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Spotlight Report

  Michael F. Groden  

Restoring harmony to the archdiocese


THE ARCHDIOCESE of Boston is like a broken orchestra. Its various sections can't hear each other very well. The maestro's baton is idle. The sheet music is out of focus.

What needs to be restored to the archdiocese is a sense of vision and a sense of the journey before us.

As the effects of sexual abuse of children strike at the heart and soul of the victims, so must the healing process.

Any settlement of damage claims must be handled with justice and compassion in an expeditious manner. Words of regret and sentiments of apology will be genuine only when expressed in an atmosphere that communicates a depth commensurate with the hurt and human damage suffered by each of the victimized. Cardinal Newman's sentiment applies: ''Cor ad cor loquitor'' - heart speaking to heart.

The task before the leadership of the archdiocese is awesome. It must be in touch, and then it must lead.

The sexual abuse crisis has affected the church in many ways, some not apparent to us yet. Any attitude that suggests that we should just settle with the victims and move on would be a profound mistake.

Moving forward will require that no voice, no matter how weak or shrill or opinionated, will be ignored or shunted aside. The Lord speaks in all sorts of ways.

It will be the role of those responsible for guiding the church to listen carefully to the voices of the faithful, eliciting their hopes and aspirations and taking with renewed seriousness the practical wisdom of the priests and dedicated lay leaders who serve the local parish communities throughout the archdiocese.

The central administration of the archdiocese is working hard to put into place an effective set of guidelines and procedures that will go a long way to assure that the tragic mistakes of the past will not be repeated. These efforts are long overdue and should be provided all of the resources and attention required to do the job.

What then? A new leader.

As is often the case when there is to be a change of leadership at any large institution, there is a list of possible successors. Most of the bishops mentioned as possible successors are unknown to me. So my comments are not intended as an endorsement of a candidate.

We are entering a new era in the Catholic Church. It will not look or feel or function like any other that has gone before us. It will require a caliber of leadership that is not fixed in a mode of the church of another time.

Although the leadership we need must be comfortable looking forward, it will require a profound appreciation for the history of the church. Not for nostalgia or a road map back to a better time but rather one that appreciates the continuity and the the radical discontinuity from one age to another so one is free to imagine a new shape and sound for our time and place.

Some of the wisest leaders and commentators in the history of the church were men and women who studied and appreciated the church as it moved through times of monumental change, as when the church of the apostles became the church of the fathers as it interfaced with an age of speculative philosophy.

Leadership for today's church must know that we must be anchored in the history of salvation in such way that the present and future become moments of grace and life and promise in the name of Jesus.

The Rev. Monsignor Michael F. Groden is pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in the Back Bay.

This story ran on page A23 of the Boston Globe on 12/19/2002.
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