All of us need to be forgiven. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:24
When people take accountability for hurting another person and apologize, forgiveness flows much easier than if that person denied any wrongdoing. There is a deep wound in the hearts of so many people, wounds caused by injustices and a lack of any expression of sorrow. These wounds sometimes caused people to question their faith and even make the error of blaming God for the injustices. Sometimes these wounds motivate vengeance and so one wrong leads to more wrongs.
Let me tell you of my own journey towards forgiveness and freedom.
Like so many people I suffered abuse as a child. This abuse changed me psychologically and caused me to live deep within myself in a ‘safe secret world’ I created. I was deeply introverted and generally kept to myself. In my secret place nothing could hurt me. I worked very hard to repress all the bad experiences.
As I became an adult I continued to repress many memories of abuse until it was impossible for me to keep hidden in my subconscious realities that needed to be dealt with. When I confronted my abuser I met with complete and total denial of any form of wrongdoing. This made it impossible for me to say the words I was ready to say: ‘I forgive you’. It made it impossible for there to be any form of reconciliation based on truth and so I continued to suffer and grieve until I realized that anger and a profound sense of loss was stealing all possibility of joy and peace in my life.
During this time I began to meditate on the Passion of Christ. I reached out to Jesus to help me and He did.
Every day I took a spiritual journey to Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified. In my mind I would see Jesus stretched out on the Cross praying “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
This daily contemplation of Jesus being crucified for our sins caused me to reflect on how much Jesus suffered to set us free. The price of our salvation was infinite! The heroic actions of Our Lord and Saviour motivated me to think about my need for God’s forgiveness along with the opportunity for me to pray for and forgive the people that hurt me.
I decided I would try to imitate Jesus and pray for those that had abused me. I prayed the prayer that Jesus prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
I began to reflect on this question:
If I had hurt someone and was unable to express my sorrow, what would I want?
My answer was ‘I would want prayer and forgiveness, in the hope that mercy would motivate sorrow for my sins’. So that’s what I decided to do pray and forgive; I decided to forgive even in the absence of any expression of sorrow. And what I experienced was freedom! Slowly and surely I began to see that forgiveness could detach me from the pain of the past, it could heal me from the anger and resentment I felt and it could give me an opportunity to heal.
Tragically many predators have entered the Catholic Church with a goal to hurt children and they have accomplished their sinister objectives. These tragedies led to more tragedies because many of these priests were not defrocked, perhaps for lack of concrete evidence, and instead they were moved around the world creating new opportunities for pain and destruction.
What has been missing in the Catholic Church is a TRUE CULTURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY that is transparent and open with DEDICATED OMBUDSMEN.
We need to work to build a new culture that holds everyone accountable for stopping injustices. This solution and this culture must include laypeople serving in newly created OFFFICES OF THE OMBUDSMEN. These offices must exist in every diocese with resources and authority to address, report and resolve issues.
This new governance model would include both ordained priests and laypeople serving in the role of ombudsmen or problem solvers working together to enable issues requiring action to be easily reported and addressed. For this to work, there must be a set of published contacts that anyone in the Church can go to when an issue arises. Archbishops cannot be the ‘only senior contact’ available within a diocese, because sometimes they are part of the problem. The Office of the Ombudsmen would be detached from the authority of the Archbishop with responsibility and authority to act.
We must eliminate secrecy and aim for every person to stand accountable to stop wrongdoing. Practically speaking this means that no Church official can refuse to deal with issues. It means that there must be a clearly defined reporting infrastructure with a published set of contacts all the way up to the Pope to report abuses of all sorts and this hierarchy MUST RESPOND and be ACCOUNTABLE! Today the process for gaining resolution to issues is broken and this is a matter for IMMEDIATE ATTENTION.
There is an immediate opportunity for the Church authority to include both male and female leadership for this is the will of God. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27
God is in the details! God insists that each and every disciple stand accountable to address issues and find solutions. We cannot hide from God. In His time, God will avenge every injustice. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
Please join me daily for a memorial trip to Calvary. At 3pm, the Time Jesus died for us, join Christians all over the world that are stopping to pray and remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. See Our Holy Lord being crucified for your sins and pray for His forgiveness and for all those that may have hurt you for in this small way we can become a little bit more like Our Holy Lord Jesus.