Saturday Essay header picture

 

 

 

September 29, 2018

A Question of Faith

Last week, my family and I went to Sunday Mass in a neighbouring parish. It was a beautiful morning and the church was packed with people of all ages. But, as the priest began his homily, a sudden gloom fell across the congregation. His topic was the recent appalling revelations of systemic clerical child abuse from America, Chile, Australia, Germany, Holland and, quite shockingly, Argentina where Pope Francis was Cardinal until his election to the papacy in 2013. Thousands of children were abused by thousands of Catholic clerics while the official Church apparently turned a blind eye. Mirroring our own bitter experience here in Ireland, it seems there was a widespread culture of abuse that stretched right across the globe. The priest didn’t pull his punches. ‘The Devil’, he said, had got right to the heart of the Church, had corrupted cardinals, bishops and priests. There was, he continued, no other way of explaining how such evil had managed to work its way into the Church’s bloodstream. It wasn’t simply that a few clerics had turned bad, but that countless thousands across the world had embraced the diabolical. That is why, he concluded, the Irish Church must continue to implement its stringent child-protection policies. Children and vulnerable adults must always feel safe in every church, in every parish in Ireland. Nothing else would suffice. It was a powerful homily that made no excuses for evil. For me, as a parent, however, it was agony. Looking around at my boys, I could not help but ask what impact this would have on their faith and their beautiful innocence. Our eldest is aged 13, has served Mass for six years, and has a deep and powerful faith. He is prayerful and profoundly sensitive. In everything, he tries his best to conform to Gospel values. Our middle son is ten, and has only recently started serving Mass. Like his older brother, he has taken at face value what we have told him about his religion. He is blessed with a rare purity that shines through whenever we speak about God or the Church. But, as we listened to that difficult homily, I could see the pain etched on their faces…Read More