A Renewed Commitment is Part of Our Sorrow
This evening, our Jewish neighbors begin their solemn observance of Yom Kippur, the most sacred event of their year.
I wish our Jewish friends the fullness of God’s abundant grace and mercy, and assure you of a solidarity in prayer.
Let me also thank our Jewish community for giving us all a radiant example of atonement, of acknowledging sin, asking God’s mercy, and renewing one’s deepest beliefs and values.
Your Scriptures, which we cherish with you as God’s revelation, teach eloquently of the communal nature of sin. Yes, sin is personal, but it also affects others, with an “oil-spill” effect, that poisons all of society, even all the earth and its peoples.
Thus is your reparation today so movingly communal, as you crowd your synagogues and gather as families. Thank you for this example!
We Catholics, too, believe in the necessity of acknowledging one’s sins, asking the Lord’s mercy, making reparation for transgressions, and renewing our covenant with the Lord. You and Jesus have taught us well!
Atonement, sorrow, and begging forgiveness is especially urgent today as we, especially we bishops and priests, hang our heads in shame over the nauseating horror of past abuse of minors. Victims and their families, faithful Catholics, and virtuous priests and bishops – – the great majority – – suffer the sting of this sin.
Yom Kippur is a good idea for us, too.
My rabbi friends also explain to me that a renewed commitment is part of our sorrow. Thus do we bishops need to strengthen our resolve to rigorously enforce the Charter to Protect Children and Young People declared in 2002 in Dallas. What promises did we make? “Zero tolerance” (no priest guilty of abuse can ever minister again) full cooperation from the start with law enforcement; decisions on guilt or innocence not made by us bishops but by outside lay professionals; the names of guilty priests published; background checks and child safety education for all church employees, including priests and bishops; and bi-annual audits by outside forensic experts to hold us accountable. The acclaimed Dallas Charter has worked well for sixteen years. We must make it work even better, including bishops in its scope, and devising a way adults can report inappropriate behavior by a priest or bishop to an autonomous entity.
Likewise do we recommit ourselves to continued compassionate outreach to victims, through our successful Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program.
We Catholics need Yom Kippur too. As a close rabbi friend remarks, “We can be sure God forgives us; now if we can just forgive ourselves and one another.”