Justice Perspective: Restorative justice is seeking reconciliation in a time of crisis

Tue, Oct 23rd 2018 02:00 pm
Catholic Charities of Buffalo
Deacon Don Weigel
Deacon Don Weigel

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse ...

The news of the past few months about the abuse and cover-up in the Church has been absolutely horrifying ... and just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, another story pops or another revelation appears. The hypocrisy of some of those who vowed to serve us, who pledged to lead us and shepherd us, can rock our faith or make us question our beliefs ... and then just when you thought it couldn't get any worse ...

The result is that a great many of us are angry, confused, disgusted or disillusioned - and maybe we have even felt like the right response is to just walk away - especially when we might have been proven wrong once again when we thought it couldn't get any worse.

Underneath so many of our emotions during this time is an innate desire for justice - justice for the victims who have been so heinously abused; justice for the perpetrators who have stolen the dignity and innocence of so many; justice for those who have turned a blind eye, or covered up these crimes, and who are responsible for perpetuating this horror as much as if they were the abusers themselves.

What can be the way forward to seek justice? When South Africa abolished apartheid, they established a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" that sought restorative justice. The wisdom of this effort was to be a vehicle for resolving conflict and helping victims of this policy heal - to have reconciliation.

But reconciliation can only come when the truth is known and admitted, and true contrition is offered. Forgiveness is in the hands of the wounded and does not depend on anything the perpetrator does; but reconciliation depends on the perpetrators admitting their guilt and seeking to make it right. This is a matter of justice.

So what do we do now? What do we do to deal with the anger, confusion, disillusionment, disappointment and disgust? How can any of us make a difference in being a part of what needs to happen to seek justice and heal the Church?

Our first step must be to go to prayer; to pray especially for healing for the victims, healing for each other, and for the Church, and for the overwhelming majority of clergy who have never had anything to do with this and never would.

But there is an Africa proverb that says, "When you pray move your feet," and so our prayer has to be coupled with our insistence on efforts in reforming our Church. All of us and each of us need to be a part of building and rebuilding, of healing and insisting on protections that are real and actions that are swift and forceful in dealing with substantiated claims of abuse.

We also need to remember that we are baptized into the Paschal Mystery and can rise through this suffering to new life. But we must do it together as one body. If your faith has not been shaken by this crisis, be strength for those who are struggling. If your faith is holding on by a thread, seek out others to rely upon and share your struggle.

Most of all, we all need to remember what our faith is all about: it is Jesus, present in the Word and sacrament who draws us to himself and feeds us and strengthens us.

We will get through this, not quickly and not without pain, but relying on Christ, our rock, and supporting each other as the Body of Christ, we can be light to each other, and light to the world.  

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