April 17, 2008
by David Fortwengler
Once again, the sun rose to reveal another “heavenly” day in our Nations Capital. Man I love that city. The city’s Metro (one of the world’s great subways) opened early to transport the Faithful to the brand new Nationals Stadium for a Papal Mass. The morning press excitedly repeated three words from the Pope’s statement to Bishops the previous evening, “sometimes handled poorly”, as if there had been some sort of scolding or acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Chris Matthews actually had another tingle in his leg.
Did he know we were watching?
I wonder how many victims from across the country stayed home from work to watch that day, feeling the same anxiety I was. The greatest thing about survivors, I know I wasn’t alone in front of the TV that morning. We were all wondering the same thing, “Will the Pope have a message for me?”.
What did he say?
I thought if the Pope really wanted to make a statement, he would have asked Father Thomas Doyle to give the homily, but I guess he wasn’t available. The Pope once again began by noting the rich history, growth, and contributions of American Catholicism. He then spoke of the need to re-affirm fidelity with Church teachings, and offered gratitude and encouragement to those pursuing Vatican II. Then in Paragraph 10, in the context of hope born of God’s love and fidelity, he mentioned it.
In summary, he acknowledged the pain the Church has experienced, can’t describe the damage within the community of the Church, has already spoken with the bishops about their great job dealing fairly and honestly with this tragic situation, has no words to describe the pain from being sexually abused as a child, and he assigns the task of fostering healing and reconciliation to lay Catholics.
I realized my cleansing breaths were not keeping up with the negative stimuli. Maybe I will try switching from Pepto to Immodium.
Inspired by the ballpark backdrop, competition came into play during “communion watch”. Knowing what “fidelity to church teachings in public life” really means, cameras scanned the crowd for pro-choice Catholic politicians. It was much too nice a day for anyone to be rude. Final score, Politicians 100 - Clergy 0
Watching the Mass at the new ballpark, I couldn’t help but remember the last time I attended a baseball game in Washington. It was September 30th, 1971, the Washington Senators final game before being moved to Texas to become the Rangers.
“With the Senators leading 7–5 and two outs in the top of the ninth inning, several hundred youths stormed the field, raiding it for souvenirs. With the grass ripped up and first base pilfered, umpire crew chief Jim Honochick forfeited the game to the New York Yankees 9–0.”
Oh, what a memory! And no, I was not allowed on the field. I will always remember the owners quote as he was leaving town, “They are not the Washington Senators, they are Bob Short’s Senators”. At an early age I learned that pro sports was just a business. I know, just get over it.
So now almost 37 years later, baseball has returned to Washington and the sparkling new stadium is christened by a Papal Mass. Oh well. Obviously, it’s not abuse, but it did bum me out.
It is in the context of this hope born of God’s love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children – whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure – can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness and growth in holiness.