Yesterday at Toronto’s Chrism Mass (probably not the most inspiring one I’ve been to in years) the Archbishop preached a very important homily. What the homily was lacking in the Archbishop’s usual ease and humour was a very powerful and important twist on the the media attention to the sexual abuse cases by clergy. His point was that the fact that people are outraged that ANY priest is abusive points to the underlying belief people have that a Catholic priest should be a person of trust and holiness. It is to this holiness that the Archbishop called the priests who serve in Toronto.
It is interesting to see the different way that the media reported on the Chrism Mass. Check out the Star that claims there were 200 priests and no mention of “abuse” in the homily. Look then at the National Post which says there were 400 priests there and how much the archbishop spoke of the crisis. Look here:
Toronto Star: Raveena Aulakh
“Minutes after warning more than 200 priests that there will always be among them those who will betray the innocent, the archbishop of Toronto strongly defended the Pope’s actions during the most serious crisis facing the Roman Catholic Church in decades.”
“But Collins did not use the words “sexual abuse, abuse or abusive priests” in his address to the congregation.”
The National Post: Charles Lewis
“Archbishop Collins, who oversees the largest diocese in Canada, was speaking at a mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral at which 400 priests renewed their vows as part of the Easter season. While most of his 15-minute sermon addressed the “life of faithful service” that most priests live, he made a point of reminding those in attendance of the higher moral standard to which they have been called.”
“We should be grateful for the attention which the media devotes to the sins of the Catholic clergy, even if constant repetition may give the false impression that Catholic clergy are particularly sinful. That attention is a profound tribute to the priesthood … People instinctively expect holiness in a Catholic priest, and are especially appalled when he does evil.”
Later, outside the church, he added: “A priest is supposed to be a holy person you can trust. If he’s not, then that’s news. If it wasn’t, that would be a terrible thing.”
And now look at these portions of the homily text by Archbishop Collins:
People expect that one who is consecrated with the holy oil of Chrism, will act in an exemplary manner, and never betray the trust which people know they should be able to place in a Catholic priest. At his ordination we pray: Bless this chosen man, and set him apart for his sacred duties. And yet to our shame some have used the awesome gift of the holy priesthood for base personal gratification, betraying the innocent and devastating their lives.
When that happens, our first concern must be for those innocent young people who have been abused [was the Star’s reporter even there?], to help them overcome their suffering, and to resolve to take whatever steps are needed to be as sure as is possible that this does not happen again. We have all had to learn through failures and mistakes and that is especially true of bishops, who have sometimes failed in their responsibility to act effectively.
For this diocese, anyone who looks at our website can see the policies that are in place to help us to act rightly, but we must never be satisfied. We cannot escape the horror of this by pointing out that almost all priests serve faithfully, though that fact is a grace that gives joy to the Catholic people, whose love and prayerful support sustains us all. But even one priest gone wrong causes immense harm, and throughout the world priests have done unspeakable evil.
The Archdiocese of Toronto has done a great job of providing good information for people to inform themselves on this issue. Visit the site www.archtoronto.org for great resources. Here you can read the complete text of Archbishop Collins’ homily or even listen to it for yourself.