Someone asked me, “Father, …child abuse, sexual abuse,, and God knows what else. What is the truth. As a catholic I am devastated.” This is a man struggling to remain faithful to Christ and His Church, but faced with the reality of major crimes by ‘priests, bishops, and others, is hurting, as we are all hurting. What can one say in the face of such deep hurt, anger, bewilderment, and disgust at the ‘evil and filth’ who have infiltrated our Church.
- We have to be open and honest. Where there is criminal activity, report it. Where there have been major failings in the past – be truthful, we failed. If there are perpetrators out there hiding in clerical status, let the courts hunt them down.
- Be open and honest about oneself. People within the Church have taken their focus off Christ, and His call, to holiness. We, in the Church, have become to obsessed with worldly glory/fame/etcetera. We have become a ‘church of nice’. Being nice does not cut it, we must be Holy. Are we Holy? Are you Holy? It starts with one, that is oneself.
- We have to look to Christ, His promise, and become as Holy as we can be. The reformation of the Church starts with one person, one person who becomes Holy as Christ is Holy, and then spreads that Holiness to others. People fail all the time. Of course we have evil in the institution that is the Church, it is run by humans, fallible and fallen. But to really save the Church, even from itself will take courage, love, forgiveness – those things that Christ always spoke of, “Do you ‘Love’ me”. The love that Christ spoke of was agape – sacrificial love, love that knows no boundaries, that says to the world “Would you die so that others may live”.
- Do we in the Church have ‘agape’ love.
Agape is not love that is grounded in any external value. What do you mean by that? Well God loved us, demonstrated his love for us by sacrificing his Son, while we were yet sinners. He couldn’t have based it on our value, we didn’t have any. He had to base it on his value. You and I have value because God gave it to us. While we were despicable and unlovable, he loved us. So it couldn’t have been our value, as we were unlovable, and worthless, that caused him to do it. Agape is pure love, and as such does not have its source in the loved object. Agape says I must act a certain way toward this other person, not because of them, but because of me, because I must be agape. It is motivated completely from within it’s own nature (which comes from God), it is not based on an expectation of getting anything in return (Pete Benson, http://www.unityinchrist.com/Agape/Agape%20I.htm)
- Jesus was speaking of a love that says, not only would you die for me, but would you die for those who hate me, crucify me. Would you die for the ISIS soldiers who are beheading, raping, pillaging. That is the sort of love that we are to have in the Church, and that is the sort of love that is expected of even the least in the church. We are far from that – though there is always hope – what has worked in the past, is to be faithful to the Call of Christ, not oneself, or one’s own ego, but to Christ, His Church (a church that is Holy – Christ centred, that centered not on self, nor on power/prestige/glory), the Sacraments, the Magesterium (the teachings of the Church). We are called to be Holy as Christ Himself is Holy. Until people change themselves, and look to their own holiness, become Christ, be Christ, then we will always fail.
I said to my parishioners the other day,
II we want the Church to spread the good news of Christ, we have to be the Good News of Christ. We have to become saints, nothing else matters. The reformation of the Church starts here, now, with us. Pray each day that you/I become Holy. Pester Christ to make us Holy. Invite the Holy Spirit into our lives so that God becomes the center, not something that is on the periphery. If you are not becoming Holy, if becoming like Christ is not your aim. If self, sin, ego, worldly pursuits get in the way then let them go. It is only Jesus that matters, He who is Love Incarnate.