Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 21, 2002
Beleaguered Church offered a prescription of hope
Shaken By Scandals: Catholics Speak Out About Priests’ Sexual Abuse, edited by Paul Thigpen, Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Mich. 2002. 228 pages. Papercover.
Review by WAYNE HOLST
Lay people must not allow themselves to be scandalized to the point of withdrawing from the sacraments or to use the situation as an excuse to denigrate priests in general.
One of the contributors, Mark Shae, an author and columnist, believes that even though Catholics have been extraordinarily slow to believe the worst of their bishops, the current scandal reflects the gravest breakdown in moral credibility ever faced by the American hierarchy.
He claims righteous anger, not the endless carping of some liberal critics, while saying that many more bishops will have to resign because, in truth, they are not above the law.
Some bishops who have been pressured to quit should not step down yet, says Shae. They should only do so after they have faced, attended their accusers and acknowledged what they have done. There is general consensus among the contributors that the Church must “first take her medicine” if she can ever hope to recover.
Yet the book advances with a message of prescription and hope. History teaches that this is not the first time the Church has been enmeshed in sexual sin. Always she has come to honestly acknowledge her failures and to experience herself God’s grace, forgiveness and reconciliation that she has always proclaimed.
Interestingly, polls indicate that the vast majority of Catholics have not given up on their faith even though many currently register significant chagrin and a lack of trust in their leadership.
Restoration is sure to come, though it will not come quickly or easily. Prescribed remedies include the admonition that Rome take decisive action to discipline offending bishops. Bishops and other Church officials must take decisive action against offending priests.
Lay people must not allow themselves to be scandalized to the point of withdrawing from the sacraments or to use the situation as an excuse to denigrate priests in general. Finally, the entire Church must earnestly pray for justice and healing.
It would be hard to believe there is much disagreement between liberals and conservatives on these prescriptions.
The book concludes with sections of Scripture readings, reflections and prayers as well as some early responses from Church officials.
Is this crisis as big as the Reformation of the 16th century? This Catholic loving Protestant believes it will ultimately prove to be so. But there are some major differences.
The Catholic Church will renew itself, internally, without major fallout. The Catholic Church can count on much support for its renewal endeavours from non-Catholics as well.
(Rev. Dr. Wayne A. Holst is a writer who has taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary.)
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.