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With all the church abuse scandals in the news recently, New Jersey’s attorney general has opened an investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in our state. “We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here,” said Gurbir Grewal.

Where have I seen that name recently? Oh yeah. Hosts of a radio show had courted controversy by referring to the attorney general as “Turban Man.” Grewal responded with aplomb, thanking the governor for his support during the episode, noting, “Others have faced far worse. We rise above this.  Now let’s get back to business.”

Maybe pain is training. Compassion calibration. A way to learn from the inside of the “ouch” what it feels like so that, when your turn comes to give someone else a break, you’ll stand up.

I remember a Sikh boy from grade school. It wasn’t always easy for him, as you might imagine, even though his wearing a turban was harming no one.

Childhood itself shouldn’t be a high-risk proposition, but really, where can kids be safe anymore?

School? Yes but. School shootings.

Church? Yes but. Pedophile priests.

Home? Yes but. Kids are more like property than people in society today. They have no say most of the time. Just what parents decide is best for them.

Change can only come from the inside. Of the school. Of the church. Of the person. Until there’s a change inside the human heart, the chain of pain will continue.

It irks me not to be able to wrap up neatly with an answer to this problem. Yes but. All I can change is myself. All you can change is yourself. So we’ll do our best today. Assume the best in others. Let them rise to our high expectations. Maybe it will be the start a new chain – of love.

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Much has been written about the Catholic Church’s most recent scandal — the report out of Pennsylvania outlining years of sexual abuse by the clergy and the effort that was made to cover it up. Does more need to be said? Maybe not, but as a Catholic, I AM the church, and so I will endeavor to navigate these tricky waters as best I can.

The problem is not Catholicism. It is not a matter of faith. It is also not merely a problem of sinful men doing sinful things. The problem lies in the structure and hierarchy of the Church — the men who perpetuated the abuse by actively striving to protect the perpetrators. They didn’t just do nothing. They worked tirelessly against the abused and for the abusers.

This problem is so endemic, so deeply rooted in the Church, as to extend to every level of it. It manifests in the local priest who becomes the new pastor of a parish and unilaterally changes everything about parish life to suit his own likes and needs. The people are the Church. A pastor should serve his flock, not the other way around.

I’ve struggled since youth against a culture that declares, “priests are better than you. They know more. You must do what they say.” And that’s at the most basic level. The adulation given to bishops and cardinals increases exponentially. I’m not saying these men don’t deserve respect. Most are hardworking shepherds who genuinely wish to tirelessly serve the people. They are men of God. But they are not God. The Church would do well to remember the humility of its founder.

Any institution that protects its own against its own deserves scrutiny. The Catholic Church deserves every bit of the anger and inquiry being directed at it in the press and around the world. As my husband (a new-ish Catholic) remarked: “People sin and people can be forgiven. Institutions cannot.” It is true. Institutions can only be torn down and rebuilt. It has happened to the Church before, and the Church survived. I believe they can do it again.

On the other hand, this: Men have proven they can screw up every major institution on this planet — from churches to governments. Isn’t it time they move aside and let women give things a try? Just sayin’.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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