I have tremendous sympathy for victims of sexual abuse, and I can’t imagine how abuse by a cleric affects a victim’s view of the Church. I also think the Church needs to look long and hard at the causes of the Scandal and should work to reform in every way possible to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. But I am nonetheless quite uncomfortable with any event that calls for “reformation” in the Church but is being held on October 31st, the date of Martin Luther’s 95 theses and the date that Protestants mark as “Reformation Day”:
Two survivors of clergy sexual abuse who met with Pope Benedict XVI during his 2008 visit to Washington are planning to take their pleas for greater recognition of the spiritual, pastoral and mental health needs of abuse victims to the doorstep of the Vatican Oct. 31.
Olan Horne of Westfield, Mass., and Bernie McDaid of Peabody, Mass., told Catholic News Service they are planning a gathering that they hope will bring thousands of abuse victims to St. Peter’s Square for a “Reformation Day.”
Both men said the effort stems from a building frustration in dealing with church officials on the needs of abuse victims.
The date is significant because, they said, the day is observed as a day of reformation in some cultures.
Perhaps these men don’t realize the reason October 31st is a “day of reformation in some cultures” (and evidently, the reporter of this article doesn’t either, because he doesn’t mention it). But calling for “reformation” and aligning it with Luther’s “Reformation” is not a way to true reformation. By its very definition, reformation means helping an institution to become more like it was originally intended to be. It does not mean leaving the institution and founding another one, like Luther did.
I hope and pray that true reformation comes to the Church and that all victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clerics will find reconciliation within the Church. But please change the date of this event so that it doesn’t have any attachment to those who left the Church in the 16th century when it was going through a scandalous time.