January 25, 2004
January 4, 2004
Statement by Rev. Diane C. Kessler, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches
In his letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul spoke of the church as the body of Christ, whose members are interdependent and necessary for the good of the whole. In that spirit, he said “If one member [of the body] suffers, all suffer together with it.” (12:26a) These words frame the spirit with which other Christians in and beyond the Commonwealth have witnessed the unfolding tragedy in and beyond the Archdiocese of Boston.
We weep with our brothers and sisters in Christ—the abuse victims and their families and friends, members of parishes, the priests, men and women religious, employees and volunteers in the chancery, seminary professors and students, members of the Curia, the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, indeed, all those in the Roman Catholic Church—who have been searching their souls and wrestling with their consciences over the right responses to the scandal of child abuse.
The Apostle Paul also said that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) However Christian churches understand their nature, we are aware—all too painfully aware—that the church also is a human institution whose leaders and members are frail and fallen. No religious leader, no clergyperson, no church is free of this reality. The question with which we all must wrestle is not whether we will face problems-- whether they deal with human sexuality or financial malfeasance or any other foible to which human nature is prey--but how we will deal with these problems when they inevitably arise. The churches—indeed, all faith communities—can learn from each other. This is one of the benefits of the ecumenical movement. We need each other.
Here in Massachusetts, we have been at the epicenter of an ecclesiastical implosion, the magnitude of which is beyond our comprehension, and all of us—people of faith, the media, governmental leaders, business and community leaders--have responsibilities in the days ahead. Will we play constructive roles that contribute to the up-building of a religious body that, for all its unveiled failings, also has done, is doing, and can continue to do so much good for its members and society? Anger now abounds. Anger is a powerful emotion—one that either can be corrosive or constructive. All of us will be making choices in the days ahead, and I pray that God will guide all of us in these choices, so that new seeds of accountability, of promise, and of hope will be allowed to take root.
And now, a word to our colleague and friend Bernard Cardinal Law. Over the years, many of us who have worked with you as ecumenical colleagues in ministry have experienced your thoughtful pastoral care when a family member has been ill or has died, and during occasions of celebration and rejoicing. We have appreciated your determined and influential leadership on domestic and international issues for the common good about which we all care so deeply—such as the well-being of the poor, homelessness and the need for affordable housing, and peace in the Middle East. We have been grateful for ecumenical and inter-religious initiatives that have grown during your tenure. We will remember these with appreciation. And now we pray that the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7 par)