Tag Archives: Repentance

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Merciful Discipline 4: Hopeful, We Rebuild Trust

This is the fourth post of six in the Merciful Discipline Series. A complete list of available posts will be at the end of each article as they are made available.

Merciful Discipline 4: Hopeful, We Rebuild Trust

We do not want you to grieve…as those who have no hope. (1Thes. 4:13)

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1Cor. 4:2)

Cursed is the man who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord…He will dwell in the parched places of the earth. (Jer. 17: 5, 6)

One struggles to consider a more profound violation of trust than priestly abuse of children. Based on the trust Catholic parents grant the Church, they have entrusted their children to a handful of priests who used that trust to abuse.

Diabolical—the disintegration of young lives and long after, the disintegration of trust in the Church itself. What greater victory could the enemy of our souls achieve than the scattering of the sheep through such a violent abuse of trust?

We overcome evil through good. And that good comes through acknowledging the mistrust that remains and choosing to begin a process of forgiveness. Our wounds united with Christ’s, we have access to the antidote: Mercy. We can apply that Mercy to both abusing priests and those who unwittingly sustained the abuse through its mishandling.

Forgiveness is neither weak nor a set up for ‘revictimization’. Forgiveness is power. In the Spirit of Jesus, we entrust all involved in the abuse, including our own damaged hearts, ‘to Him who judges justly.’ (1P2:23) We choose to place the hemorrhaging mess into the only Wounds that can heal it; we gratefully remove ourselves from the role of Redeemer and Judge. In forgiving our captors, we begin to be released from an unbearable weight. Little by little, we chip away at the burden of another’s sin until Jesus alone bears it. Forgiveness is the power by which we triumph over beloved enemies.

Forgiving spiritual leaders means that we are growing up. As the laity, we have authority to name a leader’s sin against us or loved ones and to do something about it. In that process, which includes forgiveness, we strike a death blow to clericalism. We refuse to grant Catholic leaders the magic of perfection. We cease to be children and become discerning, engaging colleagues with clergy.

We can disagree with them. And we can go directly to Christ ourselves—to trust more in Him than in the priest or bishop. Jesus always wanted it this way. God wants to use the sexual abuse crisis to free the laity from childish reliance upon mere men, and to mature into wise and helpful members of Jesus’ body.

Trust must be earned. We forgive our offenders in obedience to Christ and to free our own hearts. Yet reliance upon those we have forgiven is wise only when their trustworthiness is evident.

There is evidence that the Church is repenting of her lack of transparency in failing to protect her young. Pope Benedict has championed reform here. He has repeatedly acknowledged the Church’s scandalous track-record and has exerted enormous energy in insisting on strict measures of accountability, discipline, and prevention in the world-wide Church. (He would be wise to keep doing so!)

The US Bishops have established arguably the highest standards for transparency and accountability and victim-care for the US Church than any other branch of the RCC. For that to become a living reality, ‘all diocesan leaders must be committed to transparency about their actions, ensure that immediate and appropriate responses to abuse become routine, and ensure that all such actions are adopted by all church leaders.’ (John Jay Report, p.93)

Having stumbled recently, the Kansas City Diocese under Bishop Finn has set up a new and solid system of checks and balances that line up entirely with recommendations from the Graves Report. Instead of alleged abuses going to the Vicar-General, an Ombudsman receives them and reports them directly to the police and the DFS, while initiating an investigation, which includes a Victim’s Advocate. An Independent Review Board operates as well, investigating whether alleged perpetrators should continue in ministry.

Jennifer Valenti, the new and apparently dynamic Ombudsman, urges all of us to do our part as faithful, discerning members of the one Body. She implores us:

In order for the safety net to be effective, you must take a stand. You cannot stand in silence when you suspect abuse. It takes courage, but you must report it.

If we discern any possibility of abuse, we are to call DFS at (800) 392-3738.

Our hope is in God, the Author and Finisher of His Church. To love the Church and to be whole-hearted in our service of her, we must forgive her grievous failures even as we discern her repentance. In so doing, we destroy the will of the evil one with good. Evidence of change in the ‘system’ still requires that we keep growing, learning how to trust others with a new maturity. That maturity requires that we do our part to ensure that the Church is a safe place for children.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has now worries in a year of drought, and never fails to bear fruit. (Jer. 17: 7, 8 )

Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced secret and shameful ways. We do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, be setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2Cor 4: 1, 2)

O Blood and Water, that flows from the heart of the Savior as a fount of Mercy for us, we trust in You! – St. Faustina

MORE:

The Merciful Discipline Series of Posts (updated with each new post as they become available):

 

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Mercy’s Sacrifice

Join us today at 3pm (CST) as we intercede for loved ones in need of God’s mercy.

