When the Church Abuses: A Lament

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(Artwork: “Suffer the Children” by Janice Nabors Raiteri)

As I hold in my thoughts yesterday’s report of the grand jury’s investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in six Pennsylvania dioceses, I am crying out to God with a lament that feels all-consuming.

Three hundred alleged “predator priests” in the dioceses were investigated and named in the report.

More than a thousand victims, according to the report, can be identified through church records, although many officials believe the number of victims to be much higher than what can be officially determined.

I grieve with outrage over the systematic violence that this report illuminates.

My heart breaks over vulnerable souls violated by the very leaders who had been entrusted with their spiritual and physical care.

I weep over shattered lives, devastated faith, and a broken church (of all denominations, since what happens in one part of the Body of Christ happens to the entirety of the body).

I mourn over a woefully fallen institution that has too often overlooked or even protected both perpetrators and patterns of injustice. (Again, I am speaking about the church in all of its denominations, since ecclesiastical abuse is in no way limited to Catholicism.)

Where is God in this agonizing mess?

I believe that God is where God always is.

Right here.

Right here, intimately and restoratively present with the victims, embracing them with the tenderness that they have been unfairly denied, all the while allowing divine tears to commingle with theirs.

Right here, allowing the divine heart to experience every portion of the agony and anguish of unthinkable abuse.

God is right here, graciously, attentively, and beautifully. Always has been. Always will be.

If we trust what the Bible tells us—that Jesus has the supernatural capacity to experience personally the pain of the atrocities perpetrated against “even the least of these”—then we are right to believe that Jesus was there during every abusive moment, cradling the victims in protective arms while screaming out at the perpetrators, “No! These are my beloved children, and I will not allow your violence toward them to be the end of their story!”

I add my voice to the repentance that all the church’s people must express in the aftermath of these revelations. I also implore all those connected to the church’s ministry to commit themselves both to “Safe Sanctuary” standards and practices and to an ever-deepening diligence when it comes to the care that we offer to all people, children and adults.

Lord, have mercy…

…But, please God, let it be the kind of mercy that unsettles us, brings us to our knees, and inspires us to become a better church, where all people of all ages are valued, cherished, and protected.

Lord, have mercy.

8 thoughts on “When the Church Abuses: A Lament

  1. Powerful! Thank you friend. Your lament and expression reaches far beyond the confines of this alleged abuse and touches upon the entirety of abuse wether ecclesiastical or not. Tearfully praising Jesus for His ever living arm of protection and healing.

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  2. This morning as I read scripture, the Holy Spirit led me straight to 1 Kings 15:12, in which Asa, son of Abijam, King of Judah, “banned the perverted persons from the land… .” A footnote in my NKJV identifies the perverted persons using the Hebrew word “gedeshim” which literally means “temple male prostitute.” I am dumbfounded. Did this same type of purge take place 3,000 years ago?

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  3. Our hearts break, our minds reel, our tempers flare, our tears fall as we fall on our faces before our Redeemer. Make He help us to seek His message in the midst of our mess. May we pray for the wounded and the transgressors.

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  4. Eric, I think you have expressed what we all feel in your heartfelt words. May we all lift up in prayer all those victims over so many years whose lives have been impacted by unconscionable acts of people they should have been able to trust. It does indeed have an effect on us all. God bless you for sharing the words God gave you to share with us!
    Blessings & Peace,
    Ralph Culp

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  5. Dear Pastor Eric, I am an official Gracious Graffiti blogger now. I look forward to reading about your ever-deepening journey regularly. Be well, my friend. May God continue to bless you each and every day. Praise God.

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