We do not live in a perfect world. We live surrounded by chaos and trouble, often of our own making, but regardless of the source, there is an ever present specter of darkness in our own lives and throughout all of society that must be exposed to the light of the Gospel of Christ. The continued revelations of sexual scandals by clergy are an example of this ever present darkness and our Bishop has recently given the following statement and perspective that I would like to share with you all:
Reactions to the recent reports of the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy range from sadness to outrage and understandably so. There is absolutely no excuse for the behavior of those who abuse the most vulnerable among us or for those who seek to cover it up.
Let me be clear that my primary concern is for the victims. Before entering seminary I worked in residential treatment programs for abandoned, abused, and neglected children. I do not consider myself an expert but I do believe I am able to offer some insights based on my experience.
Child abuse is not limited to those in positions of authority within the Church and while the spotlight currently shines on the Vatican this is not only a Roman Catholic “problem.” Some have commented that if priests in the RCC were permitted to marry the “problem” would be solved. The truth is that many abusers are married with children of their own.
Abusers are male and female, married and single, clergy and laity. They are Roman Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Jewish, and Muslim. Abusers are clergy, teachers, medical professionals, police officers, white collar, and blue collar.
Perhaps the most alarming truth is that the majority of instances of child abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual) occurs within the nuclear and extended family.
There are no easy answers and if anyone thinks they know the solution they probably don’t.
What we can and should do is pray. Pray that God would pour forth his healing for the children who may never fully recover and may themselves become abusers. Pray for the abusers that God would heal their broken minds. Pray that wisdom and courage descend upon those in positions of leadership making their primary responsibility the protection of the most vulnerable among us.
Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
The Epistle Reading this Sunday is from St. James' epistle and reminds us that, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." The condoning and promotion of behavior and actions that do not protect and uplift those who are hurting, those who are vulnerable, but instead seeks to use, abuse, and prey upon them, is an abomination and completely contrary to the example of Christ and the truth of the Gospel. I stand with our Bishop and urge you to do the same, in seeking to pray for healing, for recovery, and for the appropriate actions to be taken to see an end to the vulnerable among us being preyed upon, by any and all institutions that may be preying upon them.
To that end, the Collect for this Sunday is rather timely:
LORD of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
May this be our prayer for ourselves, for the church, and for all people. May God have mercy upon us for our failures and may we be compelled to seek reconciliation with any we have harmed or marginalized. And may the light of the truth of the Gospel expose the darkness in our own hearts as it exposes the darkness in the nooks and crannies of our churches, institutions, and in all society.
(As published in St. Luke's Weekly Newsletter, 08/29/18)