Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In these recent days, we feel again, with growing intensity, the pain and shame, because of the many revelations of sexual misconduct, most particularly those done against minors but not only minors, committed by a significant number of clerics, a number of bishops, and by consecrated persons. The pain is intensified by reported cover ups of these abuses and crimes.
The reports on the sexual misconduct by a cardinal in the U.S., is one that has brought more intensity to the pain and shame now being endured by the Church. The recent testimony and revelation by a former Apostolic Nuncio regarding sexual misconduct and how this is being dealt with, has brought more painful questions that obviously need urgent answers that will show us the truth.
This brings to mind the admission of the bishops here in the Philippines, in our recent July 2018 CBCP Statement: “We admit humbly that we are a Church of sinners, called to conversion and holiness at the same time. We bow in shame when we hear of abuses being committed by some of our fellow Church leaders – especially those ordained to “act in the person of Christ.”
Our Holy Father, in his recent Letter to the People of God, said: “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults” (Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God, Vatican City, 20 August 2018).
The present painful situation is a good occasion for us bishops to revisit and review the existing guidelines that we have for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, and with renewed resolve and commitment to implement them and not cover them up.
The situation also calls us to something important. It reminds us to go to the Lord in prayer. And for this, Pope Francis suggests that we do prayer and fasting. “The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel” (Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God, Vatican City, 20 August 2018). This is something that we can organize and do in our dioceses and parishes, in our religious communities, and in our BECs.
I would like to end with this beautiful prayer:
“Grant, we pray, almighty God, that your Church may always remain that holy people, formed as one by the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which manifests to the world the Sacrament of your holiness and unity and leads it to the perfection of your charity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (Mass for the Church, Collect, Option C).
+ ROMULO G. VALLES, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
30 August 2018