood and the evil collaboration of some bishops willing to protect abusive priests. What is required now are similar independent sources to make sure that these new words from the pope don't simply wilt on the vine but produce real change.
The pope's visit to Ireland this week may well provide evidence on whether the world should take his words seriously or whether they are just more empty words.
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A YEAR AFTER THE HURRICANE
Because of a pay wall, I can't give you the whole of this Christianity Today story about how the church in Puerto Rico was also affected by Hurricane Maria a year ago, but it's worth calling to mind the immeasurable suffering that American citizens there went through and to ask, a year later, whether there are measures we can take today to continue restoring Puerto Rico to health.