News and Views

A Long Journey Towards Justice and Healing: Responding to the Crisis in the Roman Catholic Church

Posted by Guest Author on

By Rev. Bryant M. Oskvig*

I serve as a Chaplain at a Catholic University, and for the last few months, I have been part of conversations, panels, and dialogues around the crisis due to the recent revelations of abuse and cover-up that have occurred in the Roman Catholic Church. The number of persons who have been victimized and either ignored or silenced is saddening. In a number of instances, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church was also more diligent in the protection of the institution and the reputation of its leadership than it was in the caring for those vulnerable persons in the pews. The truth was disguised; resources of the church (given to it with the belief in their faithful use) were used to obfuscate, and perpetrators were protected. It is a deeply disturbing and distressing history, and we can expect more revelations in the coming years as more truth is discovered. We should keep the survivors of the abuse and manipulations in our constant prayers.

But, we must also acknowledge our own history of duplicity and failures, and we need to recommit ourselves to strengthening the policies and protections against abuse and manipulations in our communities.

This moment of revealed tragedy demands that we review the accountability structures of our own church, both in the annual conferences and the congregations. This review should include expectations around personal relationships and financial transparency. We have to evaluate and strengthen, if necessary, the practices and expectations for appropriate boundaries for our clergy and leadership (financial and personal). We need to also make sure that our congregations are well-informed of these policies, so that they are aware of the obligations of leadership and mechanisms by which they may seek redress of emerging concerns. 

We are called in this moment to be present to those who have been wounded by the church. Our honest walk with those impacted by the abuse of clergy should be to ensure, as best we can, that such violations be prevented in our communities, and when it does occur that it is not hidden and persons are held accountable. In this way, we would acknowledge the story of those who feel abandoned and cast aside by the church right now, and we would begin the long journey towards justice and healing.

*Rev. Bryant M. Oskvig is the Director of Protestant Chaplaincy McDonough School of Business Chaplain at Georgetown University