Should the Catholic Church be forgiven for its child abuse?

As Christians it is tough having to watch the most visible and influential representation of Christ’s church on Earth bring such public disgrace on itself, on its people, and on Christ himself through its systemic problem of child abuse. These are our fellow Christians too, and here they are stuck in a desperate situation where they are damned if they don’t stop the abuse, but just as damned if they do try to stop it, because that would be admitting the Church is terribly fallible and even criminal in its actions.

So our brothers and sisters carry a heavy burden. They know they have God’s unlimited mercy and forgiveness, but they also know from their own Catholic teachings that there’s no pardon without repentance. And repentance means turning away from sin through faith in Christ. This is what God sent Jesus for, “to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways,” Acts 3:26.

The Catholic Church has done an enormous amount of good in this world, so is God now offering the Church itself a great blessing, by zeroing in on what has been hurting its effectiveness? Child abuse obviously qualifies as “a wicked way,” so in bringing it to the surface where it cannot be denied or covered up any longer, a great blessing awaits the Church if it truly repents by asking and trusting Christ to deal with the abuse his way.

And that may mean a huge black eye for the Church hierarchy, but that might bring an end to the other systemic problem in the Catholic Church, the idea that eternal salvation only comes through being members of the Catholic Church. So two birds could be killed with one stone here, that through open confession of criminal abuse, and trust in Christ to deal with the problem no matter what the fallout, the Catholic Church could then join the rest of us fallible, sinning Christians as brothers and sisters who don’t mind admitting our frailty and fallibility, and our need every day for Christ’s forgiveness, mercy and his great gift of repentance.

To ask the question, then, “Should the Catholic Church be forgiven for its child abuse?” I hope the answer given by Catholics themselves is, “No, the Church should not be forgiven UNTIL it repents, meaning we Catholics should all – from the Pope on down – openly state that we are trusting in Christ to clean us up completely, because the blessing that results in our Church will show the world that this is what God sent Christ to every hurting, fallible, sinning, abusive person for.” And what a witness to Christ that would be.  

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