Bishop's Lenten Message 2017
Every day is a good day for a Christian to say yes to the grace of repentance. The examination of conscience – “what I have done and what I have failed to do” - is a vital part of our daily prayer.
In Lent, we seek and receive this grace as a community of faith. On Ash Wednesday, we listen to the words of the prophet Joel: “Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly… Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament. Let them say: Spare your people, Lord."
This Lent, part of our reflection as a Church community must be on the painful history, publicised by the Royal Commission, of abuse of minors in our institutions in the past; and on the failures of many leaders to respond well when they learnt of it.
Although these evils happened years ago and most of the perpetrators have died, many of those injured, whether directly or indirectly, are still with us and need continuing help. This would be so for any kind of sexual abuse. However, in cases where it was done by a priest or religious, who sometimes with grotesque blasphemy invoked the name of God in their crimes, then deep spiritual as well as emotional damage was inflicted.
Our procedures for the protection of children are now strong: and we are committed to maintaining and adapting them as circumstances require. Our unfinished work is in being humbly available to survivors and their families who seek healing.
In the long history of the Church, there have been people, including leaders, who were mad or bad, weak or foolish, who have disfigured her face. But the Holy Spirit has not deserted us and has always renewed the Church through the lives of people saying yes to God. Some did famous deeds and are recognised as saints; many more were just as faithful but in quiet and ordinary ways.
As we walk together through these days of Lent, may we be able to say yes to repentance and yes to renewal in the life of God.
Bishop of Bathurst