Examen on Clergy Abuse

The recent revelations regarding sexual abuse has revealed a sickness within the Church. The Body of Christ has been deeply wounded. A great deal has been written in response to the scandal. I encourage you to read the statements from Church leadership including Pope Francis, Archbishop Carlson, and Fr. Ron Mercier provincial of the Central & Southern province Jesuits.

I want to suggest a parish-wide spiritual exercise that can help us discern how we can respond as God’s people. Many of us already practice the Examen prayer made popular by St. Ignatius Loyola. An Examen made in light of recent events is a good way to understand how the Spirit is at work within us, and what is appropriate response.

We are people of faith. That means we believe that God is present even in the worst of circumstances. Clearly the Suffering Christ walks with the victims and calls us to deeper solidarity with them. The anger and outrage that we feel can be a powerful stimulus to grow in discipleship. It can help us to answer the question, “What kind of Church do we want to be?”

Ask for the grace to know what is going on inside of you. Dive deep into the emotions and feelings that touch your heart. Why do I feel this way? What has been my personal response? Is there a way to channel our anger in a constructive fashion? We should consider all levels of our being: intellectual, emotional, spiritual, etc. Try to get beyond surface reactions in order to reflect in depth.

It is important to ask if my reaction to the scandal is authentically of God. In other words, does it move me to greater faith, hope and love? Does it increase my desire to align myself closer to Christ in those who have suffered? Am I seeking to deepen my love of God and my neighbor? Anger can liberate or enslave us. Seek to identify in what direction you feel inclined.

Making an Examen from a place of gratitude is essential. We are not, of course, grateful for what has taken place. That would be obscene. Instead, express gratitude for the powerful emotions stirred up by the Holy Spirit. You are feeling the sorrow Jesus felt at the death of his friend Lazarus, and the righteous anger he felt at the Temple being made a den of thieves. Give thanks for the desire to address a great injustice.

The Examen always propels us forward. Seek to leave behind what hinders and embrace that which makes us more Christ-like. What are the gifts we need? What particular graces do we seek from our generous God? Beg for the Holy Spirit so we may not grow slack or weary in working to re-imagine our Church.

Finally, I ask that you compile the fruits of your Examen. Take notes or document them in some fashion. There will be an opportunity in the near future for us as a community to share these graces with one another. If you like, you may email reflections to me as well. Thank you.