Student action in the midst of scandal

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Father Thomas More Barba walking to the altar to begin daily Mass at the Church of the Incarnation. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

With the wave of clerical sexual abuse scandals that have been made known in the past few months comes a legitimate concern for the future of the Catholic Church.

Any type of sexual abuse is unacceptable, but when someone of moral authority — someone we should be able to trust and spiritually imitate — commits these abuses, the more scandalous the situation becomes.

From the resignation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick in July, to the cover up of sexual abuse by over 300 priests in Pennsylvania, to the most recent scandal and closest to the University of Dallas, the revelation of allegations against Father Edmundo Paredes, UD students are sure to ask what actions they can take to help.  

Fr. Thomas More Barba, chaplain and rector of the Church of the Incarnation, acknowledged that we should be angered by these reports in a letter sent to students on Aug. 28.

“These revelations have shaken us and filled us with anger, indignation, discouragement, and sadness,” Fr. Thomas More Barba wrote. “Injustice should cause us to feel indignation, especially when it is done by the institutional Church.”

Many of us feel distant from these scandals; we feel as though this issue is so far up the hierarchy that anything we do wouldn’t help, moving us toward feeling hopeless.  

While it is true that there is nothing we can do to influence the Church authorities’ response to the abuses and allegations directly, we shouldn’t feel hopeless. Indirectly, we can help the Church through this scandal.

We can pray. Specifically, we should pray for those who were abused by clergy, that rather than losing faith in God, they find peace and receive the support and compassion they deserve. We should pray for the abusers, that they can experience a true conversion of heart. And we should pray for the pope, that he may be able to guide the Church through this time of division and conflict.

Additionally, we can fast. In an email, Fr. Thomas More Barba outlined a Friday fast he will participate through Oct. 12, and encouraged students to participate as well.

“I will only be eating bread and water for breakfast and lunch, not snacking between meals, and eating a regular-sized meal for dinner,” he wrote.

Prayer and fasting are two concrete ways in which we can strengthen our own faith, but also participate in improving the current state of the Church.

“Fasting is meant to be a prolonged prayer … but one that affects the body and soul,” Fr. Thomas More Barba wrote. “May the hunger we will feel embolden our hunger for truth, justice, and peace.”

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