Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Repentance and the church

In Philadelphia, we have our own little scandals and some of them make the national news. “The archbishop of Philadelphia is now very, very sorry.”

Tom Ferrick, Jr., a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer has a very good story in last Sunday’s newspaper, “Real reparation must dig deeper.” Ferrick notes that the cardinal has directed “every parish in the archdiocese to celebrate a holy hour each week, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, where we can pray for reparation and renewal.” Ferrick then quotes his dictionary for the definition of “reparation.”

I heartily agree with Ferrick but I write to add my own comments. The Cardinal talks in terms of reparation, which is economic justice when he should be mentioning repentance, which is a religious justice. What should be the rights and responsibilities of the church when its leaders and servants have committed such horrendous acts and prevented the discovery of those acts? What is the purpose of repentance? What are the social aspects of repentance? When the wrongdoers make amends, the act is an acknowledgment to the victim that harm was been inflicted on the victim. Money does not repair the damage; only time will heal the wounds. When the wrongdoer fails to acknowledge the misconduct in a way that victim can accept, the wound inflicted continues to fester. Thus this act reparation/repentance also becomes a step in repairing the damage to his community and society.

The Cardinal fails to realize that his failure to address damage to the community and the society of which his community is a part will have long lasting consequences. The Cardinal should be speaking of forgiveness, healing, acknowledging the pain of history, reparation and the restoration of right relationships. Although I suggest that reparation is more related to economic justice, I note the Catholic teachings, as set in the Catholic Catechism, 2nd edition, with reference to the Sacrament of Penance” indicates that it consists of “three actions of the penitent and the priest's absolution. The penitent's acts are repentance, confession or disclosure of sins to the priest, and the intention to make reparation and do works of reparation.” Yet, I have not being able to find any statement in the Catholic Catechism, 2nd edition, defining or explaining, “works of reparation” and whether or not said works are directed to the victim. It seems to me that Catholic teaching calls for “works of reparation” to be directed to the church. If this is true, then I do not know that the Philadelphia response will address the need for the restoration of right relationships.

Tom Ferrick ends his article with suggestions noting that the Archdiocese of Boston made reparations to victims waiving its right to raise the statute of limitations as a defense. There are a number of excellent sites discussing the history of reparation payments. Following World War II, West Germany by treaty with the new state of Israel made reparation payments to the state of Israel. Certainly there are enough examples and models that could be employed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as part of its effort for the restoration of right relationships with the members and former members of is community that have been harmed.

Copyrighted 2005


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