The Northbrook (Illinois) Catholic Community, made up of St. Norbert and our Lady of the Brook churches, has demonstrated how the clergy should have responded to the sex scandal that is dividing congregations.
Father Dan Folwaczny wrote a powerful and courageous essay for the parish bulletin titled, "The Sins of the Fathers." How could this have happened, he asked.
How could a man press his nose to the marble on the day of his ordination and not feel the gravity and the sacredness of his charge? How could he dare to promise to pray for his people, when he meant to prey upon them? How could he resolve to be united more closely with Christ, who poured himself out for us, when he intended only to drain live from others?
Father Dan proceeded to tell the story of how Eli knew that his sons were abusing their priestly powers, but gave them only a slap on the wrist. He failed in this to protect his people, a grave sin in God's eyes.
God's punishment was visited not only on his sons and Eli. But also on the nation of Israel who lost the Ark of the Covenant in battle. Is it fair that the whole people should pay for the sins of others? Father Dan replied:
But this is the model that God has given us. To bear each other's burdens. To grieve with the members of His body who are grieving. And even to pray and fast and repent on behalf of others. To pray that all of us may somehow be spared from the destruction that is owed to the Church through the crimes and failings of certain priests and bishops.
Father Dan's repentance includes 40 days of fasting and praying the Rosary for every day of September, the month of Our Lady of Sorrows. But he didn't stop there.
He and the parish's beloved pastor, Father Bob Heinz, recently joined parishioners for a service praying for the victims, the abusers and the church. The two priests prostrated themselves before the altar in repentance. They and Deacon Michael Lewis knelt as congregants sprinkled ashes on their heads.
Some might wonder: Why must they suffer? To answer, answer this question: Why did Christ, who was without sin, choose to suffer for us, to wash away our sins? The answer is love.
The Northbrook service is but one of at least nine "novenas" conducted at various parishes in prayers for "healing, justice and hope." They will include a mass celebrated by Cardinal Blase Cupich.
The cardinal and Pope Francis have been taking their shots for appearing not to care enough about the victims and the crisis facing the church. I'll leave to others to pull the trigger or mount a defense. But sadly, for me at least, that disappointing impression was reinforced when I picked up my copy of the Chicago Catholic, the archdiocese's official newspaper.
Even though church leaders have spoken about the dangers of "clergyism"--putting the focus on the ordained clergy at the center of the church--how else then to describe the Sept. 9 edition of the Chicago Catholic? It announced the naming of three new archdiocesan auxiliary bishops--a good thing. Well, it was more than an announcement. The first 26 pages of the 44-page newspaper were devoted entirely and exclusively to their appointment, in excruciating detail. A story about the Northbrook service was buried in the back.
lt was my last straw and what prompted me to write. This was clergyism in spades. When the church is being ripped apart, when people are leaving (although I don't get how staying away from the Eucharist accomplishes anything), when the faith and commitment by the hierarchy is deeply questioned, when believers are in pain, this exorbitant gala of three new bishops is a painful reminder of how the hierarchy wallows in self-awareness.
Does the hierarchy truly understand what his happening in
their our church? Has the hierarchy forgotten that the true church is not the institution--the Vatican, vestments, high offices and the rest--but the Mystical Body of Christ? Like Israel being punished for the sins of Eli and his sons, the institutional church has and will suffer. The Catholic Community of Northbrook as will other parishes show us the way.
Father Dan's essay is here (on page 3)
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