I saw “The Keepers” on Netflix recently. One thing that remained with me was that a reckless act perpetrated on a child by a person the child trusts can scar the child for life. The pain and hurt never really go away.
I am not talking here about the loss of naïve optimism, or the experience of taking clergy down off the pedestal. Such things are part of growing up. If we take our theology seriously, we must acknowledge that sin is real and human beings fail us. The Church has always included both saints and sinners. Indeed no one among us is sinless. What I think has been happening, however, is different from a loss of naïveté or growth in a mature acceptance of human failings.
Something good in our souls is being eroded whenever, in place of fairness, we take refuge in cynicism. This is one of the less-admitted costs of scandal. Even with all the good we have known from, yes, virtuous people in the Church, we cannot forget the ugliness of betrayal displayed in clerical crimes and cover-ups. It has been burned into our memory and left us scarred.