We all know in our minds that some day our loved ones and we are going to die. And yet, when death comes to our household, we are never fully prepared for this. In terms of its impact upon us, the death of persons who mean a lot to us is more pervasive than we could have envisioned or imagined ahead of time. We are devastated, stunned and sometimes even get disoriented.
Attacks and assaults on our lives as members of the Church and as citizens can be likened to the reality of death. History teaches us that acts of treachery and betrayal have been part of the human community ever since and as a result of the Fall of mankind into sin. In a sense, we shouldn’t be surprised when they occur. Sad to say, they will continue to happen.
As true as this is, we are devastated when acts of treachery and betrayal occur in our midst. As Americans, we were not prepared physically, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually for the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11th, 2001.
As Catholics, we are stunned at the more recent reports of the sexual abuse of minors by persons in high leadership positions in the Church. How could persons in whom such a high degree of trust has been placed act as they did? We are outraged and decry what has happened. As the Body of Christ in the world, we do all that we can to offer help and support to persons who have been abused and to their families. Dioceses around the world, including our own Diocese of Toledo, have developed policies and guidelines which hopefully will serve to eliminate the occurrence of sexual abuse, particularly the sexual abuse of minors. As Church, we strive to do all that we can in order to prevent heinous crimes of this nature from ever happening again.
In our determination to make our country and the Church safe settings in which to reside and to develop, we need to be sensitive to the matter of basic trust. Unless we are on guard, we can be instruments in and through whom Satan would work to grow a pervasive sense of distrust in the Church and in the world. When I became a Catholic in 1972, I was deeply impressed and inspired by the spirit of trust that I perceived in the Catholic Church at that time. In our rightful determination to work hard to prevent the sexual abuse of minors from ever happening again, let’s strive to do this without weakening and destroying that basic sense of trust that is at the heart of the life of the Church. Becoming a faith community in which a spirit of distrust and suspicion grows can be very harmful to the spiritual health of the Church.
We keep the spirit of trust alive in the Church and in the world as in response to living in the spirit of prayer, we assume the best about every other person. Our Lord indicates a context for doing this when He says that we need to be “as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” A customs officer illustrated this kind of trust for me as I was reentering the U.S. after a visit to Canada. On the one hand, in regard to revised regulations, he had to look at my passport. At the same time, he exuded a welcoming, trusting spirit. As a result of my encounter with him, I was glad and grateful to be back in the U.S.A.
In response to the sexual abuse crisis, the Church has rightfully developed extensive policies and guidelines for relating to others, particularly with minors. Let’s observe these within the bigger setting of trust. Trust is a gift that the Lord offers and deepens within those who continue to participate faithfully in the Eucharist.
As we grow into a God-inspired spirit of trust in relating to one another, we will be able to relate to the much-needed policies and guidelines that have been developed for the protection of youth “as a yoke that is easy and as a burden that is light.”
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Nelson Beaver - Pastor