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Rosanne Granieri: Keeping the faith, seizing opportunity

| Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, 11:27 a.m.

Though more than a month has passed since the release of the scathing grand jury report regarding the clerical sexual abuse scandal, my anger, incredulity, shame, embarrassment, pain and sorrow have not significantly dissipated. The somber words of Pope Francis still haunt me: “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

To those victims of sexual abuse, I am sorry for the actions of my church. I am embarrassed by the subculture that fostered victimization and secrecy. Those who perpetrated these heinous and unthinkable crimes and those who covered them up must be brought to justice. The oft-quoted comment, “You are in my thoughts and prayers,” and the sincere apologies of church leadership, although necessary, are not sufficient. Attending to your needs is of paramount importance.

To the majority of the priests who have lived selfless, benevolent lives and who have devoted their lives to helping so many people, I thank you. And, in particular, to my parish, whose altruistic nature and whose strong, thoughtful, kind, unwavering and moral pastoral leadership extend outside of the church walls and into our community — feeding the hungry, comforting the sick and assisting those in most need — I thank you. Your good works, unfortunately, have been overshadowed by the nefarious actions of a small minority.

These are trying times for Catholics. The Catholic Church, the church I love, is suffering and is now at a critical juncture.

Recently, I was asked, “Why do you stay?” Admittedly, I paused before answering this question but the answer came clearly, if not quickly. I stay because of my true faith in the teachings of Jesus, not in the words or actions of human beings or because of ornate buildings or comforting rituals. As a physician whose career was spent making decisions based on hard evidence, I find it puzzling that I cannot fully explain or rationalize this deep faith. But it is there. It is beautiful. It is immutable. It is grounded in and solidified by the words and actions of that one man who lived 2,000 years ago. This is why I stay.

These past few weeks have led me, however, to think beyond my deep faith , which might be construed as a comfortable place of subservience or complacency . It is time for Catholics to raise a voice as a call to action. We cannot simply close the wounds and hide the scar. The church must confront its past and make bold choices for its future. “This is the way it has always been done” or “this is the way it was done 2000 years ago” cannot be used as an excuse to keep things the way they are. Some of those ways have failed us. We must:

1. Protect our children. Much has been done recently to ensure that all those entrusted to our care are safe, at all times but we must do more. Those who violate this trust and those who aid or enable sexual offenders, or who have done so in the past, must be removed. The system must be just and swift. Ongoing methods for oversight and prosecution of those found guilty must continue.

2. Allow the priestly ordination of women. While women have assumed greater leadership roles in the church in recent years, there will never be true equality for women in the Catholic Church unless they are afforded the opportunity to become priests. Some say that women cannot be priests because Jesus did not call women to be His first apostles. This was not a theological or aptitude-driven decision on His part. This was a reflection of the social norms of the times. In the first century, the Church needed strong leadership in order to take root and grow against great resistance. The role of women in society was limited, and women were not seen as leaders or authority figures. Society and societal norms have progressed since biblical times. To stagnate in the past is foolish.

3. Grant oversight and decision-making authority to qualified laity , including authority to determine theological direction and institutional policy and reviews .

4. Respect and welcome gay men and women. Homosexuals are not pedophiles. Homosexuals are not predators. Sexual orientation, in and of itself, is not a risk factor for pedophilia. To propose otherwise draws on anecdotes and unsubstantiated data. Gay men and women should be afforded the same respect and welcome in our Church as heterosexuals.

5. Re-examine the requirement of celibacy for priests. Celibacy should not be an absolute requirement for ordination. More men (and women) might choose the priesthood if this restriction was removed.

In times of chaos and crisis, there is great opportunity. This is certainly a time of chaos and crisis for the Catholic Church. To begin to address change, we can call on the first line of a popular hymn which reads, “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.” We must tenaciously cling to this one unassailable foundation if we are to healthfully survive and grow. And we now must seize the opportunity to build anew upon this one foundation, even if the new building looks a little different from the one of the past.

Rosanne Granieri is a retired physician and a parishioner of Mt. St. Peter Parish, New Kensington.

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