Over the last several decades, many in Church leadership handled abuse of young children and post-pubescent children poorly. There is no excuse for any of it. But, the diligent efforts to improve have been fruitful. I pray that this sin may be eradicated from within the walls of the Church.
Bishop Vasa correctly notes that the “bright light shining on the Church … may be shading other areas of society where abuse is much more prevalent and much less noticed.” If the truth of child sexual abuse, in general, is being avoided by society, then the light needs to shine there as well.
Bishop Vasa also notes that any news of abuse outside of the Church may hit the local press for a short time, but that “every single report involving the Church will make national news for days and sometimes weeks.” A media-observant reader will see the truth in that statement.
Where does the light come from that need to shine on society? From the Church. That is why the Church is being cleansed so thoroughly. Once completed, the purity will shine like a bright sun. It is only a matter of time. Pope Benedict XVI is working on it. Hard. It may define his pontificate. More likely, however, he will define our age by cleaning out the Lord’s House first.
The light I speak about regards preaching. The pastors, parochial vicars, priests, friars, religious, sisters and brothers need to pick up the virtue of good preaching. Our society desperately needs stalwart preachers to speak the Word of God.
Plainly stated, so much of the Sunday ration of preaching given at any Holy Mass, is good, but it isn’t great. Further, too often the preaching we hear deals more with social issues, how much God loves us, how great the world is, loving one another in all the right ways. These messages have a place, but the thing that makes preaching relevant is when it makes the hearer turn back to God, to change his or her behavior. It can also be an instrument of substantive change at the family, parish, community, social, and national levels. This is critical to peace from the home, to the community, to the nation..
For instance, the preachers need to talk about the Catholic concepts of personal responsibility. This includes obeying the law, paying bills justly due, showing up to work on time, doing a good and decent job while at work, giving until it hurts in the family, at work, and at church. Another issue is morality. Preachers need to talk about sex, morality, right conduct, and how wrong conduct affects us individual, as well as the family and society at large. For instance, sex between unmarried men and women causes pregnancy, which in turn is a cause of great social concern. Why? Because it creates a class of young mothers stricken by poverty. Medicaid picks up the bill. The Medicaid program has grown exponentially and much of it is in relation to babies born out of wedlock. A kind but thoughtful admonition from a pastor to a young girl or boy in the pew may be enough to change sexual behavior.
Preachers make a difference. The soft pedaling of our Catholic Faith from the pulpit must end. This is not about “fire and brimstone” and fear, but it is about love. Love in action. It is about getting to know the Lord, really and truly, knowing the Lord. Knowing Him, knowing His love, means you obey His commandments. In obeying His commandments, we engage in good habits and become virtuous. As individuals, we can affect all those around us when we each are personally responsible and morally upright.
Often, people learn their Faith from the pulpit. As faith comes by hearing, as it says in Romans, by the gifts of the Holy Spirit the preacher can become a teacher and can influence an entire community and nation.
Too often, this reality is overlooked. Too many religious today look to political action to affect public policy, social change, and the like. Compelled by an addiction to action, too many avoid the pulpit as a place to raise key moral issues and religious principles. Yet, a good example and lives well-lived will do more to change people. A preacher should speak about God and His holy laws regarding morality, personal responsibility, right conduct, and the preacher should act rightly, preach well, and give the People of God—in preaching—the Word of God, not the party platform.
Because of its deep traditions and origin, this starts with the Order of Preachers, the Dominican Order.