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An Open Letter on the Church and Abuse - November 2018

posted Nov 8, 2018, 6:54 PM by RSO The Fenwick Review   [ updated Nov 8, 2018, 7:11 PM ]

By Jack Rosenwinkel '21, Representing the Review's Staff

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the beginning of St. John’s Gospel, it is written: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:5). In these months of darkness following widespread revelations of abuse within the Catholic Church and on our campus, John’s words gain a deep relevance. Darkness, pain and confusion are everywhere. It seems, at times, as if John was wrong, as if the darkness has finally overwhelmed the light.

At the Fenwick Review, we felt that we had to say something. At the same time, we grew sick of hearing scripted apologies, cagey legal defenses, and words that seemed shallow, insincere, and ill-equipped to affect actual change. We wondered how we could possibly respond to the crisis in an adequate, thoughtful and loving way. How could we condemn systemic abuse and its coverup without sounding redundant or obvious? How could we verbalize our love, admiration and support for victims without sounding hollow? And how could mere words do anything to bring healing, justice or hope?

Confronted with these questions, we at the Fenwick Review have come to the conclusion that, even though this letter will likely fall short, silence is no longer an option. It was the silence of bystanders, bishops and other Church authorities that perpetuated abuse and made victims feel isolated. As a publication, we feel responsible to help break the silence surrounding abuse. Speaking out is the first step toward real reform, change and justice. We at the Fenwick Review are committed to using our voice to call bishops to accountability, to cry for justice, and to speak up for the silenced. More than anything, we are committed to voicing our support for all victims of abuse. We also want to acknowledge that courageous victims were the first to break the silence and expose the evil that has slowly been infecting the Church.

We want all victims of abuse to know that they possess an inherent, inalienable human dignity. We affirm this dignity, and wish to remind all victims, and those they love, of the numerous resources on campus that can aid in the healing process. Anyone who wishes to discuss sexual abuse can reach out to the chaplain’s office, the counseling center, or in the case of an emergency, to Public Safety. SGA, Fr. Boroughs and the College Chaplains sent out school-wide emails with resources for victims, as well as opportunities for dialogue and healing. More information can be found in these emails and on the Holy Cross website.

      We also want to express our frustration with every Catholic Bishop who participated in abuse or its cover-up, through action or inaction. The Fenwick Review is a Catholic publication that often defends the Church and her teachings. Our founder, Fr. Paul Scalia, is now a Catholic priest. It is because of, not despite, our Catholic identity that we call our Bishops to reform. In any other institution, child abuse and coverup would never be tolerated. So why is such evil permitted in Christ’s Church? Why are some of our bishops– the very shepherds tasked with risking their lives to protect their flock– complacent in the face of horror? We demand justice, reform, and authentic sanctification. We demand more than apologies; we demand sympathy and understanding. And now, more than ever, we need leaders: real leaders willing to imitate Christ and die in order to protect their people.

      Finally, we have a message for our peers on the Hill. First, we want to express a message of hope. Healing is possible. Justice will come. Reforms are on the way. Abuse is like a cancer or an infection within the Church. The first step to effectively rooting out the cancer or infection is a diagnosis. Without a diagnosis, treatment is impossible. The Grand Jury diagnosed a cancer within the Church, which is a tremendous step in the right direction, even though it has been tremendously painful and confusing. In Luke 8:17 we are told, “Whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open, and whatever is covered up will be found and brought to light.” The Grand Jury report effectively brought what was hidden out into the open, giving victims a voice, naming abusers, and forcing the Church to take action. Through the courage of the members of the Grand Jury and victims of abuse, evil has finally been exposed.

Second, we wish to remind our fellow students that they are not powerless. Here are three practical steps that lay Catholics can take to shift the Church in the right direction:

Support victims. It is likely that we all know vic- tims of abuse, whether we are aware of their abuse or not. It is imperative that we love and support one another, especially because we do not know if someone or someone they love has been abused. We also caution you to not let your anger– though justified– distract you from loving the people God puts in your life.

Contact your Bishop. Bishops are not mythical crea tures or far-off men hidden away in magical towers. They are priests whose entire job is to guide the people living in their diocese. They want to hear from you. Write letters, call their office, encourage them, and remind them that even after the media storm blows over, you will not ignore or forget the crime of clerical abuse.

Finally, pray. Too many people write off prayer as an excuse for inaction. Prayer and action are not mutually exclusive. So work, advocate, and love, but also pray: for victims, for their loved ones, for the Church, and for all abusers. After all, we all need Jesus.

Allegedly, Napoleon once captured the pope and promised to destroy the Catholic Church. The pope responded, “We’ve been trying to destroy the Church for 1,800 years and we haven’t succeeded, what makes you think you can do it now?” Amusing as it is, this anecdote is a powerful reminder of the way that Christ is at work: after 2,000 years of scandal, abuse, corruption and sin, the Catholic Church is still standing. St. John was right: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:5). There is still hope, even in this time of darkness.

Brothers and sisters, hold tightly to Christ. It’s the only way to get through this storm.


The Staff of the Fenwick Review