Saturday, May 01, 2010

Hear the voice of the shepherd May 1, 2010

Last Sunday I reflected on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd in my homily. I only preached at two Masses (5 p.m. and 7 a.m.) and at the 8:30 I did a children’s homily. Several people asked me to ponder further on the homily. My general theme was the need to hear the voice of the shepherd. When we really listen we take on the heart and vision of the Good Shepherd. As a result we minister by affirming. serving, and protecting others. Then I went on to say we have been painfully reminded in the past few months of so many tragic examples of poor and abusive treatment of young people by our Church leaders.

Recently I read a letter by Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. to the people of his diocese. In the letter he spoke of the beauty of stain-glass windows. So many of our sacred stories and people are depicted in windows. “Yet if even one small part of the window is broken our eyes are immediately drawn to the wound. Much of the beauty of the entire window, its integrated wholeness and message, can be temporarily lost because we concentrate on the broken piece. Years ago we recognized that some of the glass was broken. Some who were called to serve as an icon of Christ and ordained to be his presence in the midst of the community had failed in their ordination promises. Through the damaged glass there poured a harsh glare that caused not only the Church but the wider community to focus on what was broken.”

As a Church we are now called to penance and purification. We are a sinful Church in need of God’s mercy to renew us in the image of Christ the Good Shepherd. Our Church’s credibility and essential mission has been tarnished. Trust between clergy and people is an essential ingredient to effective pastoral ministry. I pledge to you as pastor my renewed commit-ment to be of service in an open and humble manner. May the healing process begin and continue under the banner of God’s grace.

Fr. Bob Hawkins

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father Bob.

We have not lost our trust in our pastors, of which only a small minority have committed sexual abuse, but in our numerous bishops who mishandled those cases.

Metaphors are nice but we need direct, very explicit statements. For example you could start by saying: "I have never sexually abused a minor." (I trust that that's the case, but if I heard you say it out loud, it would still make a big impression on me. Probably, you feel that you shouldn't have to say it, but accepting that people need to hear it would be a great sign of humility...)

Then: "Outside confession, it has never happened that I suspected someone of sexual abuse and did not report him to his superior". Or "It has happened that I had misgivings about actions by fellow clergy, but I brushed them away without following through". Or "I knew Father x, who later was convicted of sexual abuse. I was so blind that the possibility never crossed my mind. In retrospect I should have been more aware." Or...

Pope Benedict asked the bishops of Ireland to show "complete honesty and transparency, arising, first and foremost, from self-examination." We are waiting anxiously for clergy to take individual responsibility for their personal share, however limited, in the failure of the Church. Even though you are not one of those bishops, you could still be a leader in that way.