Brian Cahill’s suggestion in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) that the small number of “good guy” bishops apologize for the harm done by the church leaders to gays and lesbians is intriguing. Unfortunately, I think it misses the bigger picture, and falls way short of what these “good guys” can and should be doing.
Here’s my comment.
The idea of an apology from church leaders for the ways in which the official church currently treats God’s LGBT children is certainly appealing. However, the problem with your suggestion — i.e. that this small group of “the good guys” apologize for the actions of others — is that it is inconsistent with the more complete idea of “reconciliation” and misses the point that, for reconciliation to be truly meaningful, it must be personal.
If my brother steals your car or harms you in any way, I can tell you that “I’m sorry this happened” or “I regret what my brother has done; he should not have done it,” but this is not an apology in the formal sense. It’s a statement of empathy, care, and concern for the harm you have experienced at the hands of another. Only my brother can truly “apologize” for the harm HE committed (sorrow for one’s actions), only HE can make right (penance) this harm, promising not to do it again (purpose of amendment), and only YOU can forgive him. These elements are what is necessary for reconciliation to occur.
- What these “good guys” CAN do, however, is challenge — fraternally, respecfully, lovingly — the misguided “teachings” of their fellow bishops on the various issues surrounding homosexuality.
- What they SHOULD do is embrace their teaching responsibility and fraternally correct their brother bishops who continue to misinterpret Sacred Scripture and ignore the truths from all current sciences about sexuality and sexual orientation.
- What they SHOULD do is help their brother bishops form their consciences so that they — the bishops, including the Holy Father, who speak harshly and disrespectfully of God’s LGBT children — may allow their hearts to be unhardened, and they may find it in themselves to apologize for the wrong they continue to do.
Now THAT would be a good day in God’s Church!