A collegial Church stands for justice and healing. Those were the words of Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who gave an intervention on this the 2nd day of the meeting which is devoted to accountability. The Cardinal said that, in order to address the scourge of sexual abuse in the Church, a path of “collegiality and synodality” was needed. The Cardinal explained how synodality can truly be lived, by incorporating all decisions and the resulting measures at national, regional, diocesan and even parochial levels in the Church.
Collegiality essential context for addressing wounds of abuse
Addressing the issue of Collegiality, Cardinal Gracias emphasized that it was, “an essential context for addressing wounds of abuse inflicted on victims and on the Church at large.”
The point is clear, the Indian Cardinal stressed, “no bishop may say to himself, “this problem of abuse in the Church does not concern me, because things are different in my part of the world.” We are each responsible for the whole church. We hold accountability and responsibility together. We extend our concern beyond our local Church to embrace all the churches with which we are in communion”, he said.
The Cardinal noted that, in taking up a collegial and collective sense of accountability and responsibility, there was a need to acknowledge the diversity and universality of the People of God, but also the unity of the flock of Christ.
Addressing the challenge of Sexual Abuse in the Church, he said, “the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults in the Church reveals a complex web of interconnected factors including, as causes: psychopathology, sinful moral decisions, social environments that enable abuse to happen, and often inadequate or plainly harmful institutional and pastoral responses, or a lack of response.”
Dealing with abuse, underlined Cardinal Gracias, “represents a complex and multifaceted challenge, perhaps unprecedented in the Church’s history because of today’s communications and global connections. This makes collegiality even more decisive in our current situation.”
“If we use the elements of collegiality as a lens for viewing and addressing the crisis, we can perhaps begin to make some progress, we can see the way forward”, he said. The road ahead may not bring a quick or definitive resolution, he added, but we need to begin courageously and persevere resolutely together.
Justice, Healing and Pilgrimage
Nearing the end of his intervention, the Cardinal reflected on three key themes: Justice, Healing and Pilgrimage.
With regard to justice, he said, “a fundamental task that belongs to all of us individually and collegially is to restore justice to those who have been violated.”
In addition to standing for justice, a collegial Church stands for healing, the Archbishop of Bombay noted. While he stressed that healing must reach out to the victims of abuse, he also said, it must “extend to others who are affected including the communities whose trust was betrayed or severely tested.”
“For effective healing to happen, there must be clear, transparent, and consistent communication from a collegial Church to victims, members of the Church, and society at large”, he said.
As we face the tragedy of sexual abuse in the Church, as we encounter the suffering of victims, the Cardinal continued, “we are never more conscious of our status as the pilgrim people of God…To be the pilgrim people of God means that we are a community that is called to be continuously in repentance and continuous in discernment... We need to seek pardon.”
Courage and Fortitude
Concluding his address, Cardinal Gracias said that in order “to take up collegiality to address our accountability and responsibility, we must first claim, or better reclaim, our identity in the apostolic college united with Peter’s successor, and we must do so with humility and openness.” He also stressed the importance of summoning courage and fortitude in these times, as well as embracing the path of practical discernment.
Finally, he said, we must “be willing to pay the price of following God’s will in uncertain and painful circumstances.”
For more information on the Meeting on The Protection of Minors in the Church and for Cardinal Gracias’ full address www.pbc2019.org