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  1. or me, the issues surrounding the experiences of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and others is heart-wrenching and abominable. I have seen firsthand in pastoral ministry and even in my own family the horrible effects of this abuse; a deep abiding sense of shame, and so much more. Its outcome in family and friendships is often crippling. I have reached out and listened for many years to this pain and sought to find ways to mediate God’s healing love. There were times I was successful.
    That being said, I understand the anger and mistrust when victims, their families and friends feel they are battling a Church that, in all appearances to some, seems to stand in silence. I also understand the overwhelming embarrassment and bafflement of other clergy, religious, and lay people who feel caught in the middle of abuse charges of a few that go back decades. This bewilderment grips authentic and faithful ministers at the core of their call, who they themselves feel victimized in the public tussle to seek the truth. As the victims, in all truth, can ask the Church, “Why was I abused by your priest,” so the Church of today, her congregations, lay leaders, religious and clergy are also asking the same question. At the same time, the media chatter hangs like a cloud over us all who can never do such a thing. We want to say too, “We did not abuse you, one sick person did, and like you, we wish it did not happen.” The silence of victims over many years, the silence of victimizers, and our silence reveal our common shame.
    I have been searching for a biblical icon to understand what God is doing in the midst of this scandal. Recently, I went to a spirituality convocation and heard the words of Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, O.P. She refers to the discipleship of Mary Magdalene in relation to the disciples themselves. She says that the passageway to authentic discipleship was experienced through deep and heart-wrenching human drama in their friendship and love for the Lord. His death on the cross ushered in His absence, and the end to a dream and vision the disciples based their hope and lives. This absence prior to his resurrection, the “great silence”, caused an enormous void within all who knew Him. The disciples grieved by acting out through fear and even betrayal, as was the case of Peter. The women were portrayed differently. They grieved for their Lord and sought to express this grief through their lonely, painful vigil in front of the cross as Jesus hung suffocating to death. They faced the horror and wished to ritualize healing by bringing perfume to anoint His corpse in order to remove the stench of death.
    In one way, through the efforts of brave victims and others to bring this scandal to public scrutiny, through the struggle of the Church of today to face the horror, we are all grieving, and perhaps that is one doorway to a renewed discipleship today. Often the grief of victims and their families is over a lost childhood and faith, taken by betrayal. Healing comes in giving voice to a long standing pain and the accountability of the Church that shows its remorse over and over again. In our Province, our grief may be our lost innocence. Healing toward a new discipleship for us is a vigorous transparency and responsibility to the victims of some confreres, a deeper sense of justice imbibed with a new sense of humility. I pray we may reach out to all victims with the healing of Christ, uncovering the precious gift of forgiveness.

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