Sunday, September 09, 2018

Amid "Our Disillusionment and Outrage... As Leaders of The Church, It Is Time For Us To Repent"

For a brief, stunning moment, everything felt different.

A month ago this week – much as it already seems like a year – as the white-hot reaction to the Pennsylvania grand-jury report bore down, the uniqueness of the moment across two decades of this "long Lent" was most potently evidenced by one thing: all of a sudden, the usual ideological reflexiveness of the English-speaking Catholic conversation began to break down, and (albeit in searing anger), a unity of purpose could be seen forming....

Eleven days later, however, the charged release of the Viganò testimony shattered that – within minutes, the polarized camps returned with a (literal) vengeance, and it's only been downhill since.

Now two weeks on from the retired Nuncio's "nuclear" memo and the ongoing circus atmosphere it created, the latest "Twilight Zone" turn of Crisis 2.0 yields a fresh lesson across the polarized divide: if there's one thing seemingly everyone can agree on, it's how this moment and the road ahead needs to – and will – mark a new chapter in the American Catholic story. If it's going to be a better one, though, then the worst excesses of the era now ending – high among them, the self-referential, zero-sum daily campaigns to score points for one's chosen "side" – are best left behind with it. Put another way, for those who really believe that the life of the world depends on the mission of this Church and how it responds to – and learns from – these days, then acting like it isn't simply a matter for the guys at the top.

With three separate tracks to this "perfect storm" already in motion, the focus of this moment begins to shift yet again, and we'll see it unfold over the days just ahead. As a starter, though, given the pure horror of these weeks on any number of fronts, it's important to remember the core demands that need to be met, and where the responsibility for heeding them begins.

Along those lines, while several dioceses (and even parishes) have begun to undertake similar efforts, the US' largest and most prominent Liturgy of Repentance to date was held last week in New Orleans with a crowd of 2,000 packed to standing-room in one of the city's most cavernous churches. Adding to the event's significance, its presider was the USCCB Secretary, Archbishop Gregory Aymond, whose moving, powerful homily (text) at the evening Mass likewise drew from his prior experience as head of the bench's child-protection arm.

If anyone's still looking for the way to begin addressing this thick, rough sea, this is it:

Indeed, this is the start, but hardly the end. As for the following phases, another optimal push is coming from yet another former OCYP chair – in Dallas, first rocked by abuse and cover-up revelations in the late 1990s, Bishop Ed Burns has announced listening sessions across the 1.3 million-member diocese through October, each preceded by a penitential liturgy, as a way of absorbing the anger and beginning to chart a way forward.

Looking more broadly, meanwhile, only these weeks have shown many of us that what 2002 should've been, it wasn't.

In that light, much as the fresh round of damage may already seem "done," a lacking response in these days will only make the toll even worse.

Please God, may that not happen... well, not again.