In the School of Community Sunday evening –the weekly catechetical meeting for members & friends of Communion & Liberation– we discussed Traces‘ April editorial, “Greater than Sin.” The editorial is an attempt to put words to an experience and to remind ourselves of the workings of grace and sin.
The more I look I these accusations of sexual misconduct and other sinful behavior by priests (and even the laity), I am inclined to say that it’s more than a question of homosexual priests or affectively retarded individuals who have had positions of pastoral authority in the Church, and much to do with our faith in Christ as the answer to limited humanity. In other words, there has been a significant lack of faith in the Incarnation and Christ as the answer to my nothingness. For some, this assessment makes no sense because if you are ordained a priest or a vowed religious, one expects that you would have an intimate experience of the workings of God and His love. BUT this can’t always be assumed. The more I sit with the problem I am curious to know the depth of relationship with God existed with those who committed these sexual crimes and the church leaders who had oversight. Could it be that those who abused children or scandalized the faithful in other ways didn’t have a living faith in Christ who is alive today, right now? Could it be that for some of these people God is dead in the conscience? More questions surfaced than I have answers for. For example:
Are we certain about the Catholic faith we are living? Are certain about what we are saying?
What has been happening with the sexual abuse crisis is the direct result of a lack of certainty of faith in Christ. We the Church, laity and clergy, have demonstrated a real lack of faith in the saving promises of Christ than in the offer of communion with Him. Our sense seems to indicate that the hundredfold Christ speaks of is a complete fabrication.
Key to understanding our Catholic way of living is that we have a different standard of measuring things: justice, mercy, forgiveness, love are the measures. Priesthood is a total, permanent change in a man’s being, a permanent change in character, not a career, not something temporary, not something magical, not something esoteric; the priesthood means being configured to Christ in a permanent way.
In our discussions we asked the Christological question: who is Christ and how does Christ act in my and how do I know Him. Do we believe Christ is for all people? Do we believe Christ is alive right now, in front of us, in the person next to us? Is Christ recognizable? Do we believe that Christ redeemed us through his death and resurrection?
The question of forgiveness surfaced in our School of Community based on the fact that Christ tells us to forgive and He himself is the pattern of reconciliation. Is forgiveness possible? Is it possible to live in an attitude of forgiveness? Is forgiveness familiar to me (us)? Do we have an experience of forgiveness? Can we hold that what we believe as true –Jesus Christ– is for everyone?
The we dealt with the problem that for many people it is impossible to accept the Church as a mother who cares for her children, educates her children, who disciplines her children but doesn’t throw the problem child under the bus. The Church’s maternity seems not only to be less understood today if not completely rejected by many of the faithful and the media. Maternity is reduced to giving birth and completely neglecting the moral motherhood. The Church, since Christ founded her, has neither said nor indicated that she was a perfect mother. She is divinely instituted but populated by sinners trying to be holy and at times missing the mark. The Church like the rest of the world is daily pursuing justification in Lord’s cross and resurrection.
The attacks the whole Body of Christ –the Church– is facing these days attempts to pervert people’s faith and confidence in the Church and therefore to prevent the Church from caring for all her children –the victims, the perpetrators, bystanders, etc.
An answer to some these questions is ‘yes’ if we know that only with Christ is forgiveness, conversion possible.
We need to understand ourselves in action, in concrete ways, in the ways in which Providence has deemed to give us the grace to live…otherwise we live in the abstract and God, therefore has no real bearing on our life.
Beautiful words don’t save us, Jesus does, who is alive right now.
So, I think the Pope is correct in recommending a spiritual renewal program (see the Letter to Ireland) to regain, or just to establish for the first time a real relationship with the Christ. His aim is to ask the question, do you know Christ? if so, do you know how to live according to the pattern of Christ’s sacrificial love?