Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Suffer the Children

I entitled this post "Suffer the Children" with two thoughts in mind. First, today begins our two-day orientation process: Seniors/Juniors this morning, Academy students this afternoon, and Freshmen/Sophomore classes tomorrow. The halcyon days of summer die upon the cliffs of new courses and colored pencils. I love it.

My second, and more pressing, reason is the great sense of sorrow and anger I have had in light of recent revelations about the Bishop Robert Finn's acknowledged inaction concerning the behavior of Father Shawn Ratigan. As the New York Times piece indicates, the bishop failed to report that, in December 2010, the bishop knew that Ratigan had indecent photographs of children. Between December 2010 and May 2011, Ratigan continued to have access to children. Indeed, he now faces 13 counts of possessing, producing, and attempting to produce child pornography.

I have read Bishop Finn's letter and I am sad to say that it leaves me feeling hollow. A known monster was allowed to prey upon children, to violate the trust and goodwill of families, to exploit a community...and for what? Anger, resentment, and a deeper mistrust of the Church is all that will stand in the wake of Bishop Finn's inaction. The Kingdom of God is no stronger and the lives of countless people have been changed forever. In this instance, I cannot help but to hear the words of the Confiteor ring in my ears:

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

I speak only for myself when I say: I believe that all persons involved in this case who knew and failed to act should face prosecution. I consider myself to be a loyal son of the Church and I love my Catholic faith more than I can share...but I cannot brush this off as an "innocent mistake" or "benign neglect." I think the failure to act in these cases is a grave evil - morally and legally - and should be rooted out and dealt with accordingly. 

In the days and weeks ahead, I will keep the victims of sexual abuse in my prayers. Not simply clergy sexual abuse - although that is a topic that strikes close to home - but all forms of abuse where the innocence of a child has been exploited and corrupted for the gratification of a predator. My prayer will be for healing, for forgiveness, and for justice. I should also like to pray that the attention turned to clergy sex abuse will not blind people to the reality of abuse in all walks of life and that, thank to media scrutiny on the clergy, the light shown on these atrocities might illuminate any and all instances of the abuse of children. 

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