In his homily on April 15, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the need for penance as a response to the abuse crisis:
“The pain of penance, that is to say of purification and of transformation, this pain is grace….”

I have to wonder how many thousands of times priests and religious participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and admitted to the crime of child sexual abuse and then were given absolution. It cheapens the notion of grace when these criminals were not required by their confessor to report to the authorities before receiving absolution. How else could they show true repentance? How else could they express a commitment to accepting responsibility for real personal change and the avoidance of future sins of abuse?

 Certain bishops, such as Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, have recommended not offering the Eucharist to those who have a public record of supporting abortion rights. Has anyone ever suggested not offering the sacrament of Reconciliation to those who have a public record of child abuse? Or to those who have privately confessed the crime of child abuse on multiple occasions but have refused to take public responsibility for these crimes? God’s grace is not the magical removal of guilt and responsibility, and the born should be offered at least the same protection as the unborn. Such selective imposition of restriction to a sacrament cheapens the idea of God’s grace, reducing it to a political weapon.

 To quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

“Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before … Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.”

Up until now the abusive priests, bishops and religious have been offered and have relied upon only a cheapened notion of grace. There has been no transformation. It is time for them to pay the cost; it is time to pluck out from our church those that have caused it to stumble.

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