The sexual abuse scandal facing the Catholic Church is a crucifixion of the body of Christ and all Catholics share in this suffering. Archbishop Jason Gordon said the Church is presently going through its “long walk to Jerusalem” but suffering is on the path to resurrection.
In his homily at the 2018 Annual General Meeting of the Society of St Vincent de Paul at Presentation College, Chaguanas last Sunday, the Archbishop alluded to the “revelations” which have come out over the past few months specifically the reports from the United States.
He asked the congregation how they felt about this and “bad”, “concerned”, “disappointed” and “angry” were responses given. Archbishop Gordon wondered if they were still proud to wear a jersey stating they were Catholic.
“The sexual abuse is bad enough, that’s bad enough, the cover up is even worse; then the collusion is even worse again…This is the body of Christ suffering,” he said.
On August 20, Pope Francis wrote to the Church calling for prayer and fasting in penance for the evil of clerical sex abuse. This came after the widespread abuse in the Diocese of Philadelphia was publicised. Pope Francis cited St Paul (1 Cor 12:26), “if one member suffers all suffer together with it” in his letter.
Archbishop Gordon said, “All of us have to take this pain; all of us have to take this crucifixion; all of us have to take this suffering; and all of us have to face the challenge.”
In the Gospel of the day (Mk 9:30–37), Jesus tells the disciples “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.” Archbishop Gordon said he used to discuss this text as a prediction of Christ’s Passion but now sees it is a prediction of the resurrection. “If suffering is what He must do, the resurrection is what God will do.”
He underscored that as terrible as the sex abuse issue is and the anger and shame it has caused, God’s power of a resurrection will shine forth. Archbishop Gordon admitted he did not know how this will happen but the Church cannot avoid the pain and suffering.
He outlined what can be done at a personal level saying, “We have to make a choice to make this Church a safer place all of God’s children. We have to do the hard work of truth and the hard work in each of ourselves to ensure we contribute to the good of the Church because what the Church needs more than anything else is holy men and holy women.”
Commenting on the personal attacks which Pope Francis has been experiencing, he said there were people in “high places acting like Pharisees”. He added that Pope Francis was challenging those who “want to be bigger than they should be…everyone who wants vengeance”.
Catholics may agree or disagree with the Pope but, the Archbishop said, they have to believe the Holy Spirit is working through the Church and him. He advised the congregation to pay attention to what is informing their opinion and “if it is bringing vitriol and hatred to the Pope and to the Church, then ask yourself if this is a good diet for you in your mind”.
Make youth a priority
Archbishop Gordon earlier addressed the SVP AGM, telling members while the Church is facing challenges, internationally it has done more work with people on the fringe than any other organisation in the world.
He mandated the SVP to get young people involved to help move the organisation from the analogue to digital age. “We need their idealism. We need their energy. We need their ideas. We need their connectivity.” Archbishop Gordon directed all SVP conferences in parishes to make recruitment of youth a priority and not treat them as “window-dressing”.
He was confident in their impact, “[What] I have found about young people is when they are engaged and given a real way to participate in something that is really big, they rise to the occasion and do exceptionally good work.” The SVP was challenged to increase their young members at next year’s AGM.
Archbishop Gordon also challenged the SVP to go beyond just assisting persons with their most immediate needs to survive. “We not only give people a bag of groceries but we help them make a living. We not only give people some money for their food and for their rent…we help them look towards sustainable livelihoods.”
On another issue, he said the social problem of today is the refugee crisis and left the SVP members to reflect on the question Jesus answered, “Who is your neighbour?”.