Mercy’s Sacrifice

40 Days of Mercy Devotional – Lent 2012 – Day 21

How sad I am that souls do not recognize Love. They treat Me as a dead object. (1385)

Do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? … A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread or drinks of the cup. (1 Corinthians 11:22, 28)

Jesus, thank You for Your Sacrifice of Mercy. We need it now more than ever! In Your Mercy, unite our divided hearts and make us whole in one-Spirit communion with You. Free us also for merciful communion with one another. Free us to love as You have loved us. We pray also for those persisting in sin, without repentance. Open hearts to their true hunger and true home at Table with You.

For the complete 40 Days of Mercy Devotional – Lent 2012, click here to download.  For a paper copy, United States only, please call Desert Streams Ministries at (866) 359-0500. 

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry from the diary is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com

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Merciful Discipline 2: Broken, We Repent for the Church’s Mishandling of Abuse

This is the second post of six in the Merciful Discipline Series. A complete list of available posts will be at the end of each article as they are made available.

Merciful Discipline 2: Broken, We Repent for the Church’s Mishandling of Abuse

‘This crisis isn’t about sex abuse. It is about covering up sex abuse.’ Spokesperson for victims of priestly abuse

‘God’s justice summons us to give account of our actions and to conceal nothing.’ Pope Benedict to priests who abused children

As the Church, we are united as members of one Body. When one is abused, all suffer. When abuse is covered up or mishandled by Church leaders, the abused are abused further. We all are exposed.

Only the truth sets us free. In order for the wound of abuse to heal, it needs to be acknowledged and aired in order for all sufferers to be delivered. Healing requires that the full extent of the damage be brought into the light.

The Church has historically excelled at damage control.

Our corporate shame is overcome through repentance. Church membership grants every Catholic the authority to repent on behalf of the whole Church. We can implore God for His Mercy, and ask Him to change us.

As one Body, we must become a transparent witness of our own failures and of painstaking effort to repair the damage done to minors. We can then become transparent safeguard of minors—of their dignity, inviolability, and integrity.

We begin by acknowledging the failure of many Catholic leaders to be transparent safeguards. When aware of priestly misconduct, they failed to act on behalf of victims and the greater community.

In the Old Testament, overseer Eli failed to act. The elder knew his 2 sons—both priests—were having sex with women in the temple. He failed to act in a way that stopped the abuse. God addressed Eli through Samuel the prophet: ‘I told Eli that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and Eli failed to restrain them.’ (1 Sam 3:13)

Serious business. Spiritual overseers release and restrain God’s servants in order to build a strong, clean Church. We are all secured in love when a leader acts rightfully; when he fails, as Eli did, the most vulnerable are unprotected.

Historically, the Church has tended to protect herself, not victims or surrounding communities, in cases of minor abuse. A careful review of the most comprehensive study done on the sexual abuse of minors in the US Catholic Church over the last 60 years (‘John Jay Report’) reveals several disheartening themes.

Before 2002, Church overseers who became aware of minor abuse tended to focus on the priest-abuser more than the abused. Rarely did she subject her priests in question to legal scrutiny; she became a law unto herself. Due to the complications of canon law, these priests were not dismissed but rather put on leave or transferred to other communities who had no knowledge of the new priest’s ‘vulnerabilities.’

Overall, victims’ needs were minimized and the needs of the communities surrounding the abuse were kept in the dark.

In 2002, the Church sought reform. Dioceses throughout the US adopted a new set of norms for handling priestly sexual abuse. These norms include speedy and diligent inquiry of alleged abuse, priority-tending to the victims and their communities, removal of priest from office, and full compliance with the law.

The St. Joseph/KC Diocese adopted these norms, and today stands as a cautionary tale of sliding back into damage control, as the Bishop’s own confession and an investigation revealed (‘Graves Report’).

2 years ago, a KC priest was discovered to have a computer full of child porn. The vicar-general (second in command to the bishop) took matters into his own hands. The matter was not submitted to the diocesan review counsel, nor was the computer turned over to the authorities. A therapist claimed the priest was depressed, not dangerous; Bishop Finn reassigned him to a community house where he soon began engaging with children again, all ignorant of his ‘discipline.’

By God’s mercy, diocesan mishandling was exposed, the priest arrested. Six months had elapsed between the seizure of the porn and the arrest. Within those six months, a father lamented plainly to the Bishop: ‘That monster was in my house to prey on my kids and you let him in because you felt you were above the law and made that decision not to turn in photos of my kids.’

The norms of reform protect only when followed. With Bishop Finn who takes full responsibility for the damage done by damage control, we cry out for mercy, and ask that we would change. We can and must become transparent witnesses of the damage done. Only then will victims and their communities be healed, and minors safeguarded in the future.

How a man who has said ‘yes’ to Christ…could fall into such perversion is hard to understand. It is a great sadness also that Church leadership was not sufficiently vigilant and sufficiently swift and decisive in taking necessary measures. On account of this we are living in a time of penance, humility, and renewed sincerity. We must renew and learn again absolute sincerity. Pope Benedict

MORE:

The Merciful Discipline Series of Posts (updated with each new post as they become available):

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Rousing a Captive Culture

A well-known Christian leader, hammered by the sexual immorality of his family members, just announced his shift on embracing the homosexual practice of a particular loved one. He is on the brink of accepting ‘gay marriage.’

