This is a time of distress among God’s people in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. A time of confusion, emotional pain, even anger over the scandal of child sexual abuse by members of the Church, including priests.
People have witnessed it before. Not just in recent memory, given revelations of the scandal that has affected much of the Catholic Church around the world. And not just this week when in the latest response to the crisis, 21 priests were placed on administrative leave in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. There is no denying the pain felt in the Church by priests of this Archdiocese and the faithful people they serve.
Distress is an ancient affliction captured well by the psalmist of Sacred Scripture: “Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am in distress; with grief my eyes are wasted, my soul and body spent.” Or again, “Once I said in my anguish, ‘I am shut out from your sight.'” Psalm 31 sums up what many might be feeling at this time.
In the same psalm, however, shines a ray of light: “Yet you heard my plea, when I cried out to you. Love the Lord, all you faithful…. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”
This week another glimmer of hope arose that the Archdiocese does indeed grasp the severity of the crisis and the necessity to protect all children, respond compassionately to victims of sexual abuse and deal effectively with clergymen accused of misconduct with a young person.
In addition to the steps taken in February that are empowering experts in legal and social service fields to help strengthen the Archdiocese’s procedures and policies in the above areas, the placing of the priests on administrative leave shows the Archdiocese is going to great lengths to examine more fully those cases that call for a more stringent review.
As Cardinal Rigali said in announcing new initiatives in February, the continuing task of this local Church “is to recognize where we have fallen short and to let our actions speak to our resolve.”
Those actions include this week’s. More actions may be expected in weeks to come. They are to be done with the sole purpose of strengthening the Church’s response to the scandal. And they are to be done in a spirit of truth and justice, relying on God’s ever-present assistance.
As Psalm 31 concludes with the words Jesus Himself recalled at His crucifixion: “Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, Lord, faithful God.”