Thoughts from Towards Peace Advent 2022

The last couple of weeks have seen the Irish Church rocked yet again by the fallout from clerical child sexual abuse. There have been calls for public enquiries, disbandment of religious orders on the one hand combined with handwringing and a sense of bewilderment from Joe Catholic on the other, as to when will we as a Church ever learn.

The Christian message is built on hope, but foundational hope demands a foundational belief in a world that is still and always is unfolding to something better. This is the virtue of hope – and the core of what we are called to believe. As Paul says, in that wonderful exposition of love in Corinthians 13, faith hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love. Hope is at the heart of our faith – it is the connecting point between faith and love.

Hope therefore is also at the heart of Advent. If we had nothing to hope for, there would be no point to this season. The original hope was for a child to be born who would bring justice and peace to the world and who would heal the rift between humanity and God. But that larger hope is filled with smaller ones—daily hopes, that can and do if we allow them, shape us as people.

In May of this year as a response to an invitation from the National Steering Committee for the Synod, eight survivors of sexual, institutional emotional physical and spiritual abuse by members of the Catholic Church in Ireland, came together for a day, under the auspices of Towards Peace, to talk together about their experience and how that might impact our journey together as the synodal process moves forward.  Read it Here

In my view the subsequent submission from that group is a reason for real hope. It is a call to the Church to hear the prophetic voice of survivors, and to act on the wisdom of their experience, so as to renew our Church that failed to protect children and continues to fail survivors.  If the recent stories about Blackrock teach us anything, it is surely that the abuse issue has not gone away, nor is it likely to within the foreseeable future. Yet on this occasion these men spoke frankly not only of their loss of a sense of self, but also their loss of a sense of God – a profound wound which was being publicly acknowledged perhaps for the first time. Being able to learn from one another in humility as equal partners and ultimately journey together is in my opinion the first step on the synodal pathway and a reason for real hope this Advent.