Archbishop Mark Coleridge has released a Pentecost Pastoral Letter on the sexual abuse scandal. I have read it all through, and find it to be a very serious, considered and balanced appraisal of the situation, which also holds out an “Easter hope” for the future. He has clearly wrestled hard with what to say. Of course, the temptation is often to say nothing, to “bunker down”, as it were, but +Mark knows that that is not the solution.
Here are some of his comments reported today on the ABC:
“No one now can deny the scale of the problem and the urgent task,” he said.
“In the case of clerical abuse of the young, we are dealing with crime. And the Church has struggled to find the point of convergence between sin and forgiveness on the one hand, and crime and punishment on the other.
“True, sin must be forgiven, but so too must crime be punished.
“What’s clear is there will be no quick fix to this problem, the roots of which go deep and wide, we’re in for the long haul.
“On that journey, there’s a need for cool heads and compassionate hearts, always with our eye fixed primarily on the victims we haven’t seen and the voices we haven’t heard.”
A most interesting aspect of his letter is his attempt to analyse what it might be in the culture of the Church which has led to this situation. His conclusion is not monolithic, nor does he claim that his thoughts on these issues are necessarily “complete or even correct”. He concludes:
None of these factors alone would have made the problem cultural in the Church, but the combination may have done so. Clearly, some have to be abandoned – rigorist notions of the body and sexuality, gaps in seminary training and the kind of clericalism they can produce, triumphalism, the underestimation of evil. Others – like the living of celibacy in the priestly life – need to be purified rather than abandoned. Some – like the Church’s culture of forgiveness and discretion – clearly need to be retained, though with a greater awareness of what they can encourage and how they can turn dark.