Last week was a shocking week. The revelation that Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric had been found guilty of abusing teenage boys struck at the heart of faith and trust. The Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse sadly and shockingly highlighted that some of those entrusted with the responsibility to care and nurture – especially for the most vulnerable – were either actively involved in the abuse or were silent when they should have spoken up. Misguided attempts to protect the guilty or to protect the image of the church have caused the church leadership to stray a long way from the teachings of Christ.
There are two groups that I feel great empathy for in this situation. Firstly, I feel for those who have been abused and violated. Young lives that were once filled with potential are changed profoundly whenever abuse takes place. When trust is broken by anyone in authority, the damage runs deep. Yet when the abuse is at the hands of those who should be the protectors and exemplars of Christ, there is an added layer of betrayal.
The second group I feel empathy for are those who have remained faithful members of their church over many years and for whom the church has been a central part of life. How devastating it must be to accept that their previous leader here in Melbourne is now in prison. Their faith in the institution of the church is undergoing a major challenge.
Difficult though it may be, it is important to separate the shameful actions of some church leaders from Jesus. What has happened to these innocent young people is abhorrent to Him. He once said, ‘If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be thrown onto the depths of the ocean.’
Too many in our world live with crushing burdens. Burdens caused by selfishness, greed, entitlement and arrogance. My prayer is that God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven – because at present there are too many examples of God’s will not being done.
May God’s grace prove sufficient for us all as we live with situations that do not reflect God’s will. And may God give us all the courage to do what we can, to bring about the change we would want to see.
Senior School Chaplain