Monday, September 10, 2018

Is there a silver lining in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church?

It is without a doubt that the Catholic Church has been dealt with a severe blow in the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report.  Like a cascade of domino tiles, there have been similar reports of abuse and internal shuffling of abuser-priests in other Dioceses in other parts of the world.  

I had been praying and pondering over the many painful and truly horrific stories of those who had been abused, and I consciously offered up all I could in terms of my own mortification as I kept myself isolated from people during my bout of Chicken Pox recently. Yes, I know that this suffering of mine was hardly a dent compared to what the abuse victims suffered in their ordeals, but I also do believe, as I always have, that God can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  Every form of personal mortification offered up with great love for a cause outside ourselves can benefit the souls of others, and this is a fundamental belief that is at the heart of the Body of Christ.  Conversely, any brokenness and suffering and abuse that has been impacting one single soul also negatively affects the overall health and spiritual well-being of the entire Body of Christ, as is evidenced in the way that the universal Catholic Church is still suffering and reeling in spades.

Again, I am not trying to justify the heinous sins of the Church, from the clerics to the higher ups in authority in this blog.  It would be so wrong of me to do so.  But I have been asking myself whether there is any goodness that can come out of this? After all, the deposit of our faith is that Christ saved humanity by his willingness to undergo the most heinous and torturous death that a man could undergo in his time, and it was this horror that paved the way for our salvation.  Many have gone through a great suffering in this crisis as well. We need to remember that there was a very brilliant silver lining despite the pain and sorrow that Jesus underwent on the Cross.

In a somewhat similar way, I do think that something good and positive can come out of this scandal. Certainly not in the scandal itself, which is evil and bad from every single angle and in every single way. But I am hopeful that from this dark page of our Church’s history, a purging of sorts will begin to take place. There is a purgation that needs to happen, and there is a purification that needs to be undergone, not unlike the way gold is purified by having its dross and impurities burned away by exposing it to intense heat.  

Just as persecution purified the early church, revealing those who truly embraced the Cross and truly loved Christ in his Church.  These hard times caused to emerge many heroic Christians in their virtue and pursuit of sanctification with their lives.  These saints formed the Church, and this present difficult road that the universal Church is made to go through will also result in making Catholics really choose to pursue their faith and to be clear about what their faith is about.  

If one’s faith all this while had been based on merely belonging to an institution or a parish that had deep roots in history, this scandal will probably cause one to jettison the faith. If one’s faith had been riding on the coattails of one’s family traditions, where one had been going to Church because one’s parents and grandparents had been doing so on a regular basis, this scandal will likely be the cause of stopping one’s coming to Church each Sunday.  If one’s being Catholic doesn’t go beyond a ‘because I was baptized at birth and confirmed as a teenager’, I wouldn't be surprised at all if this scandal will cause one to say ‘forget this’.

That’s because one’s faith hadn't been really rooted in the true fundamentals of the faith – a belief and worship of Jesus Christ the Son of God and in having a real relationship with him. If one’s belief in Jesus is truly radical, one also will be clear in one’s understanding of the Church’s teachings and Catechesis of the faith.  One begins to really own one’s faith and fundamentals, and can articulate it in conversations why one is holding on to these beliefs and tenets.  

In a non-threatened and non-challenged environment, it is easy to not be all that serious and clear in one’s understanding of the faith.  When there is no pressing reason to be intelligible and clear about one’s beliefs and the direction toward which one’s life ought to head, one can easily just ‘coast along’ and be influenced easily by any trend or movement that sparks the interest of the popular masses.  

Of course we hope and have the great desire that all our leaders, be they leaders of the faith, or those who serve in governing our nations, be people of moral excellence.  Inside each one of us, we have this need to see this virtue in others, especially in those to whom we seek direction and guidance. The truth is that the church is made up of men and women who bear the scars of original sin.  Would that they aren’t.  This is a tragic time in the history of the Church, but I do strongly believe that because God has allowed this to happen, his Holy Spirit is also with us right there in the middle of the storm, and with prayer and perseverance and great humility, a holier and purer church will emerge.  This is a time where we hear a clarion call to moral excellence ourselves, and not just want this in others.  It’s time to demand this of ourselves as well.  

And as for the present storm, we just need to ride it out together, united in faith.  

1 comment:

  1.  “One begins to really own one’s faith and fundamentals, and can articulate it in conversations why one is holding on to these beliefs and tenets…………” these words bring forth the following reflection……………

    When news of the scandal broke, I was innundated with video clips & messages non-stop especially from “fresh” updates of the most recent scandalizing’s as if the people I know -Catholics or otherwise - have become very concerned for my spiritual welfare. The general message was that “ your Catholic Church” like Hester Prynne ( of N. Hawthorne’s book) is walking around with the Scarlet Letter - “ aren’t you ashamed?” Do you still believe in the holiness of the Church?

    My answer is always the same, - yes, the Church cannot be anything but holy because it’s founded by Jesus Christ who is Ultimate Holiness. The Church is suffering because of the unfaithfulness of some of the stewards, the rogue-shepherds appointed to look after
    the flock.

    I am not ashamed to belong to this Church, in fact, I’m proud to be Catholic at this time.... because the Catholic Church has been and will always be the the haven, the beacon of hope and charity for the poor, the weak and marginalized, those most beloved by Our Lord. But I’m dismayed, shocked, angry and very saddened by the evil, the suffering and pain perpetuated by these wicked people in authority whose main responsibility was to see to the spiritual welfare, growth and development of the innocent placed in their care. So though I know this evil happened in Pennsylvania & other areas, I believe that (1 Cor 12:26) - “If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honored, the whole body will be happy....” ......and yes, this scandal has cast a gray pall.....and we are hurting......

    Just today, I came upon the terrible news of the assassination of a parish priest in Nigeria, Fr Jude Egbom at the hands of unknown gunmen. Many priests like him, lived, served, loved and shared the lives of the very ordinary people of their insignificant hometown- not caring for recognition or adulation.....and in this case , died as a caring shepherd. Why is there a deafening silence when such sacrifices are made known? So though I truly empathise with the abused victims and know that only the Lord can comfort and heal them, I also believe that this un-earthing of the evil within will allow a greater awareness of the pitfalls and problems confronting the priesthood

    In fact, in one of the video-clips Bishop Baron bravely confronted this issue in his talk - advice to priests on the sexual scandal. In this brief discourse, he said that if we look at King David (2 Sam. 11) - he sinned because he was “napping” when he should be out in the battlefield with his soldiers at the his warning was to be always alert and watchful .....for Satan never rests. On reflection, I feel it applies to all of us Christians too, when we are replete and start to feel complacent ....that’s when mischief (temptation) rears it’s head. No wonder, the old proverb talks about idle hands being devil’s workshop!

    We could conclude that one way that we as lay people could help is to pray not only for self sanctification but more so for the holiness of our priests, and if possible to fast and offer up whatever minute mortifications to this end

    God bless you, Fr.