Friday, April 3, 2015

Sexual Abuse and the Fires of Purgatory

St. James church in Brighton, Australia.

A parish church in Australia is burned to ruins by arson, and its members, in general, celebrate.

"For the community here, it's kind of the haunted house on the hill," said one of them.

It was "hard going to this church" said another.  "If the church is rebuilt after the fire, it would have served its punishment to some degree."

These are normal Catholics saying this.  Think about that for a moment.  Normal suburban Catholics - the kind who, here in the States, grill in the backyard, go to the mall, watch their kids and grandkids play sports - normal suburban Catholics happy that an arsonist burned down their parish church.


Because one of its priests groomed and abused altar boys, some of whom later committed suicide.

"It's always been a difficult building for us to drive past because there's been so much tragedy and complicated feelings, I guess.  We've all attended many funerals of boys that we now know were abused by [Father Ronald] Pickering ... and other perpetrators in the parish - at the actual church that it occurred in."

Meanwhile, in Chile, Pope Francis appoints as bishop of Osorno a notorious supporter of a known abuser and quasi-cult leader, this appointment causing a riot in the cathedral there.  Jennifer Haselberger analyzes the situation and concludes that it would be literally impossible for the pope to appoint as bishops men who aren't at least somewhat tainted by their participation in the Sex Scandal - either as having participated in it or as having condoned or enabled it.  Haselberger saw the situation from the inside in the archdiocese of St. Paul and would, presumably, know what she's talking about.

And I have become more and more convinced that what is probably fairly common in the Catholic Church is what Cardinal Keith O'Brien in Scotland did, and what Fr. Karadima in Chile did, and what Abp. Nienstedt in St. Paul is accused of doing: priests and bishops preying upon and sexually harassing boys and men over whom they have power.

In any event, we have come to this.

Most of our bishops and many of our priests are so far from living as Christians - or even as decent human beings - that this level of corruption and contamination has been allowed to fester.  And the laity have enabled this by putting up with it.

But perhaps there's a sign of a turn around.  When lay Catholics begin rioting in cathedrals and begin to tell reporters how happy they are that their parish church has burned to the ground, hoping this will purge the evil out of it - as surprising, socking and disturbing as that is, it might be a sign that there is an Easter Sunday following Good Friday after all.

Still, this is almost impossible to comprehend.  There are parishioners happy that their parish church has been torched - happy that this is perhaps the only way for them to start over.

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