A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"...about whom I hear such things?”

Another report about the sexual abuse scandal surfaced yesterday, this time in Philadelphia.

This whole, hideous tragedy makes the question in today’s Gospel (Lk. 9:7-9) stand out in a special and painful way:

"Who then is this about whom I hear such things?"

Far too many of us know priests, bishops, and others who have been accused of terrible things. Far too many of us know people who have been the victims of such terrible things.

Before anything else is said and done, the first priority is to help heal those who have been harmed and the second is to do what we can to prevent such harm in the future (including all appropriate processes – criminal, canonical, and otherwise).

Yet another critical priority is to stop people from using this horror to advance their own agendas.

Some, both liberals and conservatives, invoke the scandal to reshape the Church according to their own vision.

Some also invoke the scandal, the failures of systems and the crimes of individuals in self-defeating attempts to insulate themselves from the moral truths of Catholic teaching.

There are even individuals who are not above using the pain of victims for their own personal advantage.

But even as we help the victims, protect our children, and guard against agendas, we may still be left with residual damage to our own feelings about the Church, its leaders, and its ministers – even the particular leaders and ministers we know (or at least we thought we knew).

"Who then is this about whom I hear such things?"

In this scandal we have been brutally confronted with a fundamental truth of who we are as a Church, as the People of God and the Body of Christ: a reality both wonderfully divine and grittily human.

There is an intrinsic tension to this reality – a tension not always easy to maintain. And so we may emotionally shift to one side or the other.

It is very easy to lean toward the side of divinity, because divinity is why we come to Church in the first place, because of the great good we have received from the Church and so many of its ministers, and because – like your mother told you – one should always assume the best about people.

Then, after hearing and experiencing such terrible things, it is easy to flip over to the other side: to see only the human – with all of its flaws and imperfections, to be cynical, and to walk away.

But the divinity is still there, even though our scars may be thick and our vision may be jaded. The promises of Christ remain true, no matter what the gates of hell may unleash. The Church is still the Bride of the Lamb and will be made beautiful and pure. The men and the women within it are members of the Body of Christ, are temples of the Holy Spirit, and are instruments of grace – even as we all struggle with the aftereffects of our fallen nature.

None of this excuses sin, none of this permits us to turn a blind eye to evil, but never can we let sin and evil cut us off from what is good and grace-filled, especially in this darkening world.

"Who then is this about whom I hear such things?"

It is the Lord. It is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

That was the answer 2,000 years ago when Herod first asked that question about a man from the wrong part of the country who hung out with the wrong kinds of people.

That is still the answer today. We are the Body of Christ, signs and instruments of grace – even though we are earthen vessels.

And so we go on, together, prudent about what is wrong, faithful to what is right, and relying gratefully on grace.