Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD. (Jer. 23:1)
We heard this scripture verse just two weeks ago and still the words resonate in my heart since the scandalous actions of abuse by the now retired Archbishop McCarrick have come to light. How saddened I was to hear that the credible allegations include the abuse of a minor some fifty years ago and abuse against seminarians. There are no excuses for the horrible trauma he caused his victims through these criminal and sinful actions. He was a shepherd who’s deplorable actions have misled and scattered the flock.
These actions are a betrayal of the office of bishop, of being a shepherd of God’s flock. For a bishop is a successor of the Apostles who should sacrifice himself for the good of the Church like the Apostles Peter and Paul, who imitated Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. The sacrifice of a shepherd is to be for the benefit of others expressed in thoughts, words, and actions.
Yet, we have learned in the last few weeks, he used his power to prey upon seminarians and minors, sacrificing the sheep for his own benefit and pleasure. This is not what Christ taught his Apostles! But even among such good Apostles, I am reminded that there was also Judas and there are still Judas’ within the Church and hierarchy today.
Now, McCarrick has been forbidden to exercise any public ministry, resigned from the College of Cardinals, and has been urged to embrace a life of prayer and penance. But the healing of the abuse scandal in the Church must go deeper than just some external punishment, it must be a conversion of hearts. The Church longs for and is in need of a humble repentance and an ongoing conversion of Her hierarchy. This conversion and renewal will only begin when we seek to do voluntary penance and reparation for sin, and offer prayers for the victims of abuse and for the sanctification of the Church.
This renewal of the Church must be ongoing and frankly permanent. The victims of abuse will always deserve our prayers, love and support. The entire clergy, bishops and priests, must engage in these sacrifices and prayers so that their hearts may become like the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is full of sacrificial love and mercy.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Father Andrew Heiman