Bishops seek forgiveness for clergy abuse

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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Bishops from all over the world at a Vatican-sponsored conference on clerical sexual abuse will take part in a penitential vigil in
Rome, seeking forgiveness for the church's role in preventing abuse. By Alessandro Speciale. 

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    First, the bishops, starting with Benedict, must correct their continuing faults of cover-up, including their work to prevent extensions of statutes of limitation. When youth are abused, or mistreated in any ways, it is not surprising that they are hesitant to speak out about it. That is plain history. For example, almost every kid has experienced an event of inappropriate treatment even by a parent, but they dare not speak about it to anyone for the rest of their lives. Usually those events are not of sufficient import to affect their love for the parent. Since young people are almost always emotionally blocked from speaking out, the standard limitation of time to speak out must be reconsidered.

    However, this centuries-old sexual abuse by a celibate clergy has the added dimension of horror coming from those so involved in the avoidance of all things sexual, those who preach so exhuberantly against sexual matters, someone who is an adult hypocrite.

    Forgiveness is not deserved until there is a conversion of attitudes and behavior. That has not yet been demonstrated by a clergy, including its hierarchy, including the Vatican, that continues to do all it can through its lay accountants and lay lawyers to avoid justice, to obstruct justice. The U.S. hierarchy, always directed by the Vatican, led by the likes of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who thinks it politically wise or clever to label efforts to protect the innocence and rights of others as an invasion of liberty and religious freedom, betray any real conversion of attitudes or behavior.

    The bishops cannot simply ask for forgiveness while they continue in the corruption of their sins and crimes of hiding and preventing justice. They cannot preach themselves out of this one. They and the whole church, including the lay people who continue to defend their misbehavior, must begin acting according to their preaching. In the beautiful words of the confession in the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer, they must think and talk and act in real contrition, in real conversion, “for all those things we have done that we ought not to have done, and for all those things we have left undone that we ought to have done.”

    Talk is cheap, even when recited from holy books, unless contrition and conversion are genuine and precede the words. No “Hail Marys” or “Our Fathers” as penance, just change your ways–after you are truly contrite. In fact, the two go together like the old adage of “love and marriage” and “a horse and carriage.” Let those who have been offended know that. In many of these awful sex abuse crimes, monetary compensation is assigned. Not that the damage of sexual abuse can ever be undone with payment of “filthy lucre” any more than such payments undo other damages for which they are frequently assigned, but it might make it possible to obtain needed professional assistance to alleviate or finally, hopefully, eliminate the scars of that damage. Also, that damage suffered by the abused person frequently disables other efforts to find happy lives or earn a livelihood.