BY Daniel Harkins | September 7 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Lay-led efforts needed to purify Church, says Paisley bishop

Scotland’s bishops have addressed Catholics as recriminations over an abuse scandal in the United States spreads to Rome

Scotland’s bishops have said a lay-led effort may be needed to ‘purify a Church’ which may need to die and be reborn.

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley and Bishop Stephen Robson of Dunkeld were speaking as recriminations over an abuse scandal in the United States spreads to Rome.

US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, was removed from the College of Cardinals recently over accusations of abuse. The archbishop had been promoted to senior positions in the Church despite the accusations apparently being widely known and reported to American diocesan authorities.

This was followed two weeks later by a landmark Grand Jury investigation in Pennsylvania into historic abuse which found more than 1,000 children had been abused over a 70-year period.

Last week, at the end of the World Meeting of Families (WMOF), Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò accused Pope Francis of being aware of the McCarrick allegations. The archbishop, who has previously clashed with Pope Francis over his role as Apostolic Nuncio to the US, called on the Holy Father to resign.

Endorsing comments from US Bishop Robert Barron, Bishop John Keenan said cases of historical abuse by clergy, predominantly of male victims, should not be used as ‘an excuse to conduct a witch-hunt against priests who experience same sex attraction, many of whom are good men.’

He added that in a ‘time of sadness, anger and anxiety in the Church’ over media reports of abuse, ‘we need to dig deep into our resources of Faith in God, Our Father, in Jesus His Son, Redeemer of the World, and in His assurance to be in and with His Church always, till the end of time.’

“Today we see more than ever how we are called to be a Church in continual reformation,” Bishop Keenan said, adding that abuse is ‘clearly diabolical in origin—a masterpiece of the Devil to undermine every aspect of the Church’s evangelising mission’ and that ‘we must always keep our focus on the victims and what they have suffered.’

“We must petition the Vatican for a lay-led investigation into who knew what about the McCarrick affair,” he added.

Last week, Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who has previously clashed with Pope Francis, called on the Holy Father to resign, claiming he informed the Pope of McCarrick’s abuse, but that he took no action to sanction the cardinal.

Bishop Keenan said the archbishop’s ‘testimony’ is ‘valuable, but only one piece of the jigsaw.’

“The Vatican must authorise the opening of all relevant files and correspondence,” he said.

“Christ the King now wishes to purify his Church, and he wants to use the laity in their kingly role to lead that. Forensic experts, etc.”

He added: “The causes of sexual abuse are complex and can’t be reduced to any one thing. Clericalism is certainly a factor, but also homosexuality, since 80 per cent of cases involve male-male abuse.

“However, this is not an excuse to conduct a witch-hunt against priests who experience same sex attraction, many of whom are good men.”

Speaking at the national pilgrimage to Carfin on September 2, Bishop Robson addressed what he called ‘the elephant in the room.’

Drawing parallels between St John Ogilvie’s martyrdom and the Church, he explained how the Church can move past the crisis through inspiration from the Scottish martyr.

“How can St John’s martyrdom help us today?” he said. “How can he help us make sense of the sadness we feel, the anger we feel, or the anxiety we feel?

“John shed his blood for Christ—does that go for us too?”

The bishop added: “The fathers of the Church tell us that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians, the beginning of new life and John in today’s Gospel tells us that the seed must die if it is to bring new life, and maybe that is the key to the truth that helps us make sense of the mess and the disturbances that the Church finds herself in today.

“The seed must die, the boil must be lanced, the sickness must pass into healing, and then perhaps the light can come shining out of the darkness.

“Maybe the Church as we know it now, as we’ve known it over the past few years in our lifetimes, must die to rise again, to be reborn.”

Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell, who supervises safeguarding for the Church in Scotland and was at the World Meeting of Families, said following the event: “With last week’s statement from [Archbishop Viganò] regarding an accusation of cover-ups it’s hard to know what is going on. It’s a huge issue that needs to be tackled and it appears to be going deeper into the Vatican.

“In Ireland last week there were calls for the Vatican to open up files relating to historical abuse and perhaps that is now a legitimate question.”



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