Church of tomorrow needs to repair past sins

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Bishop Brendan Leahy.

THE CATHOLIC church needs to acknowledge the “dark aspects” of its history in the sexual abuse of minors, the wielding of power and the violent treatment of young people in institutions, if the church is to “repair” in preparation for the Pope’s coming.

That was the message given by Bishop Brendan Leahy in a Feast of the Assumption of Mary homily at the Mass Rock in Killeedy, in County Limerick, following Mass earlier at Ashford Church this Wednesday.

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Bishop Leahy said that the visit of Pope Francis has put Ireland at a crossroads in what he described as a pivotal moment for the Church in Ireland.

It is time for the Church “to acknowledge our past, both good and bad”, he told Wednesday’s gathering.

“It is good for us to recall with a grateful heart just how much the Church contributed to Irish society. But to acknowledge with gratitude the good can never eclipse recognition of sin, criminality and evil, he said.

Bishop Leahy referenced a clericalism that ended up confusing power and ministry, the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and religious that did untold life-long damage to victims, the violent and repressive treatment by church representatives of young people sent to the State’s reformatory institutions and the dark experience of vulnerable women in places meant to be residences of refuge.

“Sadly, as has been highlighted, cover-up, wilful or otherwise, and mismanagement compounded the damage, adding to our shame.

“We need,” he said, “to prepare for the Pope’s coming with a desire to want to “repair” the Church first of all by seeking forgiveness for the sins of the past. As well as needing to pray for those who have been wounded we need to keep listening and to learn from them how to clarify and repair our church.”

Bishop Leahy said that the Mass Rock location would help bring the church out into the open, adding that, “Catholics can be downbeat today because it is painful to acknowledge in our family story that we have wounded people, but we need to move forward, attentive to what the Spirit is saying to us.”