When the Ciase report uses the words “systemic crisis”, it does not do so without weighing them. The adjective systemic refers us to the notion of system, that is to say to the institutional set constituted today by the Catholic Church in France. I purposely use three restrictions: institution, today, and in France.
We have to consider these elements carefully, because while we believe that the Church is a good thing in itself, there is nothing to prevent the way it is functioning right now, here, to be deeply flawed. I would like to mention, by way of example, a flaw that seems important to me.
La Ciase wanted to place the victims at the center of its work. It turns out that this attitude is very much in tune with the Psalms. More than half of them raise the complaint of the one who addresses God. From this point of view, Ciase joins the most immediate experience of the prayer leader who pronounces the psalms.
How is it, then, that this complaint from the victims could not be received, as the report tells us? We know that the “Defense of the institution” played full. This is what we call “cognitive dissonance”: how is it that the daily recitation of the psalms has not opened the ears of those in charge of the institution, and primarily of the clergy?
I would point out in this regard that the sacrament of forgiveness – confession – has been at the heart of instructive controversies. We know that this sacrament is one of the two repeatable sacraments which accompany the life of Christians (with the Eucharist). What does this sacrament tell us? Of the culprit. If I refer to the Psalms once again, I see that the one who complains, the victim, often mentions adversaries / enemies who are at the root of his suffering. But there are far fewer Psalms in which the guilt of the prayer leader is mentioned. As if, in a very fair way, the status of victim was really more essential, vis-à-vis God, than that of executioner!
Let us dare to ask an iconoclastic question: if the status of executioner justifies a “sacramental” dimension, why is there not the equivalent for the victim? And if we move in this direction, what is the ritual institution which today places the complainant at the heart of the prayer and the loving concern of the Church? How is it that there is not, in every parish or at least every diocese, an institution which, like a complaints office, strives to do justice to all? Let’s take a brief look at Matthew 18, 15-17, which begins as follows: “If your brother sins against you, take him back …” We can easily hear “Take it back”, but we forget that it is to the victim to do ! It is she alone in verse 15, assisted by brethren in verse 16, and the whole Church in verse 17. The three verses indicate that the victim is the motor of corrective action.
So, if the institutional constructions of the Church privilege attention to the culprit over attention to the victim, in contradiction with the Gospel and the Psalms, there is, in fact, a systemic problem.