I have been loathe to step into the morass of media coverage about Pope Benedict XVI and the priestly scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church over the previous years. I am Catholic. I believe that Christ instituted the Catholic Church and the papacy and that in the end, the gates of hell will not prevail against her. The evil that has gone on inside the Church grieves me terribly, and I pray daily for the victims. Yet, Christ himself, and Paul, told us it would happen – Acts 20:29 “I know that after I leave, fierce wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock.” Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” The Church was instituted by Christ, but it is populated by humans with all their human failings and weaknesses. There will always be a number of priests who weren’t truly called by Christ and who will do damage to the Church and Christ’s flock and scandalize the world around them. I don’t believe that Pope Benedict the XVIth is one of them, because I have yet to see any credible evidence against him, and he has worked tirelessly to rid the Church of this exact thing. I certainly would never try to defend the evil that has happened or the people who enabled it. It’s indefensible and wrong. People who abused should be punished to the full extent of the law. But, I am also well acquainted with the good the Church does, and I have spent considerable time studying what it means to be Catholic, which the secular press can’t seem to take the time to research or begin to understand. Worse, there are many who are on a purposeful mission to destroy the Church if they can. This present campaign seems particularly orchestrated. What is it that bothers people so much that they are willing to lie to destroy the Catholic Church? It’s pretty obvious. There is truth in the Catholic Church, and that terrifies people. The Church, again and again, refuses to “modernize” and give in to what our current pope has aptly labeled the “Tyranny of Moral Relativism.” For people who don’t want to deal with moral absolutes, the Church literally drives them mad. Life is so much more convenient when you can make the truth up as you go along, isn’t it? If the truth is always changing to suit you, it’s a thorn in your side when someone keeps pointing out that some things can not change simply because we’ve “modernized.” Absolute truth, such as the dignity and value of all human life, is something the Church will never change her position on. Again, for those who only crave convenience in their lives, these moral absolutes do not sit well. But, again, Jesus told us that His way was the narrow and hard way. He said the world would hate the Church, and indeed it does. But, because the Church stands unfailingly on these moral absolutes, it is imperative that she is in a state of constant purification, ever vigilant against those who fail to uphold their vows. No abuse, immorality or unethical behavior should ever be tolerated.
I personally know so many incredibly hard-working, caring, selfless priests, so it grieves me all the more to see the weight of the world being thrown onto their shoulders when they have done nothing wrong and in fact have worked tirelessly to help others. This world is a place of suffering. We can not get through life unscathed; it’s a grave disservice to people to try to convince them that they can. Most priests I know spend a lot of time helping those who suffer and helping them to understand and see some meaning in their suffering. If we have some understand of suffering, we are more attune to the beauty and fullness of God’s plan as it unfolds. Jesus suffered more than most of us can ever begin to imagine, and so He is not without compassion to our situation.
I used to type medical charts in a psychiatric hospital. This gave me quite a bit of insight into the human condition and what goes on in the world. My eyes are open, sometimes too wide. Sexual abuse is something that takes place everywhere. In schools, hospitals, prisons, and churches of all denominations. It is especially heinous when it takes place in schools and churches where we have entrusted our children. Those people are supposed to know better, and priests, of all people, should be living to a higher calling. I do believe that our current pope has worked tirelessly in his efforts to purge the Church of sexual abusers. I am convinced that newspapers like the New York Times spend a lot of energy trying to find something to print that makes the pope and the Church look bad, while failing miserably at taking the time to actually understand the Catholic Church, how it works, and the facts of the case.
All that being said, I’m off to downtown Atlanta to attend the annual Chrism mass – a most holy and beautiful liturgy that never fails to uplift and inspire. I could use a good dose of inspiration and uplift right now!
UPDATE – Well, not quite an update, as I hadn’t actually published the post yet. However, several hours have gone by, and I am back from the Chrism mass. It did not fail to live up to my expectations. I left feeling hopeful and knowing that there are many good and generous men out there who have sacrificed their lives for something better. God bless them. I also spent a little time surfing the internet and visited the Anchoress especially. Things have been busy around my house the past few days, and I haven’t had time to do much reading. The Anchoress in her eloquence, as usual, has put my little post on the scandal to shame here and here and here.