Theologian: Church must be more than fortress of guidelines

The Church has to be more than just a fortress of guidelines and norms keeping abusers out and those not abused safe within, a theologian has said.

Jesuit Fr James Corkery, a theology professor at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, said the Church also must be an open, welcoming home for those who have been wounded and pushed away.

Fr Corkery was speaking after the annual Anglophone Conference on the Safeguarding of Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults, held in Rome from June 21-24.

There is a danger that too much emphasis on “action” and “fixing” things can create a “muscular Christianity” which crowds out any space for a more motherly embrace of the Church’s lost and wounded sheep, he said.

This year’s Anglophone conference was dedicated to building a spiritual and theological approach to child protection.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a psychologist and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said a theological approach is crucial, even though some might think “that’s wasted time, we should act”.

However, such a reflection can help with prevention, discipline and healing, speakers said.

Fr Corkery said he looked at Church teaching on salvation because the fact that “we are saved by Christ from our sins” does not resonate well with survivors because “they have been sinned against”.

“Sin is not a category that is good for them to begin with. In fact, it could make them feel worse because they think the perpetrator has been forgiven,” he said.

People who are abused by someone in the Church may no longer feel “saved, but distinctly unsaved”, the priest said.

“They also lose their sense of the Church as a face of consolation, security, warmth.”

Fr Corkery said survivors could find greater healing from a complementary view of salvation that emphasises not just the sin people are saved “from”, but that Jesus also saved people “for” something greater: “a flourishing life, health, restoration, wholeness.”


News category: World.

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