One of the most significant feast days that we celebrated in August was Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, which falls on 15 August. A week later, the Church celebrated the memorial of the Queenship of Mary as Queen of heaven and earth. After the Solemnity of the Assumption, there was a serious issue on clerical sexual abuse, which rocked the Roman Catholic Church. A Pennsylvania grand jury released a report in August 2018 that in six Pennsylvania Catholic Dioceses identified, more than 1000 children were abused over the past seven decades by 300 priests and these were covered-up by bishops.
For the first time in history, the Pope released a letter to the entire Catholic population on the topic of sexual abuse. On 20 August 2018, Pope Francis issued a 2000-word letter to the people of God, directly addressing the US scandal and acknowledging that the Church must act immediately. He describes the “heart-wrenching pain of these victims” that were “long ignored, kept in quiet or silenced”. In his message, he says, “if one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26) and he invites the Church to come to grips with the reality of what has happened in a “comprehensive and communal way”. The Holy Father realises the greatest crisis of his papacy and the failure of the Church to deal with abuse and ask for forgiveness. In his letter to all the Catholic population, the Pope also promised that there will be “no more cover ups” of sexual abuse in the Church.
Pope Francis visited Ireland for the 9th World Meeting of Families (WMOF), which took place from 21 – 26 August, 2018 in Dublin. The WMOF is a celebration of faith, bringing together a large number of Catholic families from all over the world, to pray and reflect on the central importance of marriage and the family as the cornerstone of our lives, society and the Church. On his two-day apostolic visit (25 & 26 August), he “begged for God’s forgiveness” when the Church failed to offer compassion to “survivors of any kind of abuse.” The Holy Father also spoke of the protection of human life at all stages, including the unborn, deprived of the very right to life.
The Catholic Church continues to struggle with these issues on sexual abuse. The Church will continue to have a self-reflection about this. Many people criticised the Roman Catholic Church after the sexual abuse of minors in Pennsylvania, asking how the Church handles sexual abuse cases? The priest, a man of God, is also a human being. He has a sexual identity, like all human beings. The Church has promised to follow the Pope’s apology to victims of clerical abuse with concrete action to ensure children are protected and offenders are held accountable.
These past few weeks, I have been really perturbed while reading articles pertaining to sexual scandals in the Church. I am praying silently for the Roman Catholic Church and all the Church authorities – Cardinals, Bishops, Religious Superiors, Priests and others, who are involved in the sexual abuse. While I celebrate Mass and during my personal prayers, I remember with sorrow asking the Lord for guidance and forgiveness of our sins and the sins of others. We shall pray for the end of child abuse. I invite everyone to pray the Rosary for the Catholic Church, priests and most importantly, the innocent children which include the abused, neglected, lost, lonely, abandoned, orphaned and those suffering with illness.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy