For a number of years, I have been helping with this program to make our parish and our church more safe for the vulnerable. What I believe is that we are making progress with our Model Code of Conduct, Police Information Checks, and abuse prevention training for the parishioners who help in our high and medium risk ministries.
It is so important to be aware of our seniors and children. While being around the elderly, I notice how they are so wonderful and helpful to all and they have so much knowledge to share with us. By getting to know them, we begin to see what they are going through, and what abuse some have received from people in their lives. Some just stay silent, but we all must be aware and reach out to them.
The deathly silence of some of those victims, our own elders, brings to mind Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant, “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so he did not open his mouth” [53:7]. And again, “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities…” [53:5]. This reminds us of the truth that many vulnerable suffer by the sinful actions of others.
Isaiah says that this suffering and this iniquity would make us whole, that “by his wounds are we healed.” But we know that healing is a long way off for many, even some very close to us. There are no excuses for violence and abusive behavior. We are only very slowly learning that, if someone is abused mentally or physically or sexually, blaming the victim is never justified.
Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN, says that “this world is in trouble and I am urging us to work for all of humanity.” We know that we are children of God and as St. Paul has explained, the Spirit we have received gives us the grace to cry “Abba, Father” and to be free from the fear of being slaves [Rom 8:15]. With the grace of the Holy Spirit and the willingness to question and change our lives to help each other in strengthening our parishes and protecting our vulnerable, we can realize God’s desire for all people to live as his beloved children.