I promised myself I wouldn’t write about the abuse crisis again this week. But if you are in the United States, as I am, there’s no escaping it. It’s all anybody in the Church is talking about, including Pennsylvania’s bishops who met last week not far from the conference I was attending.
I spoke to one of them. He is committed to doing something to address the crisis but is not sure how to equip his priests to do so. He has already reinstated the traditional Ember Days and mandated days of fasting in his diocese. He was personally named in the grand jury report and mauled for his handling of some of the situations in his diocese. He claims that the cases predate his tenure and he had limited scope to influence their outcome. He is facing calls for his resignation.
There is enormous anger among good and faithful Catholics. While large numbers of cases date back a long time, almost everyone I speak to knows at least one priest who has been revealed as an abuser in the last 20 years. One woman told me that her last three parish priests had all been removed because of allegations which were later substantiated.
The same bishop who called to discuss how to respond to the crisis has recently closed two thirds of the parishes in a once massively thriving and populous diocese. The vocations he needs for the future will have to be men of outstanding faith, courage and integrity to survive what is happening here.
For reasons of convenience, I went for Sunday Mass at an ordinariate parish in a town which used to have eight Catholic churches, but now has only two. The ordinariate church is attractive, with fine stained glass and statues and a sanctuary as the builders intended it, with a raised high altar and the tabernacle in the centre.
I had never been to Mass in the ordinariate usage before, but it was without doubt the most dignified and reverent celebration of the liturgy I have encountered in the United States. Some of this was due to the rite which was a rather compelling mixture of the Tridentine Rite and a few elements from the Book of Common Prayer, such as the Prayer of Humble Access. I have to say that the archaic diction and sober piety of Cranmer’s prayer book have always left me cold because they sound as though God is being addressed as a Tudor monarch.
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