From The Hand of Fr. Aaron Ferris For February 17, 2019

One of the problems of the sexual abuse of children by priests is what to do with the priests when we find out what they have done. Some cases are straightforward: They have committed crimes, and they are turned over to the police and the prosecutor’s office. Many cases, though, are not always so easy because the statute of limitations has expired. Whether we should get rid of statute of limitations is another issue worthy of consideration, but for now it is a part of the reality.

Regardless of whether the abuser priest can be criminally prosecuted or not, the Church still finds herself in the position of being responsible for the priest. On the day of ordination, the priest turned his life over to God and to the Church. The bishop receives the promises the priest makes, and, in turn, the bishop takes responsibility for the priest. This is renewed at each Chrism Mass during Holy Week when priests renew their promises to the God and the Church.

It is much like marriage when vows are made “for better or for worse…till death do us part” or “in good times and in bad …all the days of my life.” We often like to think about the better times, the good times, but the vows of marriage are really about for worse until death, in bad times for the rest of life.

In marriage this is grounded in Christ’s love for His people. The fidelity of marriage is a sign of Christ’s love, the love that endured betrayal by His close friends, their rejection and abandonment. Christ’s love endured torture and humiliation from the people He had been sent to save. Christ’s love went to the Cross to die in a horrific way. There are no easy outs to the commitment that Jesus made, which is the pattern of love for marriage.

Similarly, in the priesthood, there are no easy outs. Commitments have been made, and they have been sealed by a sacrament, by the enduring and faithful love of God. The Church is still responsible for the priests, including the bad ones. This is why priests are removed from ministry and put on “prayer and penance.” They are taken out of a position where they can do harm, and they are placed in a state where they can in some measure atone for their sins.

Ultimately atonement happens through the Blood of Jesus, but being put on prayer and penance is meant to be an active state of striving to atone with Jesus for sin. If a priest follows the rules of prayer and penance, then the Church continues to be responsible for him. Jesus doesn’t kick anyone to the curb; we might leave Him, but He never leaves us. The Church strives to imitate that same love, just as she calls us to do the same.

Rev. Aaron Ferris
Rev. Aaron Ferris
Rev. Aaron R. Ferris Ordination Date: June 6, 2009 Pastor, St. Anthony Parish (Saranac) and St. Mary’s Parish (Lowell) 402 Amity Street Lowell, MI 49331 Phone: 616-897-9820
%d bloggers like this:
Skip to toolbar