“Behind this, there is Satan.”
– Pope Francis
Listening to Archbishop Coleridge (Brisbane, Australia) speaking earlier today about the outcomes of the meeting taking place at the Vatican these past few days, he was asked how it is that men who generally do such good can, in the arena of the abuse inflicted on minors, perpetrate such grave evil. He spoke explicitly of evil and said he cannot understand how this can be. He went on to speak about the need for ‘conversion’ for the Church.
Speaking at Mass to end the meeting, attended by one hundred and ninety presidents of Episcopal Conferences from around the world, our Holy Father Pope Francis hit the metaphorical nail squarely on the head in answering that same question.
The Pope spoke about the action of the hand of evil, influencing consecrated men (and women), so that they become tools in the hand of Satan. He also warned us very clearly that if we fail to take account of this aspect of what has been happening in the Church, then the risk is that we will not find an effective solution to the problem. The Holy Father said –
“Consecrated persons, chosen by God to guide souls to salvation, let themselves be dominated by their human frailty or sickness and thus become tools of Satan. In abuse, we see the hand of the evil that does not spare even the innocence of children. No explanations suffice for these abuses involving children. We need to recognize with humility and courage that we stand face to face with the mystery of evil.
So what would be the existential ‘meaning’ of this criminal phenomenon? In the light of its human breadth and depth, it is none other than the present-day manifestation of the spirit of evil. If we fail to take account of this dimension, we will remain far from the truth and lack real solutions..
The time has come, then, to work together to eradicate this evil..
Finally, I would like to stress the important need to turn this evil into an opportunity for purification.”
There are certainly many social, psychological and behavioural reasons for what has happened; but this notion of the direct influence of Satan is core – not only to understanding, but to overcoming. Rules, regulations, promises – all have been tried and still the problem is there.
While the problems of abuse exists in many areas of life, it takes on an especially horrific character in the Church, because it is utterly contradictory to what the Church proclaims to the world. Because of this, the moral authority and the credibility of the Church have been enormously damaged and her very mission has been placed in grave peril.
Worse still, so many people have now abandoned the Church as a result of this evil – many, because they have been directly hurt by the actions of those within the Church, either because of abuse or because of the efforts made to keep it secret; and many others, because they are horrified by what they have seen and heard the Church do.
If what the Holy Father says is accurate (and I absolutely believe that it is) – then what should our response be?
The Holy Father offers many suggestions, covering a variety of areas, including legal obligations. I concur with all of these but for the purpose of this page, I will confine myself to suggestions which are necessarily spiritual in nature.
Here are my suggestions:
Live the Catholic Faith. Make it part of the very essence of your being – not simply a demand, a chore, something we do for an hour each Sunday. Live it, and live it fully. Take part fully in the Sacramental life of the Church. Witness to the Faith you profess in everything you do, everything you say, so that you might be an example to others. Encourage others to do likewise.
Whenever and wherever the local Bishops celebrate penitential liturgies, all the faithful of that Diocese should and must accompany him, regardless of whether or not they have any direct involvement in the scourge of abuse – for this affects the Church in it’s entirety and we are all part of that Church.
Every day, pray explicitly and intently for our Holy Father the Pope, for the Bishops, for Priests and Deacons, and for Religious. This includes those guilty before God of having harmed others, as well as those who every day are scourged by the world in spite of their innocence. Pray for them all, daily.
Prayerfully read the Scriptures every day; the Word of God is alive and it is very, very powerful. Encourage others to read the Scriptures along with you.
Pray. Pray constantly, without ceasing, and in perfect confidence that the Lord can change this evil into an opportunity for the good of the Church and, by extension, for the good of the whole world. Encourage others to join you in prayer.
In particular, pray the Rosary every single day.
Return to the practice of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary; both of these devotions are given by Heaven for very good reasons, and they offer a plenitude of divine grace. Encourage others to embrace these two devotions.
Embrace the devotion to the Divine Mercy, which is perfectly suited for the Church and the world in these days, as it specifically begs the mercy of God “for us and for the whole world”. Encourage others to embrace this devotion.
Do all of this in union with the enire Church, and offer it all for the specific intention of the purification and sanctification of the Church.
Perhaps, if enough of us do this consistently, courageously and with perseverance, then we will be responding as our Holy Father requests of us, and we can be sure that our prayers and sacrifices will draw down graces and mercy from Heaven, for the Church, for the world and for every one of us.
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.