It is difficult to hear of someone being mistreated or abused by a person in a position of trust, but it is especially difficult to digest and comprehend when the abuser is a priest. Men of God have been called by God to lead others closer to God. When that vocation is violated the damage to the victim can be devastating, not to mention the concerns and feelings of others who trust their priest. I cannot speak for the victims because I am not one but, like so many other Catholics who can’t imagine how this can happen, I feel the pain as the Church attempts to deal with this fairly and justly while, at the same time, she tries to refocus everyone’s mindset, clergy and laity both, on her primary mission: the Salvation of Souls. The Church is in the process of removing the wooden beam from her eye first. It will not be pleasant for any of us but it must happen so that she can be more effective removing the splinters from our eyes.
There is a personal side to all of this. Even though most of us are not victims and the vast majority of priests are good and faithful to their vocations, we can each feel pained by these revelations of clerical misconduct, leading to confusion and doubts about our Church and, ultimately, our Faith in God.
Anyone who has refinished furniture knows that the process begins with stripping away old coats of stain or paint. For each of us, that process is twofold: self-examination and forgiveness. Each of us has a wooden beam in our eye. Before I can forgive others, I need to forgive myself. I need to examine my attitudes, my conscience, my words and my actions. Then, recognizing my own weaknesses, I can forgive myself and, with a contrite heart, seek God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession.
Caution is advised, however, lest I think I can do this alone. Justification happens only with the healing power of God. I need to trust Him and rely on Him to help me remove the wooden beam from my eye first.