Forgiveness and Reconciliation…

The Prodigal Son, by Auguste Rodin c.1884
My commentary on the filing of Chapter 11 protection by the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington ruffled a few feathers. Please be assured that I do not under any circumstances believe there is no money left in the bank accounts, assets and properties of the Church. I believe the Catholic Church is conducting its secular affairs on the counsel of a good law firm, that specializes in Chapter 11 protection, and relying on another fine collection of solicitors for legal counsel on dealing with the liabilities of the clergy sex abuse that just won’t go away.
The scandal just won’t go away because the matter still lacks a comprehensive understanding on the part of both victims and accused. In addition to the issue of financial retribution, I have never heard anyone in either camp mention the notions of forgiveness, reconciliation and renewal. I’m giving away my age, when I make reference to the Baltimore Catechism, which is remarkably “chic,” in understanding our 21st century views of theology. One of the conditions necessary for absolution of a mortal sin, was the resolution of the penitent to avoid committing the sin again! Then the form of absolution over the penitent was completed only after the penitent proclaimed such intent. The same proclamation by the American Catholic Bishops should be shouted here! While many dioceses have implemented the program, For the Sake of God’s Children it is not a pragmatic solution towards institutional acceptance of the gravity of the matter, an admission of guilt and a resolution of intent not to let this happen again.
Unfortunately, the response by the USCCB is now focused on judicial protection that will limit the amount of legal settlements and ensure a fiscal future. The only sentiments being voiced by victims and their counsel are rooted in retribution and retaliation. Both approaches will drag on in a futile attempt of restitution and resolution until forgiveness and Reconciliation are prominently the main considerations. Through this entire downward spiral of the scandal, many individuals, parishes, and dioceses are gravely affected. I have never heard any parties suggest that the Catholic Church, in union with all of its faithful begin to rely on our Sacrament of Reconciliation as an essential component to this ongoing sage. There are of course many reactionary steps that have been taken to ensure the actions never happen again. Mandatory criminal background checks and fingerprinting of everyone involved in the education and development of children is an appropriate beginning.
Both parties need a practical approach to the issue. Parents need to teach their children what behavior is unacceptable when meeting strangers. Priests and clergy need education on avoiding compromising situations. Perhaps all of us would be helped by a reminder of inappropriate actions and gestures that are hurtful to our human family. The restoration of trust and the fervor of our Sacramental and Gospel beliefs are the motivators towards forgiveness and reconciliation. There are multiple examples of dual culpability that have led to this unfortunate saga in our Catholic Church. Persistent references to the Catholic Church’s shortcomings since the Last Supper don’t help. Each and every individual shares responsibility, clergy and laity to restore unity in our Catholic Church and grow in faith and love in Jesus Christ.
We believe as Catholics that our humanity is flawed through original sin and the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) restore our theological relationship with God. Well, we also believe that we are all part of the Mystical Body of Christ, which relies on a constant conversion of all people towards consummate completion in a New Eternal Life.
Part of the process of radical conversion involves unilateral forgiveness before we participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It is truly time to put the precepts and beliefs of our Catholic faith into action.

Hugh J.McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist writing on Catholic topics and issues. He attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied both philosophy and theology. He writes frequently at & . Hugh writes about his Irish Catholic upbringing and educational experiences at . He has contributed works to Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online, The Irish Catholic, Dublin, the British Broadcasting Company, London and the Philadelphia Bulletin,, Blogger News Network & The Catholic Business Journal and Wilmington Examiner.

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