Sin hurts. Our mission together as disciples of Jesus Christ is the salvation of every human person from our sins and doing that justice which brings mercy and healing to all wounded by sin.

Revelations and growing awareness of the sins and crimes of sexual abuse are opening our minds and hearts to what many survivors have suffered for years, even decades. Their stories and testimony are changing our Church, indeed our world.

First and foremost, we continue to encourage swift reporting. No one must fear speaking truth to power. There is no place in our family of faith for abusers to act out, regardless of their status, or to hide from their crimes. Nor should anyone fear calling them out, past or present.

As the New York State Child Victims Act (CVA) comes into effect on Aug. 14, many more survivors will be able to tell their stories and seek remedies provided by civil law from which they were previously time-barred. Many of those stories will challenge our consciences, and our spiritual and material resources to respond. We support all survivors in the justice and healing that they seek. But our mission goes way beyond.

Our common mission also ­involves protection and prevention. We continue to create conditions so that all are protected from the sins and crimes of sexual abuse and its ravages, especially our children and most vulnerable adults. For over 20 years we have witnessed tremendous progress in our processes both of reporting and of preventing sexual abuse, most importantly through the promotion and ­securing of safe environments. And the service of our mission is not only to members of our faith family, but also to the entire community.

Our diocesan webpage — https://www.rcda.org/offices/pro­tecting-children-young-people— provides all of the directions you need to make a report and much more information on the protection of children and maintaining safe environments. You may also wish to follow the progress of the special Task Force that I created on April 11 in The Evangelist and online (https://www.rcda.org/TaskForce).

What more can you do today? My message to you is this: continue your prayer and vigilance. Never fear reporting or encouraging others to do so. Encourage those in your sphere of influence to follow our guidelines and practices for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults. Do not allow the horrors of the revelations about sexual abuse in the past lead you to feelings of discouragement or helplessness.

Feelings of disgust and anger, which are natural and even healthy, must be acknowledged. Saying “enough” is the first action step. It must never be the last. If anything, it should not paralyze us but drive us further into action. Remember, the shock and repugnance we may experience today with new information is but a microcosm of the pain that survivors suffer every day and often, for many years, in silence. We want to ­affirm and accompany them. 

One of the blessings in my own life that continues to unfold is the discovery of the gifts and powerful witness of survivors who have shared their stories with me and sometimes even publicly. Courageously, they have stepped out of the silence. That silence and isolation may have occasioned many years of anger, depression, and, in the case of people of faith, alienation from the faith community.

I know survivors who have told of having “left the Church,” often several times over the course of years, but then being drawn back into the presence of the Lord in the sacramental life, especially Holy Mass. The power of God’s presence brings a conviction that God wants to give us peace and healing, and it cannot be marred by the sins of even the worst sinner.

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is God’s gift to us of his only begotten Son who himself took on the humiliation of all the sins of the world.

No wonder Jesus sweat blood the night before he died! But Divine Love pierces through the agony and pain. That feeling that, in the core of every person there is the Spirit of God breathing unconditional, never-ending love into the soul where, deep down, no one can violate the sanctity and goodness of every human life. Every human life is sacred and can be made holy. And our present and future need not be defined forever by our past, however sullied or wounded.

We are blessed to know each day more and more survivors of sexual abuse, some of them from among the clergy, who also seek to heal and strengthen us all as we live our common mission. Together, as wounded healers, we will emerge from this darkness as we walk without fear in the light of the Truth, into the arms of the God of all mercy.

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