It has been an unsettling few weeks as the specter of abuse and cover-up once again raised its ugly head.
Sin demands the light of day. Without it, those acts or omissions fester and rot, poisoning the soul. Still, while necessary, these latest revelations force people through a gamut of emotions from shock to justifiable anger.
Those who committed unspeakable crimes and those who covered them up are equally guilty, deserving the wrath of those who trusted them. But there are guiltless who are punished in all this. Most priests would sooner sacrifice themselves at the altar than violate the beauty of a child, yet they still bear the burden of indiscriminate rage. I wrote about them in 2002:
“Our senses have been assaulted by tales of unholy acts foisted upon the innocent by men ordained to sacred care.
“There is great attention on the wayward ones, but what about the many men in black who have stayed the course, faithful to their call? Their vocation has taken a broadside, and not one of them who has made this work his life can help but shudder at the impact.
“Scripture stories have their point, but is it unfair to ask who cares for 99 who stayed in the fold while the shepherd searches for the lost sheep? Who encourages the son who keeps to the plow while his profligate brother lays waste to their estate?
“We ask a lot of a priest: a celibate for the Kingdom, a silver-tongued orator, a moving celebrant of the liturgical drama, and a Mother Teresa with an MBA. Few can be all of this, but most try.
“They get up every morning, strap on the collar, and head for the vineyard. They baptize our babies, bury our dead and walk with us in all the muck and mire between.
“We forget that they are just as frail and failing as the rest of us. We don’t encourage that confession because we need our pillars of strength and fountains of certainty. However, they feel pain and this one has to hurt.
“While we might be ruffled by the Sunday sermon or miffed at the Monday meeting, we owe them a lot just for being there, for holding their ground, for attending to the ordinary.
“They have a tough job, preaching a love hidden in the mystery of suffering. Maybe now is a good time to show them a little of that love with a hug, a handshake or at least a simple thank you.”