Purification and Reparation: What Catholics Can Do With Our Present Anger

Each of us must ask the Lord what he wants us to do and the grace to do it.

Many Catholics are rightly angry about the latest revelations of clergy sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, and diocesan cover-ups. Obviously, the worst part is the suffering of the victims. Any kind of sexual assault is profoundly wounding, but infliction by a cleric — who is supposed to represent Christ — adds a spiritual dimension of suffering.

These sacrileges also affect the whole Church, damaging our faith, and our trust in other clerics — though most are innocent.

Anger over these things is natural and just. The question is, what to do with it? Especially as followers of Christ.

Anger in itself is not sinful. It is an emotion, a drive to right an injustice or enact needed change; it becomes sinful when it grows excessive or unjust. “Be angry but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26); anger must be channeled rightly.

Righteous anger is our friend here because there is work to be done, and we need energy to accomplish it. Here are some steps to put this anger to effective use.

On Sept. 19, 2018, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee released its Statement on Sex Abuse Scandals, announcing the intention to establish “a third-party reporting system that will receive … complaints of sexual abuse of minors, … sexual harassment or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop.”

This is a good start, but not enough.

Not every bishop is aware of how fed up the laity are, how much needs to change, or willing to take painful measures.

Some Catholics are withholding donations, but I’m afraid that alone will not work. Without a letter telling him why, the bishop won’t be aware of it for some time, and by then he won’t necessarily connect it to the scandal. There are other problems with that tactic:

Most priests are innocent and have given their lives to God and the Church; they need and deserve our support to carry out their vocation; we in turn need them to minister the sacraments;

It hurts the innocent more than the guilty: parishes and the poor will suffer more than the bishop.

I agree that we need to get the bishops’ attention; I’d like to suggest some other ways of ensuring changes are made.

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