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Repentance and renewal

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The previous issue of The Dialog, Sept. 29, included two revealing reports about the state of the Diocese of Wilmington.

First, the front page featured Bishop Malooly’s statement that the diocese had funded a Settlement Trust for survivors of clergy childhood sexual abuse with $77.4 million.

The bishop also reported $5 million was being transferred to the Lay Pension Trust and an additional $5 million would be deposited in that trust by the end of 2011.

In emerging from more than 700 days in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the bishop said the diocese had met one of its goals — meeting its obligations to survivors of clergy sex abuse in a just and equitable manner — and he pledged to continue to work to make parishes and schools safe havens for young people, as a well as to comply in the coming months with other non-monetary terms of the settlement.

The bishop asked for prayers for the survivors and their families and also for the church of the Wilmington diocese, “God’s people who have been so supportive in these challenging times, and especially for the faithful clergy, all of whom have suffered because of the scandal of abuse of children.”

Second, inside the Sept. 29 Dialog was the story that the 2011 Annual Catholic Appeal counted $4.5 million pledges as of Sept. 15, surpassing its goal by nearly $476,000.

So, on page one was a summary of the diocese’s bankruptcy settlement and its financial payments for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. Inside, there was a report on the support of parishioners to the Annual Catholic Appeal throughout the bankruptcy process.

Amidst a recounting of sin and sorrow in the diocese, there was also a story of forgiveness and affirmation in the continuing generosity of the diocese’s parishioners.

The criminal acts that led to one of the most “challenging times” the Diocese of Wilmington has faced are tragedies that can never be erased in survivors’ lives by the settlements they receive. The diocese has now made a financial secular penance for its sins, and continues on its path of contrition in its firm resolve to sin no more by protecting all children in its care.

Bishop Malooly has agreed in non-monetary provisions of the settlement to be a public penitent of sorts for the diocese by visiting each parish where abuse occurred in the past in an effort to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

Now is the time for all Catholics to act on the belief they proclaim in the forgiveness of sins when they recite the Nicene Creed and the Our Father in church.

So many parishioners, including those still so generous to the Appeal, have shown their willingness as Catholics to practice the forgiveness of sins, including for the church run by sinners for sinners.

True reconciliation, a difficult forgiveness, is a challenge for people on every side of the abuse crisis.

We can only pray that the people who were violated can be reconciled to God and find some peace and understanding in faith.

This time of transition in the Diocese of Wilmington, which Bishop Malooly has said will not be easy, can be a time of renewal, of rebirth.

While confessing our sorrow at the sins of church members and acknowledging our own faults, now is the time to be reconciled, to be reunited to the joys of the faith — the consolations of God’s love and mercy  — and to renew our hope in the Resurrection, which came through the gift of that first challenging time in the church, Christ’s crucifixion.

Ryan is editor/general manager of The Dialog.

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