Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Sacred silence?

So the Irish bishops have been to Rome for a few days in the aftermath of the abuse reports across the Irish Sea, especially the Murphy one into the handling of the issue by the Archdiocese of Dublin. Having been quite involved in the events surrounding similar cases here in our diocese, it's something I've thought about quite a lot. The whole matter of clerical child abuse is so dreadful that one reaction is to refuse to imagine that it happens. I saw such a reaction from some people in my experience. The handling of the whole matter by the "system" of the Church is something different and more complex, but I suspect at least some of its roots lie just as much in denial, sometimes a deeply buried denial.
I love the line in the film "American Beauty" which tells us to never underestimate the power of denial. As individuals we have all kinds of ways of avoiding confronting the truth, and we can multiply those ways when we come to bodies like our Church. A few weeks ago, when I was preaching about the priesthood and mentioned my first Sunday at Penarth following the arrest of their parish priest as a formative experience in my journey, several parishioners thanked me for naming and handling clerical abuse as a fact of our diocese. The American priest author Donald Cozzens opens his book entitled "Sacred Silence" with the question "What are we afraid of?" He's talking about church life in general, but in my experience it could refer in particular to this lamentable aspect. 
Each Lent we are invited to spiritual renewal and conversion and penitence. It seems to me that when we stop the denying, whether it's our own, or that of the systems of which we are part, then the renewal can begin...

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