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Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, Alberta, pictured in a 2015 file photo. CNS photo/Paul Haring

'Evil in our midst': Edmonton archbishop calls for reform in wake of scandal

By  Andrew Ehrkamp, Canadian Catholic News
  • September 18, 2018
Grandin Media/Youtube

The Church must embrace reform and do whatever it takes to help victims of the sex abuse scandal that has rocked Catholics around the world, says Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith.

At the same time, the Church should not be defined by individual actions of some its leaders. 

“This perfect storm leaves us all reeling as we deal with shock, anger, shame and confusion,” Smith said in a video message published Sept. 16. “With eyes wide open to Christ, we see clearly the need for reform and our call to face it resolutely, yes. Yet we also see that the Church is simply not to be defined by the sins and crimes of some of her leaders, however egregious.

“Here is the particular grace for which we need to pray right now: to remain with the Church and to do so with our eyes opened; opened wide. They need to be opened wide by Christ first of all so that we continue to recognize His presence with us and to retain that as our principal focus.”

The archbishop made the comments in the first of a new series of video blogs aimed at providing support in reading and following Scripture by linking passages to current events affecting Catholics and the Church. The series, titled Vital Word, is being published weekly on the Grandin Media YouTube channel.

Smith and his brother bishops from Alberta and Northwest Territories had issued a pastoral letter in August pledging to listen to victims and to renew diocesan abuse prevention efforts. But this was the first time he specifically addressed the growing abuse scandal in the U.S. and its tentacles to the Vatican. It came just days after the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, met with Pope Francis to discuss the crisis.

“Right now, we are seeing the presence of evil in our midst,” Smith said in his video message. “And the evil we see is very great indeed. How are we to look at it? First of all, we need to see and face squarely the immeasurable harm that this evil has done to victims of abuse.”

A Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed claims of abuse of minors by clergy going back 70 years. Though the report identified more than 1,000 sex abuse claims, only two resulted in prosecutions because the statute of limitations had expired in most cases.

The cases may be old, Smith said, but the harm is still fresh.

“For the victim, the harm that was caused, even if it was a long while ago, has effects that are lifelong,” Smith said. “So, the gaze we direct toward them must be with eyes filled with compassion, and expressive of a readiness to do whatever needs to be done to help and heal.”

At the same time, Smith said the Church must be held accountable.

“We also have to have eyes wide open to the causes of all this. This will mean a readiness to ask direct and tough questions; it will mean launching investigations where needed, and these inquiries will need to involve laypersons with the expertise to do these sorts of things,” Smith said. 

“These questions and investigations will enable our eyes to be wide open to the truth, to the facts, and this in turn will help us to see clearly the way ahead.”

(Grandin Media)

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