Immersed in Christ: May 22, 2020
Friday, Week Six of Easter
What the Responsorial (Psalm 47) says is not always obvious: “God is king of all the earth.” But it is still true.
The truth is, we see God’s will flaunted constantly — even by ourselves. The good he desires is not done. The evil he hates is inflicted on countless victims. We are tempted to ask, “Who is in charge?” It does not appear to be God.
In Acts 18: 9-18 the Lord tells Paul not to worry: “There are many of my people in this city.” God supports free will, which by definition means he allows evil to happen. But he is still in charge, and there are people who listen to him.
In the Catholic Church there is a way we are failing to listen to God that we may not notice. It is the failure to call Church authorities to accountability. The laity are as guilty of this as anyone.
We are shocked to read that when the proconsul Gallio dismissed the Jews’ case against Paul, “they all turned on Sosthenes, the synagogue president, and beat him in front of the court house.” This was clearly bad. But whenever something goes wrong, we do tend to blame whoever is in charge. And with some justification. Authorities admit, “The buck stops here.” They are responsible for the good of the community. If there are abuses, they should correct them. If they do not, they should be confronted as Paul confronted Peter for his cowardice as Pope! 1 But Catholics, out of a false sense of reverence for priests and bishops, allow them repeatedly to deaden the Church by refusing to correct abuses and failing to lead the Church forward.
An underlying negligence surfaced in the child abuse scandal, which erupted in the United States, flowed out to Ireland and Germany, and is probably going to inundate the rest of the world before the lava cools. The abuse itself is not a specifically Catholic issue: most abusers are family members, and there are as many or more in state institutions as in the priesthood. But the bishops’ complicity is a specifically Catholic sin, made possible in part by the laity’s assumption that priests should not be turned over immediately to the police, or that their bishops were so holy they would make the proper moral response. No one would say that as soon as a bishop was known to have reassigned a child-abuser priest, the laity should have “all turned on him, and beat him in front of the [chancery office].” That would have been a sin. But surely a lesser sin than allowing the abuse to continue.
God draws good out of evil. In John 16: 20-23 Jesus could be saying to the Church today: “You will weep and mourn [and you should, for what you have failed to do] but the world will rejoice.” Only a sin of the Catholic Church could draw such widespread, worldwide attention. If that attention serves to deter future child abusers and to encourage victims to report them to the police immediately, “the world will rejoice.” Even more so if it wakes up Catholics to their duty to challenge all church officials about everything they are doing to, or not doing for, the flock.
Initiative: Accept responsibility. Do your part to keep the Church on course.
1 Galatians 2:11-14.