Editorial column •
We have never seen anything like this before. Opening the Schoenstatt Twitter and social media accounts, we are confronted by a wave of disillusioned and hateful comments about our beloved movement. We understand. These are like the comments one finds about the Church in the press, social networks and interactions between believers and non-believers. The Catholic Church is once again suffering the fallout as a result of the storm of allegations of sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience. —
Our beloved Schoenstatt has also been deeply affected by cases of abuse and cover ups, in the case of Francisco José Cox – from the founding generation of Schoenstatt in Chile and who also met Fr. Kentenich – with acts so heinous that Pope Francis dismissed him from the clerical status on 13 October. We are Church, we share in its moments of light and shadow, and this time, a truly dark shadow.
“I am shocked, nauseated with the news coming out of Chile…especially about Cox…disgust, anger, so much pain.” A Whatsapp message to the Schoenstatt editorial team, one of hundreds.
And as a Church that is at fault and wounded, we must and want, first and foremost, to worry about the victims of the abuses committed by people who, like us, made their covenant of love.
Furthermore, to look towards the many secondary victims, the many people who are disillusioned and even betrayed in the trust they placed in Schoenstatt.
We also look to so many Schoenstatt members, so many Schoenstatt priests who offer their lives for the mission they have received, the many ordinary people who walk the path of everyday sanctity, who lend a hand to the poor, and who now suffer by what is known and said, with reason, about Schoenstatt members who commited crimes against the most vulnerable members of society. We suffer.
The communiqués by Fr. Juan Pablo Catoggio, published on Schoenstatt.org and sent to the press, were an important step. We are not outside of what is happening in the Church. It is also true that we are catching up to what the Jesuits, for example, have already implemented. But we have set out.
Amidst the pain, fear, anger and the disillusion we know that Schoenstatt is part of the drama of the Church, the drama of Chile, Boston, New York, Ireland, Germany.
And now, what?
It’s not magic
This was a couple of weeks ago. In a conversation with a Schoenstatt member. One of them, at the time, did not see or did not want to see that among the priests who abused children and young people, there were also Schoenstatters. It is a good thing that Fr. Kentenich’s pedagoy protects us from this and we are able to go out and teach others how to create a new Church…
Fr. Kentenich’s pedagogy is not some kind of magic, nor is it automatic. In various cases it did not protect against pedophilia and sexual abuse, and in many cases, it also did not protect against the abuse of power and conscience.
Neither did having lived with Fr. Kentenich, nor having spoken with him provide some kind of magic spell that protects against all kinds of evil and bad things, nor does it make us saints without having to do anything more.
Perhaps there is no better time than now to understood the full extent of the radicalism behind “nothing without us” as the conditio sine qua no to ensure that everyday sanctity and walking in the footsteps of our father and founder, the shrine and the formation of Fr. Kentenich’s charism become possible and function correctly.
Honest humility in everything
There is something more and something that may hurt. It becomes clear, once and for all, that the oft cited Kentenich pedagogy and everything we have, know and preach do not make us better than everyone else.
A characteristic Marian devotion that “never fails.” A founder that is “more intelligent than a prophet.” These are only two points in a brief text in the “Vida Nueva” [New Life] magazine in the context of the 50th anniversary of Fr. Kentenich’s death. A friend commented on the veiled sarcasm in the text, saying that it should make us reflect on the image that we project to the outside world. Do we sometimes come across as arrogant or know-it-alls?
The scandal of abuse that we are experiencing within Schoenstatt by priests of our own Movement has the potential of showing us the way to a new humility that should not be mistaken for an inferiority complex. The humility of the humble servant of the Lord who knows how to sing of the marvels the Lord has done in her life, and who never forgets to be part of a people who are on pilgrimage towards God, in solidarity and admiration for all the things that God works in others. And in us.
We are Church and we love the Church
This is not the time to “bring” something to the Church. It never was. We cannot take something to what we are, and we are Church. During the 15 September celebrations, many commented that they feel that now is the time to deeply live the “Dilexit Ecclesiam.”
It is a time to understand what seems to be so obvious, but is sometimes not seen or not expressed: we are Church. We are Church with the shadows and lights of that same Church and not exempt from what Jesus said: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
In these moments we love and more than ever will continue to love our holy Church of sinners, our church that loves us, educates us, and may God heal us of all arrogance and give the missionary humility that we so sorely lack.
Is it bold to think, precisely at this time, of a covenant in solidarity in and with the Church?
We ask for forgiveness, in and as Church. As the Church we are, we also carry grace in clay jars (2 Cor 4:7).
Fr. José María García Sepúlveda, María Fischer
Photos: iStockGettyImages, ID:825063512,Huai khwang, Thailandia, iStockGettyImages ID:868503068, annanaline