Responding to the Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis
I was in a conversation yesterday with a ministry leader who said that this moment is like waiting in the tomb. It's September, but it feels like Good Friday. The continuing reports of sexual abuse with children, youth, and adults, and the cover-up of abuse are alarming and disturbing. This crisis impacts our ministries with youth and families, but it also impacts each one of us on a personal level. As catechists, youth ministers, and family life ministers, we said "yes" to ministry leadership because of our love for God, faith in the Church, and our love for God's people, young and old. This situation cuts to very heart of our faith, our vocation, and our work. We are called to self-care and prayer as we lead and attend to the children, youth, adults, and families that we serve.
These are ideas and resources that could help us as we wait for Easter and the resurrection that is coming.
- Handle with Prayer – The busyness of the Fall along with extra work that may be needed could be taxing our time to stay in prayer. We need this time with the Lord in prayer more than ever. Pray for victims of abuse and their families. Pray for the perpetrators of abuse. Pray for clergy. Pray for ministry leaders. Pray for all children, youth and families who are confused and disillusioned at this time. Pray for a healing of our Church. Pray for peace.
- Attend to Your Needs and the Needs of Your Team – When you are on an airplane they instruct you that in an emergency you should to attach your oxygen mask prior to assisting others. In this situation, take time to process your feelings and concerns about the crisis and be attentive to caring for the ministry leaders that you work with. As ministry leaders, it is critical that we take care of our needs to vent but not at the expense of those with whom we minister. We cannot burden children, youth, adults, or families with our anger, frustration, or disillusionment. When we discuss, listen, and pray with our communities we can be honest about our feelings, but we need to be centered and focused on caring for those who have been entrusted to us.
- Provide a Way to Listen to Concerns and Pray this Moment in Your Ministry – People expect us as ministry leaders to be present in this moment, to acknowledge this crisis and to provide opportunities to listen and pray. This will look different with children, youth and adults. As a ministry team, take the time to think through and provide a ministry response in your setting.
- Be Especially Attentive to Safe Environment Concerns – Our communities expect us to model transparency as we continue to implement the policies and processes designed to keep children, youth, and adults safe in our ministries. Parents are likely to be especially cautious and will need reassurance and patient explanation of our safe environment precautions.
- Be Aware as you Express your Love for Our Catholic Church and our Shared Faith – This is a time to provide reassurance and steadiness. During this crisis, you should be explicit in sharing your love for the Catholic Church, your faith in the Holy Spirit to guide us in this crisis, and your commitment to be part of the solutions that will lead to the continued transformation of lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. As you share your faithfulness to the Church, be aware of how people may hear your comments. We do not want to stifle the expression of our community by retreating to a limited way of understanding what it means to be faithful. This is not a time to draw a line in the sand between those who are standing with the Church and those who are "doubters". This is not a time to be triumphal or judgmental of those who are angry about the crisis. This is a time for holy listening and sacred conversation.
We have assembled some resources that could be helpful in this moment. Know of our sincere appreciation for your ministry of leadership, our care, and our continued prayers.
Peace and blessings,