How should we view the crisis that is currently challenging the Catholic Church?
Since many Christians have suffered from sex abuse caused by priests and bishops, “shining a light on these scandals deserves a positive judgment from the outset,” said Bishop Charles Morerod OP of Lausanne-Geneva-Fribourg.
This is “welcome and necessary,” said the 57-year-old Dominican in his Lenten message, because it is “the condition necessary for deep change.”
“Let us love the light, let us not be afraid and let the suffering linked to these well-founded critiques become an occasion of liberation for all those involved,” said Morerod, head of the Diocese of Lausanne-Geneva-Fribourg since 2011.
At the end of his letter, which was read out in Swiss parishes on March 16-17 and published on the diocesan website on March 18, Bishop Morerod warned against several counterproductive attitudes, including the risk of not feeling concerned.
“The great majority of us say to ourselves; ‘I should not have to pay for the faults of others!’ Yes and no. Even when the abuses have been committed by priests (and bishops), victims point to the broader complicity of ‘Christian society,'” the bishop said.
“We all need to uphold the beautiful principles of solidarity in the Church, and this solidarity is not limited to a few cases: ‘Is a member (of the Church) suffering? All members of the Church suffer with him or her’,” he said.
Urgent need to change Church’s internal culture
On other hand, there is also a risk of believing that the Church is the victim of a campaign of denigration and thus “withdrawing into its shell in the face of criticism.”
However, Bishop Morerod appealed to Catholics to “first review our point of view, particularly in relation to the kinds of authority in the Church,” which is “meant to serve and not to promote ridiculous vanities or the use of others for one’s own ego, which leads to odious slavery.”
Fundamentally, “we face an urgent need for a change of the Church’s internal culture, by means of God’s recognition of our equality before him, with a priority for the weakest,” he said.
Citing the Mexican Vatican reporter Valentina Alazraki, who spoke at the Rome summit on sex abuse at the end of February, Bishop Morerod strongly appealed in particular for dialogue “with civil society, with the victims and with journalists.”
“Catholics who still think that the Church is the victim of denigration underestimate the weariness of people, who often wish to help the Church purify itself by helping shed light (on the issue),” he said, adding that he himself had been a “witness of aid that victims and journalists provided when one accepted to dialogue.”
“Experience shows that the Church reforms itself under the influence of the holiness of its members but also under the influence of forces that may appear adverse but which actually stimulate good will internally,” he said.
Comparing this collaboration to ecumenical dialogue, he remarked that “by listening to people who may have been expected to have wanted evil for us, we have not only been able to promote peace with them but also peace with ourselves.”
This dialogue with people who appear distant from the Church can thus become a means for Catholics to avoid withdrawing among themselves, Bishop Morerod said, calling for the cultivation of dialogue between them.
“Wherever it exists,” he said, “our dialogue is a positive contribution to the whole of society.”