Justice, canon law, restoration: How do sisters heal after transgressions?

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The headlines are always surprising: Vowed religious — admired, emulated and revered — have committed a crime and brought scandal to themselves, their order and the Catholic Church.

But what happens after the headlines go away?

Often, depending on the nature of the transgression and the circumstances, there is treatment to address the gambling or substance addiction, the financial misdeeds or the sexual wrongdoing. But that is only part of the equation.

Within the order, "you're asking, 'Do I really know this person? What is our relationship? What is our mutual responsibility?' " said St. Joseph Sr. Amy Hereford, an attorney and canon lawyer who assists religious communities with their legal needs. "It's a real soul-searing examination of who we are for one another."

Not only does the community member at issue need healing, but the relationships within the community do, as well.

"The fracture is not only just to the community, but all the people the community reaches out to and works with," said Franciscan Sr. Dorothy Heiderscheit, chief executive officer of Southdown, a treatment facility for religious with addiction or other mental health issues near Toronto.  

The fracture in the relationship can be even harder to heal when the scandal becomes national or global news.

Read the full story at Global Sisters Report.

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