Today’s news about the media reports concerning the Catholic Church in the Netherlands should not “shock or dismay,” despite what the Church PR people say.. As a sex abuse lawyer, I’ve seen similar scenarios play out in Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, not to mention the numerous occasions I’ve witnessed it with the Boy Scouts of America, the Mormon Church or the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
An investigation has determined thousands (I’m talking tens of thousands) of children were sexually abused by priests, nuns, brothers, and sisters in the Dutch Catholic Church for the past sixty years. Officials in the Dutch hierarchy knew about the abuse and turned a blind eye. Now, they are “shocked, dismayed, and saddened” by the news. That’s quite frankly a bunch of bull.
The “sorry but” approach to dealing with this scandal by Church officials is way too little and woefully too late. Certainly, it’s what some PR spin firm told them to say, but supposedly these church officials are folks who are men and women of faith. If they are, then they should remember the ancient prayer, wherein humble people of faith pray for “and for a good account before the fearful judgment seat of Christ, let us ask of the Lord." Have they no holy fear? Have they forgotten that, though they may escape our civil statutes of limitations, yet there is another, deeper and more eternal reckoning awaiting us all?
Perhaps, I’m angry at this rote, mechanical response that shows no hint of belief or faith. As a Christian struggling with my own defects of character and sinfulness, I am quite aware of Christ’s admonition that we take care the log in our own eyes before we point to the speck in our brother’s eye. But I also recall that the Master also said: “It were better for a man that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he be cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble,” referring, of course, to little children, always and especially beloved of God.”
We have for a decade now heard various expressions of regret from Church officials. I have written about this before, in a series on apologies and forgiveness. But what we have not seen or heard is anything like biblical repentance—metanoia: an about face, a turning around and a complete change. When we witness that, the Church will begin to recover from this terrible scourge it has inflicted upon herself, and upon thousands and thousands of children.