April 14, 2005

David A. Mittell Jr.: Church's healthy second thoughts

Providence Journal


HISTORY CAN TURN with world-famous events or with all but unnoticed events, whose significance may not be appreciated until many years later. I think the tide of a terrible period of recent history -- the discovery of widespread priestly sexual abuse in the Boston Roman Catholic archdiocese -- may have finally turned a notch, at least, with both types of events.

The world-famous event was the death of Pope John Paul II. The life story of one who saw some of his childhood friends killed in World War II or exterminated in the Holocaust, and who, from ages 25 to 69, spent his adult life sustaining a Christian church whose right of existence was denied by a central tenet of communism, reminds us that history is dynamic, not static.

Fascism and communism were abuses of power on a worldwide scale, but they were not inevitable. Against the ethically superior idea of human liberty they were indefensible intellectually and, eventually, defenseless politically. The same is certain to be true of the abuse of power that has perverted part of the Catholic priesthood.

John Paul's passing served to remind the concert of sexual-abuse victims, their families, fellow parishioners and innocent priests of one exemplary priestly life: of a man who repented the historic sins of Catholicism in synagogues and Orthodox churches, and who embraced his own would-be assassin as a human brother.

John Paul's example begs all of us to understand that there can be good life after trauma. The completion of his life after long, cheerfully borne, duty-filled suffering invites the concert of victims, families, parishioners and innocent priests to help end their own suffering by forgiving the Church.

Posted by kshaw at April 14, 2005 06:05 AM