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Guest Column: A time for reparation

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

By Father James Shappelle

On Jan. 22, in dioceses across the United States, Catholics will observe a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. This is also a good time to think about what our church needs to make reparation for.

Our church has hurt Christ very seriously in the last 40 or so years. When I say “our church,” I mean “we Catholics.” We have done a lot of harm to His church. I am not saying we have sinned, because I do not know the personal motives of any individuals. But I repeat that we have harmed the church, culpably or inculpably. And for all that harm done to the church, we have not made public acknowledgement or done public penance. If this were Old Testament days, Jeremiah or Isaiah or Zechariah would have been all over our case.

Harm done to the church covers many areas. Abortion is one. Since Roe v Wade there have been approximately 48,000 Catholic abortions in Hamilton County. These figures are based on the reports made by clinics to the Board of Health and on figures supplied by Planned Parenthood. It is a staggering number, equivalent to five parishes the size of Good Shepherd or St. Maximilian Kolbe. The figure represents enough Catholics to fill six elementary schools, at least two high schools and hundreds of empty church pews.

Broken families have also created great harm to the church, as far as church membership and Catholic school enrollment are concerned. Broken families often result in lower church attendance, reduced financial status of the mother and a lesser ability to afford Catholic school tuition.

Another blow to the church is heavy drinking and the harm it does to family stability and church involvement. In addition, the priest sex abuse scandal has harmed the church in ways that will take a generation or two to heal.

Yet another staggering blow is the absence of hundreds of priests and nuns. We lack the critical mass necessary to attract newer recruits to the priesthood and religious life.

There’s never been a time in our church history exempt from problems or scandals. Friday, Jan. 22, is a good day for prayer and penance for some of the harm done to the church during our recent past.

Father Shappelle is the parochial vicar at St. Bernard Parish in Winton Place and pastor of Mother of Christ Parish in Winton Terrace.

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