I have found it difficult to comment on the news about the sexual abuse perpetrated by some of my brothers in the priesthood. The hurt and damage done to the youthful victims is horrible in itself. As a priest, I am ashamed that these crimes were done by, not only by fellow Christians, but especially those whom I regarded as brothers labouring in the same ministry as myself.
I think the only way to remedy this tragic situation is to let the news come out, so that there will be no more the possibility of retreat back into a culture of silence. Those responsible for the abuse and for the inaction to put a stop to it should be made accountable. In his column of March 25, 2010 National Post, Fr. de Souza puts the current scandal into a wider context. He states:
The sexual abuse scandals are a result of the Church’s infidelity to her own identity and mission.
This infidelity was not only in the instance of dealing with sexual abusers, but also in other areas of church discipline from the 1960’s to 1980’s.
Doctrinal dissent was not corrected, but often celebrated. Liturgical abuses, both minor and outrageously sacrilegious, were tolerated. Bishops simply stopped inquiring into priestly asceticism, prayer and holiness of life. Non-Catholics often have an image of the Catholic Church as a ruthlessly efficient organization with a chain of command that would make the armed forces jealous. The reality for most of the 1960s to 1980s was the opposite. A priest could preach heresy, profane the Holy Mass, destroy the piety of his people and face no consequences. The overseers decided to overlook everything. It is any surprise, then, that when accusations of criminal immorality emerged they too were dealt with inadequately, if at all?
As a youth and young adult during that period, I was a aware of the doctrinal dissent and liturgical abuses and wondered why steps were not taken to bring things back in line with the Church’s teaching and practise. As I learned more and more about the Church’s tradition and heritage, I was saddened that I was not able to experience more of these things in my own parish. For instance, when I discovered Gregorian chant and the Church’s sacred music in my last years of high school, I wondered why none of this was being used in the local churches. My parents made sure that we had a musical formation and so I began studying the piano at the age of seven. Even in my teens I could see that most of the music we had at church was banal. As far as quality was concerned, the pieces I studied in my weekly piano lessons were more worthy of the house of God than what we usually sang at Mass. (Of course, I am not advocating using those piano pieces at Mass.)
Fr. de Souza’s article is well worth the read. In the Church we need to change from a culture of laxity to a culture of fidelity and integrity on the theological, liturgical, and moral level. Bishops are entrusted with the authority to protect and guide the sheep. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict is leading the way, as Fr. de Souza points out. Now stop looking at this and read Fr. de Souza’s column "Culture change in the Church"!