DURING the past weeks we have experienced sadness as a Church through some of the revelations uncovered by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the media responses to this, some of which have targeted the Church as a whole, while others have been quite vicious attacks on individuals.
These at times have failed to take into account the context of the time in which events occurred. Nothing, of course, justifies the abuse or responses to the reporting of it that ignore the individuals who have been harmed by it.
However the Church’s attempts to establish a pastoral response to victims has rarely been given the credit it deserves as a ground-breaking whole-of-church recognition that victims needed to be heard, their complaints taken seriously, abusers held accountable for their actions and removed from positions where they could further abuse and victims assisted in practical ways to begin to heal and move on in their lives.
In contrast we have also experienced pride as the Church has taken a significant role in opposing the abuse that is being inflicted on people seeking asylum in Australia after fleeing unimaginable horror in their home countries.
The National Lament that Catholic Religious Australia proposed has been warmly embraced by many individuals and groups.
More recently the Sydney Catholic Education Office has declared that it will offer free education to Asylum seeker children.
Our contrasting emotions in response to such events are a reminder of the mysteries we celebrate in Holy Week and Easter.
Jesuit Father Gerald O’Collins quoted in the Autumn 2014 edition of Madonna writes:
“Paul understands the resurrection to be working itself out, through the power of the Holy Spirit, for the good of the whole created world…. Whether they are aware of it or not, all human beings and the entire cosmos are in fact living in expectation of the definitive, glorious transformation that will come.” (See Romans 8:28 – 25)
As “Easter people”, witnesses to the resurrection and vowed to a life that proclaims God’s love for the world, Religious witness to hope in this glorious transformation.
The proud history of religious congregations throughout the world and in Australia, is a wonderful reminder of the power of God working through those who give themselves totally to God for this mission.
In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis speaks of his “dream of a “missionary option, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”
“The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. “
I firmly believe that each of us shares such a dream. May this Easter be a time of rich grace that empowers us individually and as a Church to such “constant missionary outreach”.
Sr Annette Cunliffe is the president of Catholic Religious Australia.
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