The gut-wrenching accounts coming out of Ballarat this past couple of weeks are enough to bring a man to his knees: stories of young people crippled by sexual abuse; stories of utter betrayal; stories we would rather not hear – stories we must hear.
It is hard being a Catholic today.
It is hard being a Catholic priest today.
Our collective shame is deep, for some, even overwhelming, because good people are being condemned by association. But we must not fall prey to self-pity because as hard as it is for us, we are not nearly as innocent, or as damaged, as the children who are only now being given a voice.
It is a time to listen to them;
It is a time to be overwhelmed for them;
It is a time to seek the truth with them.
Amid the carnage, it behoves us all in the church to be agents of change: to ensure that Christ’s exhortation to ‘wash feet’ is not left marginalised, but is embraced as a central and non-negotiable quality in our church leaders.
When all is said and done, it is better for a man, for a church, to roam the streets destitute, foraging for the bread of truth; than to roam the corridors of power feasting on privileges and food that does not last. For ours is a profound responsibility: to humbly and gently walk alongside others, especially the most vulnerable, no matter the cost.
Peter Day is a Catholic Priest in Canberra.