The Limits of Dealing with Sexual Abuse in the Church

My blog is where I write my reflections on things I’ve read that have seemed important to me.  Sometimes I simply quote what I read without saying what the significance is to me.

Having done some work on my church’s policies and procedures related to sexual misconduct in the church, I did find a couple of questions and answers posted by Rachel Zoll of The Associated Press dated June 24, 2012, to be pertinent.

She wrote about the Philadelphia Roman Catholic monsignor who was convicted of child endangering for failing to do enough to prevent child abuse in Priest’s conviction is a first, will more follow?

The existence of sexual abuse within the church raises many questions for which the church needs to respond.  Two questions which Zoll addressed seemed particularly interesting to me:

Q: Why is it so difficult to successfully prosecute bishops and other church leaders who mishandled abuse claims?

A: Most of the abuse cases that have come to light in recent years involve allegations of wrongdoing from decades ago — far beyond the statutes of limitation for criminal charges and often for civil lawsuits. Since 2002, when the scandal broke wide open with one case in the Archdiocese of Boston, a few prosecutors have struck deals with local dioceses to avoid indictment, and eight grand juries have investigated how local dioceses responded to abuse claims. All the grand jury reports found evidence that church officials consistently protected accused clergy more than children. However, only one such report found enough evidence within time limits to prosecute a diocesan official: the Philadelphia grand jury investigation last year that led to Lynn’s conviction.

Q: If government authorities can’t prosecute the diocesan officials, can’t the church at least hold them responsible?

A: The toughened child safety policy the bishops enacted in 2002 contains a discipline plan for abusive priests, but not for the bishops who failed to report them to police. Only the pope has authority over bishops, and none has been forced out for mishandling abuse cases from decades ago.

A list of other blogs I’ve posted on church sexual misconduct with links to them can be found at Blogs on Church Sexual Misconduct.

What is prayer? (III)

This is the 7th blog in a series exploring various aspects of “prayer.”  The first blog is “Why Pray?” and the previous blog is What is prayer?  (II).

“Prayer is by nature a dialogue and a union of man with God.  Its effect is to hold the world together.”  (St. John Climacus – d. 649AD-  quoted in THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, p 48)

In the Orthodox Tradition, prayer obviously is not merely an activity in which Christians occasionally engage.  Prayer, as St. John Climacus says is “a union of man with God” (theosis) whose “effect is to hold the world together.”

Think about that.

Think about what it means for your prayer life.  If we conceive of prayer as presenting a wish list to God, or a shopping list, or a set of demands, then we will never enter into that prayer which is a union between God and humanity.  If we treat God like our personal servant, valet, Genie or Santa Claus whose job it is to answer our prayers (meaning “accede to our demands”), then we never approach union with God.  The reality is God is Lord, and we are supposed to be His servants, not He ours.  We do pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” not “My will be done on earth and in heaven.” 

As noted in the previous blogs,  prayer as a way of life, as the life to which we Christians are invited, is more than just an activity that we occasionally consciously engage in.  If our life is oriented toward our Savior, then all we do becomes prayer, and our lives become part of the transfiguration which creation so eagerly awaits.

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”  (Romans 8:18-24)

“The Kingdom of heaven is within each of us.  To pray is, quite simply, to enter into this inner Kingdom of our heart, and there to stand before God, conscious of His indwelling presence; to ‘pray without ceasing’ is to do this constantly.  Although the full glory of this Kingdom is revealed to but few in this present age, we can all discover at any rate some part of its riches.  The door is before us and the key in in our hands.”  (Bishop Kallistos Ware in ABBA: THE TRADITION OF ORTHODOXY IN THE WEST, p 32-33)

Prayer forms us, informs us, reforms us and transforms us for it is uniting ourselves – heart, mind, soul, body and strength – to the Holy Trinity.  We cooperate with God.  Prayer is synergy in which we become doers of God’s will: “on earth as it is in heaven.”

“Prayer is a struggle for men, both in church and in solitude, even though prayer is a ladder that lifts man up from the dust and an animal existence to God.  But He who, in the flesh, stood with other men at the bottom of the ladder of life, and in spirit at its top, went joyfully to prayer in the synagogue, and spent whole nights in solitude at prayer.”  (St. Nikolai Velimirovic – d. 1956AD  HOMILIES  Vol 1, p 86)

Prayer is also work, It is not a passive enterprise but one which requires our energy, will, desire, and strength.  Prayer is not God alone, or Jesus alone.  It is the Holy Spirit praying in us, with us, and for us.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”   (Romans 8:26-28)

We are God’s fellow workers (1 Corinthians 3:9) who are to work out our salvation with God (Philippians 2:9).

Next:  What is Prayer? (IV)