February 27, 2019 — The Jesuits of Canada have just released a document of reflection and ecclesial conversion on the difficult issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Prepared in preparation for the Summit on the Protection of Minors, which met in the Vatican from February 21 to 24, this document invites Jesuit communities and works in Canada to a "profound ecclesial conversion", as Provincial Erik Oland SJ points out in the foreword.
Bearing the imprint of Ignatian spirituality, this reflection document invites Jesuits and their collaborators to a spiritual conversation on this painful but essential question. It points to a number of observations and to the structural sins that have made possible the development of a "culture of abuse" within the Church. And it leads to a call to action and conversion.
As Pope Francis pointed out in a letter to the people of God on August 20, these collective wounds call for a collective response, "a conversionin the way the Church acts "that will not be possible “without the active participation of all members of the people of God.” “Saying no to abuse,” Francis adds, “is saying no categorically to all forms of clericalism,” one of the principle causes for him of the “culture of abuse” that has developed within the Church.
Drawing extensively from the Spiritual Exercises, this document attempts to identify ways of healing in order to make this ecclesial conversion possible. Focusing its approach on welcoming and listening to victims, it calls for the responsibility and solidarity of all the baptized towards those whose human dignity has been shattered by the members of the Church. The document also proposes ways out of the structural sins that made these abuses possible. It also advocates for the equality of all the baptized, for a better integration of the lay people into the decision-making bodies of the Church and for the development of a mature and an adult faith among all members of the Church. All this in order to limit the abuses of power that too often arise "behind" sexual abuse.
Now, for the Gospel message to be heard, the messenger has to be seen again as credible, that is to say, worthy of faith and trust. Ignatian persons recognize and embrace this demanding challenge as a call to live the Standard of Christ and the Third Degree of Humility that chooses solidarity with victims because that is where Christ chooses to be.
"For the gospel message to be heard again, the messenger must become credible again, that is, trustworthy and trustworthy. […] We want to continue every day to choose and implement a gospel response to the abuse crisis as an Ignatian community labouring in Canada. Beyond the limited examples just presented, what other means can we find to promote a genuine ecclesial conversion amongst ourselves and around us?", ask the authors of the document.
The full document can be read here: Sexual Abuse in the Church: Paths of Healing and Transformation.