As the thirteenth ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops continues in Rome, the bishop of Antigonish, Canada, asks, “How do we evangelize those who have been deeply hurt by clergy who have been involved in sexual abuse?” The following is a summary of his remarks from the synod’s press bulletin on the Vatican’s website —
Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
Oct. 15, 2012
“The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”
– H. Exc. Rev. Mons. Brian Joseph DUNN, Bishop of Antigonish (CANADA)
How do we evangelize those who have been deeply hurt by clergy who have been involved in sexual abuse? Jesus dealt with those who were disillusioned by listening attentively to the stories of the disciples and leading them to a new awareness of his presence. This example of Jesus shows that the new evangelization, which must happen in the midst of the sexual abuse crisis, occurs in at least four different ways.
Provide real opportunities of listening and discerning together to appreciate the depth of hurt, anger and disillusionment associated with this scandal. This listening ministry could become a part of every diocese in the form of an office of mediation where people could bring their hurts and seek appropriate reconciliation.
Consider the reasons why this crisis has happened. Put into place measures which will create safe environments for children and all who are vulnerable in the faith community.
A spirituality of communion must permeate all relationships and structures within our parishes and local churches, through a consultation that brings people together, acknowledges the presence of God’s Spirit working in the members of the community and assists in responding to those who feel that their voice is never heard in the Church.
Support co-responsibility by bringing change in certain structures of the Church and in the mentality, attitude and heart in the ways of working closely with lay persons. These changes could include the appointment of pastoral teams consisting of clergy and laity, an official reflection on and recognition of lay ecclesial ministers, a deliberate and systematic involvement and leadership of women at all levels of Church life, e.g., permitting women to be instituted as lectors and acolytes and the institution of the ministry of catechist.
When this happens, the Gospel will be heard anew, our faith will be passed on more effectively, we will be renewed in our faith and our witness will become more authentic in our contemporary world.