Elizabeth Scalia sat through most of the public sessions (so we wouldn’t have to) and offers this assessment over at Our Sunday Visitor:
What struck me, repeatedly, was that the vivacity one would expect from a living Church only seemed to truly show itself when invited members of the laity rose to speak. And then, it surged.
There was real liveliness and evident joy amid frank expressions of frustration when two young adults, Rudy Delaney and Cecelia Flores, spoke to cultural diversity in the Church. As Dehaney brought up his love of the Gospel music so expressive to his African American heritage, and the dearth of it found within Catholic experience, I almost expected him to burst into song through the strength of his passion. Voicing gratitude for the attention of the bishops, Flores described the joy she has experienced through worship and church participation with other Catholics who are Hispanic or are of other ethnic heritages, and her hope that younger Catholics of diverse backgrounds and cultures can model the sort of community they hope to build within the Church. The room bounced.
A more solemn yet still powerful spark arose with the presentation of another layperson. Mark Joseph Williams, a survivor of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and special adviser to Cardinal Joseph Tobin of the Newark archdiocese, spoke of the need for our bishops — indeed, for the whole Church — to do more to protect children and young adults from predators in positions of spiritual power and influence. Marking the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Dallas Charter with gratitude, he offered hopes that the work begun would continue, that the Charter would continue to evolve and “that you will keep an unwavering commitment to hear the voices of the victims, and the survivors in and out of the pew.”
Williams also seemed to gently call for a clear expression of contrition from Church leadership: “We must heed Jesus’ command, ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ I believe this means weeping to cleanse our sinful ways, as it has meant for me to rise from the abuse. …”
Following Williams’ assertion that the fruit of synodality “is realized through grace, especially out of suffering,” Cardinal Tobin reflected on what we had just heard. He spoke well, and if his own energy seemed low, one suspects it was out of respect for the gravity of all that is authentic and real about this ever-present wound to the Church.
I was struck by two things: first, by Tobin’s aspect of humility as he expressed gratitude for the witness of Williams and other victims, and also spoke about his own pain and sense of sorrow in the face of the 2018 McCarrick revelations and the grand jury report out of Pennsylvania — both of which hit Catholics like a one-two punch to the solar plexus and left us reeling in revulsion and grief; and second, by one phrase near the end of his reflection: “Listening to the Word of God, I hear shrieks of pain as a person names the torment and the tormentor. There have been meetings that showed me that I personally could do nothing for the person who just left my office.”
Well, I had to disagree, and I still do.