Writing of her own experience as a victim of sexual abuse — and the continuing revelations in a seriously wounded Church — Elizabeth Scalia offers this bold challenge to a wounded church:
As someone who fully understands the effects of sexual abuse on a child—who knows what it is like to walk daily with the detritus that lingers within the shattered sense of self, the destroyed trust, the shuttered feelings that try to keep it all at bay—I read these stories of Church-wide abuse heaped upon the young by priests and religious and even layfolk (decade after decade with near-impunity), and then I read Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, and I wonder when, finally, the leadership of this Church will do what it must do to make amends.
And by amends I do not mean defrockings, fines, settlements, and recompense—just and necessary as they are. I mean the supernatural thing, the penitential thing that must be done and (because so much was hidden for so long) must be performed within the sight of the whole world:
There needs to be a penitential liturgy.
St. Peter’s Square needs to be filled, even to overflowing, with the East-facing, nose-and-bellies-to-the-ground prostrations of every living bishop and cardinal, from the Bishop of Rome on down, and joined by priests and religious and deacons and layfolk too. The world needs to see the princes of the Church brought to that low, narrow gate—their splendid robes marred with dirt as they seek it. The whole world needs to hear them praying the Confiteor—begging forgiveness before God and the world for “what we have done; for what we have failed to do, through our faults, through our faults, through our most grievous faults.” Satellites should be bringing us views of a Church on its face in every diocese, every parish, praying in one voice, “Forgive us our sins!”