The bishops of New South Wales have told their faithful flocks in their joint Lenten pastoral letter Sowing in Tears what apparently is the call of all our bishops to the Catholics of this nation:
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference calls on all the faithful to join them in observing the Fridays of Lent in 2013 as special days of penance in the wake of the abuse crisis, by such means as prayerful reading of the Holy Scripture, a holy hour of prayer and petition before the Blessed Sacrament, and by traditional acts such as fasting and abstaining from meat. As your Bishops in New South Wales we undertake to lead you in these efforts and to continue to make a holy hour ourselves beyond Lent. We invite clergy and religious to join us in giving this lead and redoubling their prayers for this intention.
I am very pleased that the bishops will lead and set an example in all this penance.
But – forgive me, Your Eminence, My Lords – I must ask, why exactly should we, the lay faithful, do penance for the sins of such of our (past) priests and bishops who have been monstrously and notoriously unfaithful, not to say sinful, criminal abusers, co-conspirators in evil, very Judases, rapers of bodies and slayers of souls?
Forgive me – and I do know several of you – but I am rather unimpressed by this no doubt well-meant suggestion that we the "simple faithful" should participate in repenting for what we didn't do: au contraire, it will be not before time when not a few guilty parties in holy orders, yes, and not a few of their innocent brothers who we know should have been a good deal more vigilant and proactive, repent in sackcloth and ashes.
I think the clergy (and religious) should do penance for the sins of their brothers (and sisters) – it is their corporate body that has so conspicuously let us down, scandalizing the faithful, shaming us all before the scoffing world, bringing opprobrium upon Holy Church, giving new reason for all to hate Catholics, aiding atheists, pleasing Satan, and driving wounded souls from Christ.
Whose sins? Those in holy orders and in vows. Who covered up? Priests and bishops, religious sisters and brothers. What group as a whole ought therefore do corporate penance for the sins of their brethren? The clergy and religious congregations.
Who were the victims? The sons (and to a lesser extent, the daughters) of the laity. Who spoke out and protested but were ignored? The fathers and mothers of the abused. Who had to seek justice from the secular courts when the hierarchy proved worse than useless? Christ's faithful.
So, who should tell who to do penance? I think the average Catholic would be quite ready to tell priests – and I know whereof I speak – to work rather harder, and to do penance themselves, rather than nobly volunteer on behalf of the much-scandalized laity at large to join them in doing so!
Yes, yes, we are all one body, one spirit in Christ – and so the sins of one aggrieve and afflict all... still, I think I have a valid point... comments? If I am too harsh and impertinent in my words to my betters, mea culpa... correct me.