Cardinal laments abuse scandals led to cynicism about holiness

One of the worst effects of modern clergy sex abuse scandals is cynicism about the call to holiness, a senior cardinal says.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston said this at the tenth National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington on May 13.

He heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors set up by Pope Francis.

“People can be overwhelmed by the bad example of priests and bishops who fail to fulfill their calling,” the cardinal said at the breakfast.

But he observed that while contemporary society offers the example of “superficial, self-absorbed” celebrities, the Church proposes the lives of the saints as examples of the call to holiness.

“The saints model for us the struggle to overcome human weakness and sinfulness and embrace God’s will in our lives,” the cardinal said.

He pointed to Servant of God Dorothy Day, who had an abortion and another child out of wedlock, as an example of how the Church “call[s] everyone to conversion”.

Dorothy Day “became one of the most outstanding persons in the history of the Church in our country”.

The cardinal called on Catholics to “break the habit” of presenting the Gospel in a way that “deceives people into thinking that they can be Christians and remain strangers”.

The privatisation of religion and individualism is “poisonous” to the communal nature of the body of Christ, he added.

The Capuchin said Catholics must embrace Pope Francis’s call to foster a “culture of encounter” and practice “the art of accompaniment” as disciples of Jesus Christ.

“Our task is to turn consumers into disciples and disciple-makers,” he said.

“We need to prepare people to witness to the faith and not to send people into the witness-protection program.”

Cardinal O’Malley said belief in the Gospel requires accepting the Church’s teaching on the human person, which extends to immigrants living and working in the US illegally.

He called for new and more just immigration laws to replace “a system that is broken and woefully inadequate”.


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