I've received many emails and comments asking for advice on how individual Catholics can deal with the current spate of media reports on the Holy Father's alleged involvement in obstructing investigations into clerical sexual abuse.
The requests for advice all more or less ask: what are those of us in the pews supposed to do?
I suggest three things:
1). Fast and pray
2). Seek the truth and never fear it
3). Live in hope
Fast and Pray
Fasting and praying in times of spiritual distress is the natural Catholic reaction. We seek out the voice of God for comfort, guidance, and to accept His blessings to endure with strength. Fasting with the intention to repair the damage done by clerical sexual abuse is not only worthy but necessary. If there were ever a time for the laity to exercise their baptismal priesthood, it is now. By offering the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, lay Catholics fulfill their priestly vows made at baptism and renew the spiritual heath of the whole Church. So, pray for the victims and their families; the predators; the lawyers and therapists who aided in the cover ups; the bishops who failed to be teachers and pastors of the faith; the Holy Father, and for the Church as a whole. I believe the intercession of the Blessed Mother is particularly called for in this current crisis. Nothing works quite like prayers to focus the soul on what's essential to one's spiritual health. When one part of the body is sick, the whole body is sick. When one part of the body is healed, the overall health of the body improves.
Seek the truth and never fear it
We know that the truth will set us free. There is nothing for the Church to gain in hiding from the truth of these scandals. Priests, bishops, religious sexually molested children and teens. Some bishops and diocesan curial officials worked overtime to hide the abuse and spent millions from the collection plate to keep it all a secret. The result? An even bigger, deadlier scandal. Whatever the motives for trying to hide the abuse, hiding these sins only made them more poisonous to the Body. Like an infected wound on the body, the scandals must be thoroughly cleansed, competently medically treated, bandaged and left to heal.
If seeking the truth means exposing the scandals to the disinfectant of sunlight, then we must look to the media for support. However, the media have proven themselves again and again to be a voice for anti-Catholic bigotry in the cultural war against the gospel. Because professional journalistic standards have given way to ideological advocacy and propagandizing, we are saddled with the difficult task of reading their reports with a healthy dose of suspicion. No one denies the fact that children and teens have been abused by clergy. No one denies that bishops have tried to hide this abuse. In so far as the media have brought these terrible crimes to light, we should thank them. We are not, however, obligated to thank them when they print and broadcast outright lies, distortions, or misleading omissions. Nor are we to thank them for failing to take the time to learn something about the canonical procedures of the Church or her history. Nor are we to thank them for using the scandals as an excuse to advocate for suicidal reforms to the Church's internal structure.
The media's current campaign to fabricate a direct connection between the Holy Father and the abuse scandals is nothing more than a smear campaign designed to destroy his moral authority at a time when globalist secularism is fighting to move the Church out of the public square. The ministerial hierarchy of the Church must be called to seek out the truth and proclaim it. No matter how difficult, embarrassing, or expensive. Likewise, the anti-Catholic media must be called upon to return to their professional journalist standards and restrict themselves to reporting verifiable facts. The media's malpractice only serves to further erode what little trust they have with their readers and viewers. At some point, we simply stop listening.
Live in hope
Even as the Church is pounded on all sides by those who would see us silenced, we must always keep in mind that our faith, our trust firmly rests in Christ Jesus. No scandal--financial, sexual, political--can dislodge Christ as the head of his Body. Our strength as the redeemed children of a loving God comes from an eternal source, the unshakable rock of ages. Popes come and go from Rome. Bishops rise and fall in a diocese. Priests ebb and flow out of parishes everyday. We lose buildings, vestments, books, vessels, ancient treasures nearly everyday. None of these can be the source and summit of our faith. Even the Church herself is an impermanent sacrament, a means of seeing, hearing, tasting God's boundless grace while continue our pilgrimage here on earth. Given the hard realities of human sin, it is inevitable that filth will leak in and poison the body. And it is just as inevitable that the body will heal and continue on. Do we need to review the bloody persecutions of the first two centuries of Church history? Or the Church's expulsion from France, England, China, Russia, Mexico, the Middle East? The martyrs of Africa, Vietnam, Japan, even North America? How about the near genocidal persecutions of Christians by Muslims in Nigeria and the Sudan? The faithful have died, yes. . .but the faith never has and never will.
As followers of Christ we are promised trials and persecutions. Being a faithful Christian isn't for the easily spooked, or for the squeamish. The core spiritual strength of Christ's faithful is the rock solid conviction that God has already won His battle against evil. Our hope isn't a gamble against the odds of losing, but rather the assurance of God's loving-care and that the final victory is ours.
Whatever you do don't allow those who are using these scandals as an excuse to leave the Church discourage you. If the poor will be with us always, so will those who stand on the sidelines and whine about every inconvenience, every perceived slight, every imagined insult. Pray for them as you would a faithful brother or sister, but pay no attention to their discouragement. They are as free as any of us to choose hope over despair!
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