By Rev. John M. Staak
The call of God changes for each time and place. For our time in this area of Western New York, we have received God’s call to enter a gut-wrenching period of healing, not just for the Catholic Church, but for all of society.
The seminarians, deacon candidates, and lay men and women who study for ministry at Christ the King Seminary have heard this call and are responding in faith. They are aware their response calls for compassionate listening and humble witness so that the good news of Christ’s resurrection may heal and creatively transform our wounded world.
“A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51)
Far from running from the abuse crisis, the people of God are carrying the burden of the past infidelity of some previously trusted ministers. The events call us to a communal contrition for the wounds the perpetrators inflicted. This may not seem fair to the faithful who live exemplary lives, but as a community of faith, we share in suffering as well as in healing.
This burden pales in comparison with the burden suffering survivors of abuse have had to carry. The survivors who have shared their stories and brought to light these abuses, sometimes outright crimes, prove to be catalysts of a much-needed purification and healing for all of us.
Agents of healing: The courageous witness of survivors to truth and healing inspires all of us to be agents of healing in a world scarred by broken trusts and pain. To carry out this ministry of healing, we are challenged to listen more attentively and compassionately, as many are already doing. It requires constant education for the prevention of abuse, as well as due diligence in sifting truth from falsehood. Substantiated allegations demand that we act swiftly against perpetrators to promote the healing process. False allegations, however, only serve to re-victimize genuine survivors and impede healing, thus exacerbating abuse.
Call to wider healing: We find ourselves in anguish, even turmoil, during this journey of healing, but it is a long, difficult journey we need to make. In undertaking it, God calls us to become prophetic witnesses to wider society.
Victims of abuse – sexual, physical, emotional – exist in families, institutions and workplaces everywhere. The time has come for us to listen more closely to them and help them become healthy survivors. We are in a time of contrition, of healing, and of emerging renewed life. Our support and accompaniment of one another will help transform us, the church, and the world in which we live.
Rev. John M. Staak is the religious superior of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Holy Angels on Buffalo’s West Side and interim president-rector and associate professor of theology at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora.