Tag Archive: sexual abuse catholic church


Call of Peter and Andrew LVenezianoHomily for Mass – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 7:30am & 5:00pm

26 January 2014

[Readings: Is 8:23-9:3;  Ps 26;  1 Cor 1:10-13, 17;  Mt 4:12-23]

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus in the early days of his public ministry, calling the first members of his “team,” making the rounds of Galilee, teaching, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing those with sickness and disease.  We see Jesus embodying the fact that he is the light to the peoples of the world … He is the one who will bring light where there is darkness.

After his resurrection and ascension, his chosen band would take up the mantle, and would literally take his light to the ends of the known world.  His chosen ones might have had a few troubles to begin with, but once they became witnesses to his resurrection, there was no stopping them.  In the Gospels throughout the year, we’ll hear of some of the hesitating steps that the apostles would first make – even false steps – but we recall what we see in today’s Gospel: as Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, and then James and John, they follow him without hesitation.  The Lord is able to build on that initial generosity and enthusiasm that allowed them to respond to the call of the Lord so eagerly.

As Jesus went about proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom, he was acting in and with the power of God.  God was truly breaking into the darkness of people’s lives through the words and actions of Christ … in and through Him, the true light of the world was breaking forth.

Now, Jesus’ followers were meant to be acting with the same power.  The same light was meant to shine through the Church as it continued the ministry of Christ following his ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit.  In the second reading today Saint Paul addresses the situation of divisions in the Christian community … factions arising where people are claiming to belong to different parties.  Such divisions dim the light that should be shining in and through the Church, and they hinder the power of God working as effectively as it might.

In many parts of the world this past week was observed as the week of prayer for Christian Unity … and so our second reading today is most apt:  is Christ truly the centre of our spiritual life?  Are we sure we’re following Christ, and not someone or something else?

In the past few days Pope Francis spoke about some of the divisions that can creep into the community.  He spoke very strongly about how Christians must close the doors to jealousies, envy and gossip that divide and destroy our communities.  He commented that a person who is jealous or envious has a bitterness in their heart, and they’ve forgotten how to sing, how to praise and what joy is.  He warns us against being sowers of bitterness.  The Holy Father also says that jealousy and envy lead to rumors and gossip which he says divides the community and destroy it.  He went so far as to say that “rumours are the weapons of the devil.” (1)  He concluded his remarks by praying for “our Christian communities so that this seed of jealousy will not be sown between us, so that envy will not take root in our heart, in the heart of our communities, and so we can move forward with praise to the Lord, praising the Lord with joy.  It is a great grace [he said] the grace of not falling into sadness, being resentful, jealous and envious.”

It’s good to reflect on these warnings that St Paul presents to us, and also the Holy Father, because the Lord has called all of us and made us members of His Church.  Like the first disciples and apostles, we are meant to be the bearers of the Good News of salvation in the midst of our world today.  But we won’t do that very well if we’re turned in on ourselves, or if there is a fundamental disunity that prevents us working together for the mission of Christ.  Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul … and it was a reminder that we should always pray for our own ongoing conversion to Christ, so that we will truly follow him above all things, and not fall into divisions, rivalries, factions.

On this Australia Day, as we pray for our nation, we are reminded that this is the place where we are called to be bearers of Christ’s light in the world.  So we might ask ourselves: what are the challenging areas of darkness in our national scene that are calling out for the light of Christ to be brought to?  What response and action is the Lord calling us to?  Through the intercession of our national patroness, Mary Help of Christians, may God bless Australia, and may He help all of us to work together to continue the work of Christ in our land: to lead people to repent and come home to the Lord, to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom, and to share the Lord’s healing love with those weighed down by any form of oppression.

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  1. http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-jealousy-envy-and-gossip-divide-and-d

3aaA little late, but here it is …

Homily for Mass – Third Sunday of Advent (Year A)

(Saint Benedict’s Church, East Brisbane: 6:00pm Saturday;  Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8:00am Sunday, and Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5:30pm Sunday)

15 December 2013

[Readings: Is 35:1-6, 10;  Ps 145;  Jas 5:7-10;  Mt 11:2-11]

Rejoice in the Lord always;  again I say, rejoice.

Indeed the Lord is near!

So says the Entrance Antiphon of today’s Mass, the third Sunday of Advent.  We rejoice because Christmas is near.  We rejoice because the day of salvation is near!

In the Gospel we hear of John the Baptist.  We recall that his father Zechariah had sung of his son that he would go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways, to make known to the Lord’s people their salvation through the forgiveness of all their sins.  We rejoice because we have come to know the loving-kindness of the heart of our God who visits us like the dawn from on high.

The prophet Isaiah had foretold the day of salvation for the people of Israel … the day they would be led to their homeland, freed from oppression and slavery.  It would be such a wonderful day that it would be as if the desert came to life.  The people’s sorrow and lament would be ended, the eyes of the blind would be opened, the deaf would hear, the lame leap like a deer and the tongues of the mute sing for joy!

When John the Baptist is nearing the end of his life, he is imprisoned for his fidelity to the Truth whom he had served.  And in the darkness of his imprisonment, he wonders if Jesus is the One whom they had been waiting for.  Jesus replies by pointing out that the Prophet’s words are being fulfilled:  Jesus’ ministry has literally seen the blind being given sight again, the lame walking, lepers being cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised to life, and the Good News being proclaimed to the poor.

We rejoice because this same salvation has come to us.  We have received it in holy Baptism.  But what does it mean to have received salvation?  How are we saved?

In the first place, salvation is being healed from our sins.  Jesus “frees us from our guilt and makes it possible for us no longer to be dominated by our faults and failings, [no longer to be dominated by] the distorted drives and flawed bits of ourselves that trip us up and make life awful for us and for others” (1)  In Jesus we meet the “tender-kindness of the Lord;” a Lord who is always willing and ready to forgive us and heal us – to give us a new start;  a Lord whose love is much greater than our faults and failings.  The Lord’s mercy is new each day: the rising of the sun each new day can be a reminder to us of the Lord’s mercy, ever new.  We remember too that the effects of personal sin accumulate “in the shape of social forces that confirm the tendency to evil” that human nature experiences after the Fall (1)  This too is a proper object of God’s healing and transforming love: that is, the transformation of social structures that do not align with God’s law.

Not only are we freed from sin – both personally and communally – but God in Jesus also saves us from the fear of mortal death.  Eternal life is “stronger than biological death” and it is “a life [that] we can, through faith, begin to experience here and now.  In Christ, biological death is not a dying out of life but a dying into a more intense life” (1).

But salvation is not only about “being delivered from sin and mortality” (1).  Salvation also means being freed from being alone.  The rise of social media in our times is just one expression of our real fear of being unrelated to others, isolated, faceless and anonymous (1).  It’s suggested that we probably fear loneliness more than we fear sin and death (1).  Here, again, Jesus offers us salvation.  In him we see the face of God: a God who knows us by name and who calls us by name;  a God who loves us intimately.  In Jesus we see God’s “indescribable goodness, mercy and love.”  Jesus calls us to be part of his body, the Church … and in the Church we are reminded constantly that we are never alone.  In the give and take of community life we realize our need for others, and our need to be there for others.  Not just as individuals are we saved, but we are saved together.

With the Psalmist today we cry out: Lord, come and save us!  We realize that we are sinners, and that we still need the Lord to free us from sin;  we need him to pick us up after we have fallen;  to lead us out of the misery of shame and guilt.  We realize that we do need the Lord to free us from the fear of earthly death.  And we certainly need him to free us from the fear of loneliness.

As we call out for God’s salvation to be known and felt in our lives, we rejoice that salvation has come in Jesus Christ.  This is why his coming down from heaven to earth, and the beginnings of his earthly life as he is born in Bethlehem, [this is why it] fills us with so much joy.  Here is the coming of the One who saves us from sin, who saves us from mortality and death, and who saves us from loneliness and isolation.

Indeed the Lord is near.  We have every reason to rejoice always in the Lord!

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(1) Aidan Nichols, OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, Volume 2, The Temporal Cycle: Advent and Christmastide, Lent and Eastertide, Balwyn, Victoria, Freedom Publishing, 2012.

2aaHomily for Mass – Second Sunday of Advent (Year A)

(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6:00pm, Sunday 7:30am & 9:00am)

7/8 December 2013

(Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10;  Ps 71;  Rom 15:4-9;  Mt 3:1-12)

Not so long ago you will recall the incident at the zoo in which the tiger attacked its keeper.  We could say that part of the excitement of watching shows in zoos is because we know deep down that – in the natural order – tigers and humans aren’t meant to be in each other’s company – even less humans and crocodiles.

The image painted in the second part of the first reading plays on this idea.  Can you imagine a wolf living with a lamb? – probably not!  We know what would happen!  Would it normally be a happy ending if an infant played near a snake?  Or a young child putting its hand into the viper’s lair?

These vivid images painted by the prophet startle us to realize that these strange things are not only possible in the kingdom of God … but are to be expected.

In life we sometimes come across situations where it really seems quite hopeless.  You can’t imagine how a person is going to get out of the trouble they’re in.  We might say to ourselves, “only a miracle could fix this.”  What is a miracle other than a direct action of God in human life?  Do we not believe that God acts in our lives?  Why wouldn’t we think a miracle is possible?  Why shouldn’t we expect God to act?

In our advent season leading up to Christmas, we have the chance to ponder the fact that God truly did act in human life in the most extraordinary way … God took flesh in the person of Jesus Christ … God truly became human.  The power of God was seen in the actions of Jesus … the voice of God was heard in him.  We shouldn’t think that this action of God ended with the ascension of Jesus to heaven, and then the sending of the Holy Spirit.

The same Word that spoke in Jesus speaks to us, and as scripture tells us, the Word of God is alive and active.  That Word disturbs our souls … it makes our hearts restless so that they will seek God who alone can make our restlessness cease.  That Word converts people: it makes people turn away from wrongdoing and strive for right-living.  That Word sends people as missionaries both near and far;  it makes people set up leper colonies or clinics for those with addictions;  it causes people to challenge unjust rulers, or to write magnificent and inspiring poetry, or to create images and icons that draw us into the mystery of God (1).

In this time of prayer as we gather for the offering of Mass, let’s each of us reflect on the ways the Word is speaking to us.  Is the Word disturbing us, making us realize things in our lives that need to change?  In what ways are we hearing the call of John the Baptist to repent?  We can ask ourselves: what holds us back from being the best version of ourselves?  What situations, beliefs, or past actions need the healing mercy of God to wash over them to cleanse us?  In what ways is the Word of God calling you to something new?  Some new possibility, some new way of living His will?  Is there some way in which the Lord is calling you to be courageous in following him, to truly step out in faith?

When we hear all those questions, we might well say “Bah!” – only a miracle could make that happen.  But we need to believe that God works in human hearts.  He wants to break through into our lives in His power.  He wants to work miracles in your life, in mine!  What’s stopping him?

We prepare for the celebration of the coming of God among us by opening our hearts to His power being born in us in our daily lives.  May He open our hearts, increase our faith, and make us long for the miracles He wants to work in our lives.

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(1) Aidan Nichols, OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, Volume 2, The Temporal Cycle: Advent and Christmastide, Lent and Eastertide, Balwyn, Victoria, Freedom Publishing, 2012.

Homily for Mass – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Year C)

(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6:00pm, Sunday 7:30am & 9:00am)

23/24 November 2013

[Readings: 2 Sam 5:1-3;  Ps 121;  Col 1:12-20;  Lk 23:35-43)

Apologies if you were at Mass at Park Ridge or Jimboomba last weekend, because I need to repeat part of what I said in my homily!

You will have seen in the news over the last few months many reports of various State-level Inquiries into sexual abuse in the Church.  There has been an Inquiry in Victoria, and another in New South Wales.  There is also the Royal Commission taking place nationally.  The Royal Commission is not just looking at the Catholic Church, but Institutions generally.  The fourth case study it will look at starting on December 9th will be the Catholic Church’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse, and particularly the Towards Healing process.  At this time, the Bishops want us all to be aware of the commitment they are making to the Royal Commission and to this problem in particular.  They have asked that the following statement be read at Masses.  And so, they say:

The Catholic Church in Australia, in its submissions to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and in its communications with both the Catholic and broader communities has made the following commitment:

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia recognise and acknowledge the devastating harm caused to people by the crime of child sexual abuse.  We take this opportunity to state:

1               Sexual abuse of a child by a priest or religious is a crime under Australian law and under canon law.

2               Sexual abuse of a child by any Church personnel, whenever it occurred, was then and is now indefensible.

3               That such abuse has occurred at all, and the extent to which it has occurred, are facts of which the whole Church in Australia is deeply ashamed.

4               The Church fully and unreservedly acknowledges the devastating, deep and ongoing impact of sexual abuse on the lives of the victims and their families.

5               The Church acknowledges that many victims were not believed when they should have been.

6               The Church is also ashamed to acknowledge that, in some cases, those in positions of authority concealed or covered up what they knew of the facts, moved perpetrators to another place, thereby enabling them to offend again, or failed to report matters to the police when they should have.  That behaviour too is indefensible.

7               Too often in the past it is clear some Church leaders gave too high a priority to protecting the reputation of the Church, its priests, religious and other personnel, over the protection of children and their families, and over compassion and concern for those who suffered at the hands of Church personnel.  That too was and is inexcusable.

8               In such ways, Church leaders betrayed the trust of their own people and the expectations of the wider community.

9               For all these things the Church is deeply sorry.  It apologises to all those who have been harmed and betrayed.  It humbly asks for forgiveness.

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia commit ourselves to endeavour to repair the wrongs of the past, to listen to and hear victims, to put their needs first, and to do everything we can to ensure a safer future for children.  (For more information on the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council go to www.tjhcouncil.org.au).

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We hear in the Gospel today part of the Passion narrative.  This reminds us quite powerfully that the Christ who reigns as King of the universe, judge of all;  the One who is the Lord of history, and who is guiding everything to its fulfillment in the glory of God the Father – this King is the One who became flesh for us … who reached out to touch us with God’s blessing and healing;  who spoke God’s words of love to us;  who suffered with and for us, emptying himself completely, even to the shedding of his blood on the Cross.  He would stop at nothing to take us from the clutches of evil and to restore us to the Kingdom of His Father.

Our sins continue the suffering of Christ, and our grave sins continue his passion on the Cross.  The fact that we are baptized into his very body make our sins all the more shameful, because they are betrayals of him, and we wound Him in ourselves.

But as we ponder the image of Jesus on the Cross, we see not so much our judgment, but rather the love and mercy with which Christ has borne all things.  The sight of his death moves our hearts to pray for the grace of repentance – so that we will not crucify him with our sins any longer, but rather exalt him by our conversion; to lift him up by our rising to new life.  The sight of Jesus’ hanging on the Cross, wounded and bloodied by the blows of men, and the sight of his pierced side from which flowed blood and water, a fountain of love and mercy, moves us to share this love and mercy with others.

When “Pope Pius XI initiated [this] feast of Christ the King [in 1925] … he wanted every person to know that Jesus is superior to all the other would-be kings of his day: Mussolini’s Fascism, Hitler’s Nazism, Stalin’s Communism, Freud’s psychological determinism, and American materialism.  The Holy Father wanted to tell the Church then, and us today, that only Jesus can fill our deepest desires for love, peace, … happiness” and freedom (The Word Among Us, November 2013).

As we honour today Christ, the universal king, may God help us to advance the reign of Christ among all people.  May our lives as Christians point to that time when God will be all in all.  May we live today as true citizens of his kingdom, so that we can be part of that kingdom for all eternity.

Homily for Mass – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

(Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8:00am, and Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5:30pm)

17 November 2013

[Readings: Mal 3:19-20;  Ps 97;  2 Thess 3:7-12;  Lk 21:5-19]

You will have seen in the news that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has already begun its private and public hearings.  Two case studies have already been looked at, and another case study will begin tomorrow.  On the 9th of December a fourth case study will be commenced, and that will be when the Royal Commission turns its attention to the Catholic Church’s response to child sexual abuse, and specifically it will look at the Towards Healing protocol that has become the Australian Church’s way of responding to those who bring forward allegations of abuse.  (see http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/)

The bishops have stated that it’s important for all of us to know how Church leaders are approaching the issue of sexual abuse and the disposition they are taking to the Commission.  In order to make this clear, they have provided a “commitment statement” which they have asked priests to make known as widely as possible.  I’d like to share the contents of that statement with you this morning.

The Catholic Church in Australia, in its submissions to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and in its communications with both the Catholic and broader communities has made the following commitment:

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia recognise and acknowledge the devastating harm caused to people by the crime of child sexual abuse.  We take this opportunity to state:

1               Sexual abuse of a child by a priest or religious is a crime under Australian law and under canon law.

2               Sexual abuse of a child by any Church personnel, whenever it occurred, was then and is now indefensible.

3               That such abuse has occurred at all, and the extent to which it has occurred, are facts of which the whole Church in Australia is deeply ashamed.

4               The Church fully and unreservedly acknowledges the devastating, deep and ongoing impact of sexual abuse on the lives of the victims and their families. 

5               The Church acknowledges that many victims were not believed when they should have been.

6               The Church is also ashamed to acknowledge that, in some cases, those in positions of authority concealed or covered up what they knew of the facts, moved perpetrators to another place, thereby enabling them to offend again, or failed to report matters to the police when they should have.  That behaviour too is indefensible.

7               Too often in the past it is clear some Church leaders gave too high a priority to protecting the reputation of the Church, its priests, religious and other personnel, over the protection of children and their families, and over compassion and concern for those who suffered at the hands of Church personnel.  That too was and is inexcusable.

8               In such ways, Church leaders betrayed the trust of their own people and the expectations of the wider community.

9               For all these things the Church is deeply sorry.  It apologises to all those who have been harmed and betrayed.  It humbly asks for forgiveness.

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia commit ourselves to endeavour to repair the wrongs of the past, to listen to and hear victims, to put their needs first, and to do everything we can to ensure a safer future for children.  (For more information on the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council go to www.tjhcouncil.org.au).

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On this second last Sunday of the Church year, the readings lead us to focus on the end of human history.  We are invited to reflect on the fact that human history is a story: with a beginning, a middle, a climax and an end.  As a story it also has a purpose, it is going somewhere. (1)

When you’re in the midst of reading a novel, you usually don’t know how it will end.  As you’re reading the book, the point of every little twist and turn is not immediately apparent: it will only make sense at the end.  Likewise, the story of human history is still being written.  Because we have free will God is still at work, redeeming and saving us.

When we consider an issue such as child sexual abuse we naturally ask “why does this happen?”  Why did it happen in the Church?  Why have we witnessed such a betrayal, both in the original crimes, but then also in the treatment of victims?

We can be invited to see the work of the Royal Commission as helping to shine the light of God into the darkness of human sin and corruption.  The light of God is one which shines with truth, justice, and healing its rays.  But as the first reading today says, the day of the Lord in which the sun of righteousness shines, is also a day “burning like a furnace” on which evil-doers and wickedness is burnt up like stubble.

In this time of collective purification for the Church, we should also look into our own hearts.  The darkness of sin ultimately resides in our individual hearts.  The extent to which the Church follows Jesus more closely is the extent to which each of us does that.

Let’s – each of us – bring ourselves to stand in the light of God, and to allow His light to reveal any darkness in our hearts.  May we help each other to be better Christians, and courageously allow Jesus to win the battle over sin and death in each of us … so that all may come to know the healing mercy of God.

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(1)               Aidan Nichols OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, Volume 3: The Temporal Cycle, Sundays through the Year, Balwyn, VIC., Freedom, 2012