‘How can I not?’ he reasoned, as he listed the divorces, affairs, co-habitation and children born out-of-wedlock in his family.

We are inundated daily with the breakdown of holy boundaries in heterosexual relating. A new poll reveals that 61% of US singles have sex on their first date; not surprisingly, for the first time in US history, more than half of births to American women under 30 now occur outside of marriage.

The devolving of heterosexual morality in our culture is the single biggest reason why ‘gay marriage’ is gaining ground. We have so bashed heterosexual marriage as the sole framework for sexual love that we are too weak and dazed to protest activists who want to alter its DNA further.

That is precisely why a gay New York Times columnist defended ‘gay marriage’ against the critique that it would destabilize the American family. Pointing to Newt Gingrich’s rather tragic resume of mistresses and marriages, he claimed that heterosexuals have botched it pretty badly, and ‘no-one is trying to heal them…’

Wrong. We are. Most of our dear friends pursuing sexual wholeness in Living Waters are good old traditional sinners. We realized long ago that the fracturing of gender and boundaries at the core of homosexuality is a direct result of heterosexual fragmentation. First things first. The main and plain of heterosexual immorality must be the starting point of our repentance and healing.

Like Nehemiah, we confess ‘that our gates have been burned with fire’–the fire of heterosexual lust–‘and we are in disgrace.’ (Nehemiah 1:17) My son Sam shares candidly of the pornographic fog and multiple partnerships that drive many of his peers. Even Christian friends are tempted to go with the polluted tide. For a shameless generation, we must pray for a godly shame, for ‘we have no shame at all; we do not even know how to blush.’ (Jeremiah 6:15)

Would you please join DSM this Lent for a 40-day fast focused on praying for loved ones who will perish without Mercy?

If you want a complete copy of the 40-Days of Mercy Devotional—Lent 2012, please email me at acomiskey@desertstream.org and request either a pdf or a paper copy (USA only). For the latter, please include your complete address.

And on every Wednesday throughout Lent, beginning on Feb. 29th, I will post a new prayer/teaching on how we can best understand and pray for the Roman Catholic Church as she faces discipline for her sexual abuses. I want us to be a small part of her solution, and forego the temptation merely to rant at her failures. Let us prayerfully, in truth, pray for her recovery in this Lenten season.

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The Advent of Repentance

This Advent I had the privilege of preaching several times at ‘Water of Life’, a large church in Southern California. After each service, many people came up to me seeking counsel on what to do with ‘gay’ friends and family members. Most poignant were the pleas of parents and siblings: ‘How do we love them while we disagree with their moral choices?’

These family members are now subject to deceived, politicized loved ones whose ‘gay selves’ have turned hard and cold toward the ones they left behind. Times have changed, people. No longer are we dealing with same-sex strugglers in search of alternatives to ‘the gay self’; this generation seeks only its confirmation. Those family members who cannot in good conscience bless him as ‘gay’ or her as ‘lesbian’ are deemed unloving at best, and probably abusive.

Repentance unto Mercy is the key. The Advent reading for that Sunday was from Is 40:1-11: ‘Comfort my people with great tenderness; the war is over–I shall give you a double portion for all your sins! I will lift up the low and dry valleys and level the mountains; I will make the crooked roads straight! Declare the good news boldly, do not hold back! I will shepherd you well, especially mothers with kids…’

I thought of the Gospel reading from that day, John the Baptist reiterating the essence of this call to repent unto the coming of Jesus, the One full of Mercy who fills us with His Spirit as the basis for a whole new way of living! (Matt. 3:1-12)

William Stringfellow says it best: ‘John the Baptist identifies repentance as the message and sentiment of Advent’–turning unto the tender Mercy of the God who grants us double in exchange for the mess we’ve made!

Amid the many questions and concerns about ‘gay’ loved ones, a river of Mercy ran through our exchanges. We repented of judgmental, critical attitudes, entrusting the loved one wholly to the One who knows all and works all for the good. Our prayer: help us to be insightful, patient agents of that good, that the deceived would have a loving witness of saving Love when they are ready for it.

We discovered that we can love deceived ones without compromise as we eagerly await their return to Mercy.

For every 3 or 4 tales of family angst that I heard, a man or woman would come up to me and quietly admit that like me they too had come out of homosexuality and were living hopeful, humble lives in that community  of faith. And one lovely Mexican-American couple confided in me that after three years of loving and interceding for a sister who had ‘married’ a woman, their beloved just left the relationship and is once again seeking the Mercy of God for her sin and conflict.

They are there for her. We the faithful are there for any who turn from worldly solutions to the Merciful One who gives us everything—Jesus Christ.

‘Water will gush forth in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground, a bubbling spring…

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness.

The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way…

But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.

Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.’

Is. 35:6-10

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