Follow the Holy Spirit where we may not want to go

Originally Appeared in : 9818-8/30/18

The release of the Grand Jury report from several dioceses in Pennsylvania, coming on the heels of Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation over alleged abuse, has shaken the Church to its core. As someone who’s worked in ministry either as a volunteer or employee for almost three decades, I find myself struggling to respond. I feel as if so much has been said already, and yet none of it seems adequate. Nonetheless, as Catholics, we are expected to respond.


Perhaps silence, for now, is healthy and ultimately healing, but silence implies complicity.


First, let me say that silence isn’t always complicity. Silence in the presence of suffering is sometimes all we can offer. But we must be present to the suffering, even when we have no words.


Being present means reading stories and details we would prefer not to read.


Being present means acknowledging the pain of the victims without attempting to diminish it.


Being present means feeling anger at those who exploited innocence for personal gratification.


Being present means feeling shame and horror at the abuses of power that allowed those in leadership to preserve reputations of the Institution and predators while marginalizing and dismissing the ones who were preyed upon.


Being present means avoiding excuses.


Being present means recognizing that while the victims must be our priority, all the Body of Christ is suffering right now. The faithful who love their Church are suffering; among them are the priests whose vocation has been cast in shadow.


Part of being present means not trying to “find closure” quickly. Just as we may need to understand what not to say or do in the presence of a grieving family, we may benefit from reminders of what we should best avoid.


  1. We should avoid a defensive posture. Even when we feel the Church is being unfairly treated, we must recognize that defensiveness does not move us toward reform and healing.
  2. We should not use the current horror to malign those who identify as homosexual. The majority of homosexuals do not prey on children; just as the majority of heterosexuals do not.
  3. We should never downplay the horror of the abuse nor cast doubt on the stories that have been deemed credible.


Along the same line, on a more positive note, we can do the following:


  1. Insist on transparency and accountability.
  2. Support those who are suffering in our words, deeds, and prayer.
  3. Acknowledge, show gratitude to, and join the efforts of those in our midst, clergy and laity, who live the Gospel and who, like Christ, bring healing, peace, justice, and love to God’s people.


The Holy Spirit will lead the Church out of this darkness, but we must be willing to admit that what we have done in the past is not enough.


The Church must be willing to let the Spirit guide us where we may not want to go.


Mary Hood Hart is a freelance writer and educator living in Pittsboro, NC. She can be reached at

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