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Seattle Catholic pastor addresses sexual abuse news in sermon

In the Catholic church, priests are not supposed to use the pulpit merely to take stands on what’s happening in the news. They are directed to explain the gospel and apply it to current events, only if there’s a clear lesson there.

On Sunday, the long-time pastor of Seattle’s St. James Cathedral, Michael Ryan, turned to the Biblical story of Jesus falling asleep in his disciples’ storm-tossed fishing boat. From that boat, he moved to the latest sexual abuse allegations against the hierarchy of the Catholic church.

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In the story, the storm is raging, yet Jesus sleeps in the boat. The disciples wake Jesus up and saying “Doesn’t it matter to you that we are going to drown?”

“Isn’t that what you find yourself saying in effect, in the midst of this current tsunami?” Ryan said at the cathedral on Sunday. “Why are you asleep Lord? Don’t you care? Don’t you see that we are barely holding on, that we are drowning, some of us even losing faith? How could this happen in your church?”

Jesus’ response was essentially: relax, have faith, everything will be all right.

But Ryan said the only way the modern church can earn those calming words will be to make fundamental changes.

Changes from the inside out. Changes that will eviscerate the clerical culture and eliminate clerical privilege. Changes that will let in fresh air, lift the veil of secrecy, and create total transparency. Changes that will give lay women and men far greater involvement and oversight in the church. Only in this way, I think, will the church be able to emerge from this awful moment. Only in this way will church leaders be able to regain trust and the people be able to regain their shattered faith.

Applause is not considered appropriate after a homily, but that’s what happened at Sunday’s 10 a.m. mass in Seattle.

 

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