LOCAL PRESS: Clergy Abuse

The following was submitted to local press in response to the allegations by the Vatican that reports of clergy abuse are part of a smear campaign.  Is it time for the pope himself to explain his own actions, in the interests of restoring his dwindling credibility? What do you think?

My heart aches for all those whose lives and faith have been tested or shattered by abuse.  I lift up the courage of those who are stepping forward to name their experience and I pray that they – and their accused – find healing in body, mind and spirit.

Meanwhile, I assert that we all must share steadfast dedication towards the safety and well being of the children placed in our generation’s care.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I believe such dedication would be well served through the worldwide adoption of a “leadership culture” – distinguished by a zero tolerance for such abuse, by institutional transparency, and accountability.  It would, among other things, insist that no one be presumed to be “closer to God” (and therefore less prone to abuse their power or less accountable) than others.

Is a “smear campaign” underway?  There appear to be at least as many vigorous reports of Pope Benedict’s actions to uncover and prevent abuse within the church, as there are critiques that he has not done enough – so that’s going to be hard to prove.

As for the Church’s credibility:  while these reports of abuse may well result (and I believe that they should result) in a more realistic and responsible approach to church organization (leadership/authority/power) throughout the world – they do not necessarily preclude believers from maintaining faith in the Church’s central teachings of a loving/forgiving God.

After all, those teachings also affirm our timeless struggle to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah).  Clearly, that’s not something we humans have yet mastered.

The Rev. Stefanie Etzbach-Dale

Unitarian Universalist Church of Verdugo Hills, La Crescenta, CA

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