When I was twelve or thirteen, my friend George and I were altar boys for a wedding ceremony at our church. Afterwards, the Monsignor came to us in the sacristy and pulled out an envelope clearly marked “Altar Boys.” He pulled out the four, five dollar bills and handed one each to George and me. The other two bills went back in the envelope never to be seen again. That was the limit of any abuse I suffered.
Growing up in the Catholic Church largely meant two things; first, ask forgiveness and repent your sins, and two, priests were beyond reproach. The first meant countless times in the confessional, revealing such earthshaking things as “swearing,” whereby you were sent to the altar with your list of prayers to ask God’s forgiveness. The second was that it was perfectly fine that the same Monsignor who pocketed ten bucks was probably using it to tip the starter at the golf course…I am assuming this because on more than one occasion I lifted his clubs into the trunk of his Oldsmobile.
However, it’s precisely these two tenets that have led to the current dilemma the Church is facing. First, the Vatican has done everything accept ask forgiveness. While I fully understand that the Pope cannot be held responsible for the individual acts of rogue priests, the Church can most certainly be held accountable for not publicly asking forgiveness for its failure to openly engage these pedophiles within their ranks. The Vatican PR machine, in hyper-overdrive, has only deepened the chasm between many of its followers and itself by not following the biblical teaching of “do unto others…” I have searched long and hard over the past several weeks to find someone, anyone, within the church to say, “We are sorry.”
Most recently, Pittsburgh Bishop Zubik, in a Post-Gazette opinion piece, lambasts the media coverage (though doesn’t call it inaccurate) and goes onto state that the church now rigorously screens its employees…including priests. Something is wrong when a Church has to assure its priests aren’t pedophiles. He does not, however, apologize.
I have been blessed in many ways in my life, but maybe the greatest blessing of all is being surrounded and loved by people who know that I am not perfect. When I screw up, which is often, I apologize. More importantly I am forgiven. This has also given me the insight that people are fallible, and it makes me want to forgive also. Instead of ducking real responsibility and casting the media as witch hunters, the church should truly practice what it preaches. The Pope should insist that all of its practicing Priests, the next time they take the pulpit, to look their flock in the eye and tell them that they have failed to protect its most fragile asset, its children. They should tell the congregation that they will exhaust every resource to bringing these pedophiles to justice. Then, they should look every parishioner in the eye and ask for forgiveness. The Pope, as the leader of the Catholic Church should go first.