The Way of Christ
in the Midst of Scandals
The Church herself is a field, within which seeds and weeds, the good and the wicked, grow together, a place where there is room to grow, to be converted and above all to imitate God's patience. The wicked exist in this world either to be converted or that through them the good may exercise patience. - St. Augustine
the eyes of faith...
Pope John Paul II wrote the following about the purification that the Church began undergoing in the wake of clerical sex-abuse scandals (April 2, 2004)
"Viewed with the eyes of faith, the present moment of difficulty is also a moment of hope, that hope which does not disappoint, because it is rooted in the Holy Spirit, who constantly raises up new energies, callings and missions within the Body of Christ....
"This time of purification will, by God's grace, lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate and a holier Church, a Church ever more convinced of the truth of the Christian message, the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ, and the need for unity, fidelity and conviction in bearing witness to the Gospel before the world....
"The history of the Church demonstrates that there can be no effective reform without interior renewal. This is true not only of individuals, but also of every group and institution in the Church.
Trusting in the light of Christ...
The scandal of abuses by clergy that's been shaking up our beloved Church isn't over yet. Our family is still hurting, betrayed in all sorts of ways by those we want to trust. We are a Church being humbled by our own sins. We are a corrupt Body of Christ being purged and resurrected so that we become a better servant of salvation for the world.
In John 3:16-21, Jesus points out that those who do evil prefer darkness so that their wickedness can continue unnoticed. Not only is this true when children are molested by priests, but when other forms of abuse occur as well. The good news is: God's light has come into the world! The Lord is bringing to light what has been hidden for many years -- and more will be exposed, for the Lord wants to purge his Body of all abusive shepherding.
Many of us have cooperated with this darkness, afraid of increasing the scandal, afraid to speak up for fear of losing credibility or jobs in the Church, afraid that it's a sin to take action against evil because the abuser is a priest, afraid that there aren't enough priests and it's better to have a bad one than none at all, afraid of seeing more than we're comfortable seeing.
What we see in the light is ugly, repulsive, shocking, and dismaying (isn't this how Jesus looked on the cross?), but those who prefer the light appreciate the purging and look forward to the resurrection. Our Church is learning the hard way that although bringing the truth into the light is painfully embarrassing, it really is the way of Christ. It leads to persecution and hanging high on the cross where anyone can aim their pot-shots and venomous anger, but it is the only way to redemption.
Any form of abuse is a grave sin that harms the Body of Christ. All vocations abuses are anti-evangelization, working against our mission of showing the world what Jesus is really like. How far should we go to stop this? What are we willing to sacrifice to cooperate with the light?
Exposing evil does not mean we're condemning the evil-doers. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn anyone. He is our Deliverer, our Rescuer, our Savior. He redeems every scandal and brings much good from it. As we proclaim in Psalm 34:2-9, the Lord hears the cry of the poor! He delivers us from our fears. In him we become radiant with joy, no matter how badly we've been hurt or have caused hurt to others. He saves us from our distress; as we take refuge in him, he heals our pain and carries us into victory over evil.
When we're given the opportunity to stop abuses, will we fear the consequences and do nothing? Or will we believe in the redeeming goodness of God? Let us prefer the light no matter what the cost. Let us be witnesses of the joy that comes from trusting in the Lord who is the light!
© 2004 by Terry A. Modica
using the readings from Mass for Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
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