Dear De La Salle Community:
As we enter this school year, we cannot ignore the news of revelations of sexual abuse by clergy and the failure of authorities in the Church in the United Sates, some countries of South America and Australia.
Here in Canada, we recall with great pain and sadness similar revelations over twenty years ago now. Regrettably, some former members and deceased members of the Brothers of the Christian Schools were alleged to have committed abuse, some credible and some false, as did other religious orders and members of the clergy. This was a very difficult period for all - the victims and their families, the accused, and bishops and religious superiors charged to oversee these situations. I believe, in the end, we in the Church here learned a lot and increased our efforts to create sound measures to ensure the protection of children, adolescents and the vulnerable. A more transparent and effective response was developed for handling such incidents. Appropriate guidelines were established as well to address the rights of those alleged to have committed such offences. The policies of the District are clear and comprehensive. These protocols have been provided to staff over the years.
At the moment, it is hard to keep up with the complexity and extent of the current revelations as they emerge and develop.
There is so much out in the media these days, it is almost impossible to frame an appropriate response to the many questions, assertions, and dilemmas many have, except to state that the situation is complex and troubling.
I do think it is necessary though to issue some cautionary thoughts.
I hope we would all be aware that we should resist the temptation to arrive at conclusions about the causes and nature of the problems. In my own opinion, I think we should guard against proposing or proclaiming simplistic responses to these complex issues. Engaging in discussions that degenerate into - the Church needs to do this or that - is not helpful. There is plenty of blame to go around and no shortage of experts commenting on what should be done. In the last few weeks I have heard and seen in the various forms of media observations, pronouncements, analyses, and speculation as to the nature and cause of the abuse and a host of solutions that need to be applied. Many well-intentioned commentators, and some not so well-meaning, in the Church and outside, are eager to dispense answers and solutions.
None of us will most likely be involved directly in policy making or addressing aspects of Church teaching. We can though, as members of a faith community at the school, do our part as far as we are able and willing.
It is my suggestion that we use this time to reflect on the importance and dignity of the mission of the Church in the education of the young. We all understand that the sexual abuse of children, youth and the vulnerable, is criminal behaviour and a moral abomination subject to the demands of justice. Profound and lasting harm is done to victims and their families and to the entire Body of Christ — the Church. The deliberate attempt to conceal such behaviour constitutes a serious breach of trust and a betrayal of our sacred responsibilities towards the young.
Above-all, here and now, we should be especially concerned about how these realities affect the faith of our young people - a faith that is often already very fragile and tenuous. I have made a point in the last few weeks to attend Mass at different parishes. It is encouraging to see that faithful Catholics continue to go to Church in Toronto. Sadly, our City is the exception and not the practice throughout the country. Nevertheless, the witness of the faithful helps remind me, and I hope you too, that God never abandons the Church.
“The Church is like the moon. She does not shine with her own light but reflects the light of Christ. Indeed, just as the moon without the sun is dark, opaque, and invisible, so too is the Church if she separates herself from Christ, true God and true man.” Cardinal Sarah, In Search of the Church. Despite our personal frailties, struggles and sinfulness God continues to walk with us, all of us. We are further reminded that God uses us despite ourselves. We are God’s instruments when we try to be faithful. We all from time to time miss the mark on our obligations to be charitable, forgiving, just and moral. We all fail on a whole host of things each day (at least I know I do) but we keep wanting to try if we keep our eyes on the Lord. We learn slowly (here too, I know only too well) that we only succeed when we walk together with the Lord in his presence. We all need to be reminded, here the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation are of inestimable value, that the more we busy ourselves with external things the more insensitive we become in spirit and truth. We are all culpable, I think, in some way to contributing to the secularism and relativism that have entered the life of the Church.
I don’t think our community really expects us to be without flaws. I do think they want us to try our best and to get up when we fall. This testimony is the greatest lesson we can teach and the most powerful witness we can give to one another. Perhaps, these dark times are meant for us to deepen our understanding that the fundamental crisis in the Church is a crisis of faith and a denial of God’s plan for creation.
We join the call to pray and to penance. We pray for all the members of the Church and those who sincerely wish to be restored to her membership.
Let us put the talents the Good Lord has given us, despite our shortcomings, at the disposal of the young so that their goodness and ours can lead us to better times, a deeper faith, and a genuine reverence for God and neighbour.
Brother Domenic Viggiani, FSC