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Monday, September 26, 2016
Archbishop Nichols: 'Wanted - honesty, humility, courage and trust'
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¬†The following article was written by Archbishop Vincent Nichols for The Birmingham Post and published on Monday. It was Edith Piaf who famously sang "Non, non, Je ne regrette rien". But not many of us can do the same, at least not with any honesty. Often, in fact, the burden of past mistakes is something we have to carry in the present. Now this is certainly true for many of us in the Catholic Church, as has been consistently pointed out in recent weeks. But how do we handle our mistakes, in whatever way they may have occurred? Some fundamental virtues are needed: honesty, humility, courage and trust. Honesty comes first, because trying to hide is never going to solve anything, except putting off "the evil day". In the issue of the past abuse of children such honesty starts with looking in the eye all the damage and hurt that is suffered by those who have been betrayed. That is now so much more understood. We now know, for example, that the damage inflicted by childhood abuse can last throughout a person's adult life, too. We also appreciate more and more the years of suffering, often locked in silence, that some have endured in their early lives. Honesty also includes acknowledging that public understanding has changed, and will go on changing. That understanding was vastly different in the early 1980's than it is now. The reality of the suffering has not changed; nor has the moral evil of child abuse. But what was not known then was its compulsive nature and the patterns by which youngsters were lured and locked into its awful prison. Because these things were not understood in the past mistakes were made by those responsible for offenders: the police, the courts, the social services and the Catholic Church. In 1977 one person found guilty of indecent assault against four different youngsters was fined £250. That wouldn't happen today. This honesty also means trying to learn from the past and change our behaviour today. That is something we are doing. Recently Lord Nolan led an independent review of everything we do in the Catholic Church for the protection of children. In his recommendations he put forward the best of current practice and expertise. Now his recommendations are being implemented in full. Honesty, for me, means acknowledging past mistakes, apologising for them, leaning from them and being open about it all. That is what I try to do. That's where humility and courage come in, for it is not easy to face such public criticism, especially when some take it as an opportunity to jump on the band wagon for all sorts of other reasons. Child abuse is always dreadful, in its actions and in its consequences. Much of it in our society is still hidden. What is now in the open is the abuse committed by some Catholic priests. That is particularly scandalous, for the priest is accepted as "a man of God" and a betrayal by a priest is the breaking of a trust given in faith in God. Nothing is more valuable than a person's faith in God. So we need the virtue of trust, too. We need to renew trust in one another. We can do so because God's trust in us is never broken, no matter what damage we do to our trust in God. The death and resurrection of Christ, the Son of God, is our guarantee of that. No matter what hurt we do to God's love for us, made present in Jesus whom we crucified, God will always raise us up again if only we turn to God's grace and give our co-operation. That's the Good News. So, step-by-step, we rebuild what has been damaged, whether within families, the work place or the Church. The steps are slow and difficult. But that is the road we take and only on that road will there be no regrets.
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