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'May this story give to anyone who is hurt or alienated the inspiration and courage to be reconciled.' (Cardinal Joseph Bernardin meets with erstwhile sexual abuse accuser Steven Cook) (Editorial) (Cover Story)

Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago and Steven Cook, who more than a year ago accused Bernardin of sexual abuse, made their peace Dec. 30 (page 20). The event symbolizes Christianity at its best.

At the troubled end of the 20th century, when people so obviously hanker for a beacon to beckon them on to a good life and a better afterlife, the churches have stumbled not so much in word as in deed. The Catholic church of Pope John Paul II has been fluent in words, from inspiring and wise to harsh and narrow, but deeds such as the widespread scandal of pedophilia have often drowned out the words.

As the accusations against Bernardin unfolded, America held its breath and the church bowed its head because, as we say, the higher they are the farther they fall.

Then word came trailing of sordid little strategies (to which Cook may have been an innocent party) to serve God, as it were, by character assassination. People who disagreed ideologically with Bernardin fueled the flames of accusation. "Bernardin is an evil man," one priest behind the scenes told a reporter. This demonization is a chilling ploy all too common in the raw world of secular politics right now, but totally unworthy of Christ's gospel.

Bernardin reacted with great dignity and Christian charity. It had to hurt. Yet he took the painful steps needed to effect healing and reconciliation. He represented the church of compassion, which, in these tough times, searching Christians prefer to the church of discipline.

A French cardinal has said that a Christian witness is one who "lives in such a way that his or her life would not make sense if God did not exist." The Bernardin-Cook meeting was Christian witness at its best.
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Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 13, 1995
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