Two years ago my weekly blog was called Dancing with Speeches and each week I wrote or rewrote a speech. It was challenging and at times a lot of fun, putting words into the mouths of others. From time to time a speech was prescient – I still get goosebumps when I read the one I had Donald Trump giving on getting the Republican nomination.
This past couple of weeks two events have stood like bookends in my life and have rippled deep down to my foundations. One the death of Archbishop Leonard Faulkner and the other the conviction of Archbishop Phillip Wilson. The first marked a life of a man who kept fidelity with his fragile, authentic leadership and the second a life marked by what appears to me as ill informed and unrepentant. The male church leaders in the Archdiocese will be gathered up to face their future in the light of leadership lost and here is a speech the acting leader might give.
“My brothers, we gather today knowing our leader is charged and convicted. While we bring our compassion to him and all those like him, who at times may even have been ourselves, covering up truth, having a bad judgement, aligning ourselves with legal advice or perhaps being blind to our unconscious bias, today is not the day we turn inwards. Today we turn to the victims, their families and those first responders.
We place ourselves in their shoes. We sit and we listen. We accept and hear what they have to say to us. We take ourselves the edge of our discomfort and wait. We examine ourselves in the light of our first guide and teacher – a child – the one who arrived in a stable under the threat of death from oppressors – the one forecasted by a star – the one held by a mother. We are called to listen to the shepherds, our pastoral associates, who time and time again are the ones who have heard and continue to give witness to the stories of abuse. We are called to listen to the magi, prophets and medical experts who bring healing to those who have been abused and who need to be equipped with new gifts for the road ahead. We are called to listen to the creatures who have comforted and held those broken with their fidelity of wagging tails and soothing purrs. We are called to hear from mothers who have sobbed and lost their children, executed by power through despair at their own hand or by way of drugs and alcohol. We are called to hear from the victims themselves.
On this day we will not take pity on our plight of being left without a leader, because we have one. We look to the child. We examine our hearts and genuinely ask ourselves what does this child call us to do. The very first instruction is to come as community – not just one class to this moment in our story. To do this work on our own is neglient and fundamentally flawed. It is central to the reason we find ourselves here. We must invite women into this conversation. We cannot and must not continue to listen to legal argument. We must listen to a compassion argument. We must stop talking and bow our heads, kneel and offer ourselves at the altar of a cradle. Holy innocence is sleeping there. Shame and sorrow will take their time and work through us as they must. But again we need to put them aside. The humiliation and grief of victims and their families has been and continues for many to be soul destroying. Their pain is an invitation to solidarity, to witness and to redemption. Reconciliation is the path to hope and we will need to find people who can be our guides and bridges. We cannot do this alone.
I invite you all, to go back to your parishes and communities and listen to your pastoral workers, invite them to help you open your ears and hearts to the acts of witness and what they know, to listen to victims and their families. I ask you to do this today. We will gather again in a week. We will not do anything else together today. Now I know some of you will bunk off and go play golf, others might gather in a pub and chew the fat, some of you may close up yourself and secrete to your room. But I implore you in the name of the Christ Child you follow to be vulnerable like this babe and receive instruction not from the laws of the land, but the laws of the love.”