Time to Say: I Am sorry!
In the face of the ceaseless revelations of abuse and their cover-up in the Church, NANA AMPONSAH FRANCIS OP reflects that this is a Kairos moment for the Church, a time for grace.
I am sorry! The scandal of systematic sexual abuse at the hands of priests and obvious cover-ups by some bishops is overwhelmingly alarming and disheartening. It breaks one’s heart. It is so hard to hold back one’s tears. It causes one to ask many questions. Why did God permit this for many years? Why has the Church been quiet?
I am sorry!
Will this scandal make us hate the Church? I think, No! This is rather a moment of grace. This is a time of purification. It is a “Kairos” moment for the Church to make persistent universal apologies and seek repentance for past failures. Undoubtedly, the starting point is to say: I am sorry!
The Church should give life and hope. She must defend children and the helpless. She must act as a voice for the voiceless in orchestrating the path for a just and a friendly world. The Church has done so in many ways, thank God. Nonetheless, the alarming reports of systematic sexual abuses confirm that the Church also failed give that some of her ministers brought death, exploited children, and took advantage of the voiceless. It is enough! Let all who speak in the name of the Church’s hierarchy cry out saying: I am sorry!
Pope Francis has cried out several times seeking forgiveness saying: I am sorry. Where it was possible, he met with victims and said with the Church: I am sorry! I am sorry that I have not lived as a true servant of this Holy Institution. I am sorry that I have abused your children. I am sorry that I preyed on the weak ones who came to me for strength. I am sorry that I kept the voiceless devoid of even the little voice she had. I am sorry!
Where sin abounds, so much grace is also experienced. It is also a moment of profound grace to bring to the notice of the world that priests are humans who are striving, like anyone else, to hold on to the path of holiness in service to Christ and His Body, the Church.
More often, priests give help and support to people and, very few people remember to help, pray for and support their priests. Commonly, priests are clothed and presented as men full of strength who have overcome human weaknesses. No! They are weak! The nature of their ministry sometimes hides the weakness in them. Priests should take advantage of this moment to courageously wear the cloth of humility after the example of Jesus who is meek and humble. They should draw from wells of that rare courage to talk about their needs for healing and strength. They should embrace shame and disgrace in an inspiring way to say: I am sorry.
Never has the Church been so full of grace as now. It is so much grace to say: I am sorry. It is so much grace to allow comprehensive investigations into her failures of the past. It is so much grace to give back to victims the voice she took away from them. It is so much grace to say, bring your stories about my weaknesses – I want to hear them- I am so hungry to listen to you with remorse and repentance. It is so much grace to say never again will I walk the path that silences those I have wounded. It is so much grace to ask: would you depart from me because I have sinned? I am sorry!
Let us re-enkindle hope. Each dark moment is declared dark because light is accessible. Each failure is known because it was, after all, a learning experience. Each wound that hurts enables one to cherish the gift of healing. When clouded with so much shadow that threatens our hope and faith, let us go to Jesus and say “Whom shall we go to? You have the words of eternal life.”
Eternal life, surely, is also accessed in a humble plea for mercy: I am sorry!