The Sunday readings these past few weeks, focusing on Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse (John, Chapter 6), have been of great comfort to me during these times of difficulty and resurfacing scandal in the Catholic Church. I focus particularly on last week’s (21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B) conversation between the Apostles, St. Peter and Jesus:
Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
It might be the immediate reaction of some to walk away from the Catholic Church, at times like these, as many did in Jesus' day. Who can I trust? They are all a bunch of hypocrites in the Church! Even the bishops and cardinals (and pope?) are corrupt! I dare not try to defend the indefensible actions of those who were horribly wrong, deceitful and guilty of moral and criminal actions. I am hurt, disillusioned and offended as much as any of the trusting, faithful laity and dedicated, obedient clergy are.
What I must state clearly is this: The evil perpetrated by some, at various levels in the Church, does not diminish the salvific action of Christ on our behalf. Christ suffered and died for us and for our salvation. He has the words of eternal life. He is the way, the truth and the life. This never changes. It never will. Christ is faithful to the end.
However, those in ministry who choose defiantly not to live by His teaching, who bring disgrace upon the Church, and who undermine the credibility of the Gospel and Church teaching must take certain immediate actions. They need to repent of their sinful actions (like Peter did after his denial of Christ), turn to the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness, and, for the sake of their own salvation and the good of the people that they serve, step down form any positions of Church authority that they may currently hold. Power, prestige, and honor are all worldly things. Eternal salvation is much more important.
Yes, we are all sinners. Sometimes even generally good people make grave, sinful mistakes. Afterwards, the genuinely sorrowful will choose repentance and amendment of life. They will make a heart-felt confession of their sins. However, to choose deliberately a secretive, hidden lifestyle that is in direct opposition to the teaching of Christ and His Church, to be unrepentant, to justify, cover-up and lie about wrongdoings, to mislead the faithful, etc. are actions that continue down the same path as Judas who is seen as a betrayer (see Mt. 26:46)—not a follower—of Christ.
With the current public accusations of the former Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Vigano, towards members of the Church hierarchy, there needs to be a thorough, objective investigation of these matters by predominantly competent, professionally-trained laity (since it might be difficult or even impossible to know how bad the corruption is through some hierarchal self-monitoring process). One should never fear the truth, even if it is initially painful. It is the only way to rid the Church of the cancer that she now faces. Continuing lies and deception will only bring us back to this point sometime in the future.
Pray to St. Michael the Archangel, emphasize the deliver us from evil when you pray the Our Father, fast and pray for the faithful clergy in the trenches fighting the battle, and, most importantly, seek the continual intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary by praying the rosary.
Be faithful to Jesus and His Church. Don’t leave the Church but encourage (demand) its genuine reform from within.
Fr. Ed Namiotka