WelCom August 2017:
In the wake of sexual-abuse and financial scandals within the Church, where is our credibility?
Fr Neil Vaney sm
Symbols of Hope
Some years ago I visited the new cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. What struck me were the multi-coloured woven banners, each about five metres high, decorating both side walls. They depicted saints of all the Americas, north, south and central. There were bishops and nuns, but also married and single lay people, of every age and nationality. I think of them when I encounter the anger and scepticism of those who question the holiness and integrity of the Catholic Church.
A Crisis of Credibility
The Church has been confronted and rocked by revelations of sexual abuse, especially of children, and financial scandals, even in the Vatican. To say that these are at about the same level as in other professions such as doctors or counsellors is no defence; the offenders had professed sacrifice and selfless service and had instead serviced their own distorted needs.
There is no alternative for Catholic leadership but to acknowledge openly such failure and to work for structures of training and supervision that will do all possible to eliminate such calamitous scandals.
Redressing the Balance
At such a time it is imperative to balance such failures against the record of the ‘ordinary saints’ of the Church. It is easy to extol extraordinary men and women such as Pope Francis or Mother Teresa. But is also crucial to remember the many thousands of Catholic teachers, health workers, defenders of the poor, often living in the most dangerous of places, like the seven Cistercian martyrs of Algeria, slaughtered in 1996.
God calls ordinary people to work in his service. Some fail, as Judas did. Yet is such ordinary saints who as priests, sisters, teachers and social workers who bring life, support and the vision of a fuller life all over the world.
Fr Neil Vaney sm is the New Zealand Catholic Enquiry Centre Chaplain-Pastoral Director.