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No broad brushstrokes, please.

Matthew Harrison

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Some of you may have seen the Fifth Estate Wednesday night which profiled a sexually abusive priest in the Diocese of London, Ontario. I’m sure all of you will agree that the abuse committed by this priest is horrendous: it should be neither covered up nor ignored. If you’re like me, you’ll also find it hard to admit that some Church leaders have made some very poor and destructive decisions that have resulted in a lot of pain and a tremendous amount of scandal.
At the same time, though, we should think back to the words of John Paul II at World Youth Day in 2002; you’ll remember this was the year that clerical sex abuse in the United States was commonplace in the news headlines. In his homily at the closing Mass, the then Holy Father said:
“Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame. But think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good! There are many priests, seminarians and consecrated persons here today; be close to them and support them!”
This is what bothered me about last night’s documentary. I was saddened that the program attempted to paint all priests and members of the Church hierarchy as conspirators and sexual misfits. Some have made very painful choices, but others have worked hard to try and heal the wounds that exist today. Despite what the program aired of him, Bishop Fabbro is one of those trying to ease the pain. (You may want to link to the Dicoese of London website, which contains information about clergy sexual abuse in the diocese. Click HERE for that.) It’s important for us to remember this, and important to remember that we support our priests, religious, and bishops; that we pray they may have the strength and courage to do what is right.
By no means do I want to minimize the suffering that victims have endured and the wrongs that have been done. We must punish those who have done wrong and provide justice and comfort for those who have been harmed. At the same time though, we can not lump everyone in the Church into the same category. As John Paul II said: it is the “vast majority” who work tirelessly, quietly, and heroically.

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