One year ago to the day, Archbishop Jerome Listecki delivered a homily about the nature of sin at his installation Mass as the new shepherd of Milwaukee who inherited the wreckage of its abuse scandal. Today, he went before the people, the press and the world to declare the natural progression of its consequences…..bankruptcy.

This was probably inevitable. But still startling.

…Listecki said the action was brought on “because priest-perpetrators sexually abused minors, going against everything the Church and the priesthood represents.”

As a result, he said, “there are financial claims pending against the archdiocese that exceed our means.”

This recalls for me a couple of things, right offhand…

When I hosted ‘The Right Questions’ radio show several years ago, my producer and I were so taken by something that was happening in an archdiocese in the far reaches of Canada, we invited the newly appointed archbishop on the show to talk about his remarkable approach. He had been appointed to head this archdiocese that was devastated by an abuse scandal, the wretched consequences of one bad priest. The archbishop took his post and announced a year of reparation for the entire archdiocese, ‘the year of the Cross’, and a program of prayer and pilgrimage, austerity and atonement, to end on the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. He was very humble, addressing the full weight of the crime and total need for just reparation. We revisited that conversation a year later, and heard remarkable accounts of rebuilding, restoration and conversion that went on throughout that year. They are stronger now, as a result.

The other thing….or another thing, among others that are occurring to me for another post on another day….is the poignant insight of a French scholar in an interview with Le Figaro.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that crimes committed by a priest are ultimately more serious than those committed by a phys-ed teacher, for example. And that is what justifies the media anger/outcry we have witnessed. The paradox is this: if we particularly attack Church members when they are corrupt it’s because we have a sense of the special purity of their mission.

From this point of view, the standing of the Church is even more affected where we believe in the holiness of the Church, because it is then that it becomes serious beyond comparison. Thus Benedict XVI, who understands the mystery of the priesthood, finds these crimes much more terrible than the non-Christian media can even conceive. That is why he has wanted it out in the daylight.

Yes, one of the strongest voices for resolution and reparation in all this has long been Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....