On Friday, Jan. 11, about 30 members of the Catholic Medical Association met in the Pastoral Center at Christ Cathedral to hear Dr. Pia de Solenni speak on current affairs within the Roman Catholic Church. As chancellor of the Diocese of Orange and an expert on women’s health, bioethics, and the new feminism, de Solenni addressed the sexual abuse cases that came to light this past year.
“The church is undergoing a purification,” Dr. de Solenni said. “I am glad that it is happening because we need to become the Church of Jesus Christ.” She emphasized the importance of “accepting God’s plan for all parts of our life, including sexuality.”
She made it very clear, however, that the cause of clergy sexual abuse is not the celibacy of the priests. She cited college football coach Jerry Sandusky, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and singer Michael Jackson as examples of men who did not take any vows of celibacy, but still committed terrible deeds. She continued to say that there are many cases of abuse occurring throughout the world and, most likely, in other religious organizations as well, but “we set a higher bar for ourselves which is why we see so many headlines.” Rather than viewing the media coverage as a scandal, she recognizes this as “an opportunity to set a standard for the rest of the world.”
“The Church is a microcosm of what we are seeing throughout the world,” she said. With the #MeToo movement sweeping the nation and the Time’s Up movement upending the hierarchy of Hollywood, sexual assault has proven to be an epidemic that has silently permeated many institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church.
While the issue is global, de Solenni is confident that there is much that can be done to combat the pandemic issue at the local level. Including a phone number where victims can report abuse on diocesan websites, expanding reporting policies to include vulnerable adults, and greater financial transparency are just a few measures that she affirmed the Diocese of Orange is taking, or has already taken, to address concerns of the public. For medical professionals in particular, she outlined three clear points of focus: personal holiness, finding areas of peace, and remembering that it is God’s work being done.
“The main takeaway from today is that we need to raise the bar for the laity,” the organizer of the event and chartered guild president of St. Luke’s Society of Orange County, Dr. Mary Kotob, said. “So, Dr. Pia de Solenni said to us, these current affairs are concerning, but in all of Church history, they have been concerning. If the laity goes back to holiness within their own field and starts with their personal journey of the holy hour, their rosary, their personal holiness, we can bring the best to our workplace. That includes doctors and nurses.”
Overall, those in attendance were very receptive to Dr. de Solenni’s words. Dr. Laura Haynes, a retired psychologist and current political activist, generally summed up the audience’s feelings when she said, “I feel very positive about the conversation we had during the meeting and after the meeting. Now, we will be organizing so that we can get communication out to people and finally be able to take action and turn this around.”