Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, CT is a delegate at the youth synod. He recently spoke about what we need to do in order to reach young people. As the National Catholic Reporter stated:
As the Synod of Bishops on youth and young adults prepares to open, one of the American delegate bishops said that for any efforts to minister to young people today to bear fruit, the church must first reclaim credibility by addressing the clergy sexual abuse scandal head on.
“I am going to advocate that the synod needs to make that a major topic now, without a doubt,” said Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who spoke to NCR in an interview Sept. 27. “If you’re going to speak relevantly to young people, you cannot but do that.”
He added that he hopes the synod will produce “not just words but some significant initiatives in that regard.”
The 59-year-old bishop said such a move is “essential,” a word he repeated several times, for the Catholic Church to be seen as credible in its outreach to young people. He described the present abuse scandal now in a second phase “all about authenticity. It’s about leadership being accountable. It’s about transparency. I think the greatest scandal is when, you know, things are not accounted for, or hidden or not transparent. That shakes people’s faith.”
Caggiano added that “authenticity speaks powerfully to young people,” and the church must demonstrate what it believes in how it lives and acts, and with the abuse crisis, how it responds.
“For young people, I think this is a moment for the church to recapture their imagination by using this as a moment of truth, humility and repentance and purification, and do what we have to do to hold people accountable. And those who remain, please God, to rededicate ourselves to lives of true personal holiness. That speaks powerfully,” he said.
It has always been the case that the Christian witness has been the first form of evangelization. Sexual abuse and cover up is what damages our witness and our credibility the most. To reach people – youth or others – we need to clean up this stain on the Church.
Back in 1975, Paul VI spoke about the importance of being a Christian witness to evangelize.
Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness. […] All Christians are called to this witness, and in this way they can be real evangelizers. […]
Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.
I think Bishop Caggiano is right in asking us to clean up our witness in this regard. Let’s witness with our lives and how we guide the Church.