I've received some kind emails and blog comments, wondering if I am struggling with the current scandals and the general tumult in the Church. They point out -- rightly -- that my last three homilies have been focused on staying strong in the faith while the Church seems to Circle the Bowl. The preacher preaches to himself first. Indeed.
Yes, I am struggling.
No, I'm not on the brink of cracking up! :-)
In 1995 I left the Episcopal Church b/c I realized that the fundamental doctrine of TEC was up for grabs every three years at the Convention. In the 20 years before I was baptized in the TEC (1982), TEC moved from using the triennial Convention to tinker with canon law to altering Tradition. The weird thing is: I was one of the ones pushing the more radical reforms -- women's ordination to the episcopate, LGBTXYZ inclusion, etc.
What broke my resolve was the move to further revise the Book of Common Prayer. There was talk of revising the Nicene Creed and Scripture!
I saw the Whole Thing becoming little more than a bunch of humanities professors playing Church Dress-Up.
So, I did what any Good Protestant would do -- I left and joined another church.
There's much, much more to the story here, including my grad school training in Marxist/feminist critical theory and deconstructionism, but that's all background.
I didn't come to any real understanding of the Catholic faith until after my first year in the Dominican studium (2002). And I am still discovering elements of the faith that I've never heard of.
The sexual abuse scandals of 2002 and the current scandals are aberrations; that is, nothing about them is in concert with the faith. Nothing about the faith justifies Catholic clergy violating their promises/vows. Nothing about the faith prompts bishops to commit or cover-up abuses. Nothing.
My worry is that faithful lay Catholics will decide that their faith is no longer viable b/c some in the clergy have failed miserably in living out their vocations.
My other worry is that radical elements in the Church will use the scandals and the Holy Father's change in the CCC to alter the faith according their to destructive agenda, e.g., ending mandatory celibacy, electing bishops, women's ordination, etc.
If the scandals have nothing to do with the faith, then altering the faith is not going to address the scandals. Leaving the Church is not going to address the scandals.
The current tumult is challenging Catholics to be more powerfully Catholic. The temptation of American Catholics is to act like Protestants -- just leave and find another church (as if all churches are equally valid).
I urge us all to stay the course and fight for the Church! We must avoid a self-destructive Witchhunt, but we must also dig down and find the courage to confront abusers and exercise some much needed fraternal correction (Matt 18.15-17).
Pray for our good priests and bishops. Pray for me.
Frat., Fr. Philip Neri, OP
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