According to the Jesuit poet G.M. Hopkins, the “grandeur” of God flames out in the world and in nature.  Hopkins believed that, despite our destructive ways, humankind cannot destroy the presence of God’s grace in nature, renewed by the Holy Spirit each day at dawn. In a similar vein, I believe that the sins of the Catholic leaders cannot destroy the power of God’s grace being experienced today in the faith and hope of so many Catholics.

Thousands of Catholics are committed to a church in which the priestly vocations of women are treated with equal respect to the priestly vocations of men, and in which a life of celibacy is not a pre-requisite for a life of priestly ministry.

This is a time for renewal, a new dawn for our Church.  The momentum for change is building at the grass-roots level, the people of God.  All the disenfranchised need a voice; all the abused and betrayed deserve to be heard.  And the journey forward will not be easy.

But what about the abusers in our church? Can’t a priest be forgiven and receive the grace of God to overcome his compulsion to abuse children? As Elizabeth Dreyer eloquently expresses in Manifestations of Grace, grace has the power to transform, to bring life out of death, hope out of despair. I firmly believe in God’s grace and that I am alive only through the power of God’s grace. God’s grace is not in question. The issue, however, is not God’s grace, but the power of the human person to remain open and respond to that grace.

Repentance is not enough; reception of the sacraments is not enough. Neither personal repentance nor communal sacraments have the power to change a sexual disorder.  Our bishops made this assumption in the past with horrific results, But now it should be clear to them: credibly accused pedophile priests must be taken out of ministry, regardless of statutes of limitations.

As a survivor who still considers herself a Catholic, the most pressing issue right now is not how can I heal (I have learned what I need to do) but how can the church heal?I do believe, as Jesus himself modeled, that the greatest challenge for any Christian, any human being, is to turn evil into good. Great evil has been perpetrated against our children, and also against our whole church community through the deceptions and cover-ups that made the Catholics in the pews unwitting accomplices in a morally corrupt institutional structure. The pain of healing will be no less than the pain caused by that evil. Our journey to forgiveness and healing will be long.

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