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‘The Church is being purged’

Voices Aug. 31, 2018

Laypeople administer ashes on priests’ foreheads in Northbrook, Ill., at a prayer service for repentance and healing for clergy sexual abuse which included prayers for victims, abusers, and the Church. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic)

Revelations and accusations of clerical abuse and cover-ups continue, but for some reason I find myself drawn less to the forensic aspects of the scandal and more toward spiritual responses. Here are some insights that have helped me:

Ralph Martin, Renewal Ministries: How can we passively endure such corruption that runs so wide and deep? It is right to make our views known. It is right and necessary. But even more so, it is necessary to pray and offer sacrifices for the Church and her leaders at this time. It is necessary to pray that genuine reform, rooted in real repentance and an embrace of all the truths of the faith, would come out of this awful situation and that the Church, more deeply purified and humbled, may shine forth with the radiance of the face of Christ … As Pope Benedict XVI wrote when he was a young priest, the Church will have to become smaller and more purified before it can again be a light to the world.

Video blogger Father Mike Schmitz: Don’t leave the Church when things get tough. Lead the Church when things get tough … Here’s what we do, as the body of Christ, as Christians, as followers of Christ, as Catholics … We don’t leave the Church when it gets difficult, when there’s bad things, when there’s awful stuff, we lead the Church when there are bad things, when there’s corruption, when there’s awful things. And the best way you and I can lead the Church is by becoming saints. That’s it. But nothing short of that is going to help anything.

Bishop Robert Barron: I have said this scandal is a diabolical masterpiece because it undermines the work of the Church in practically every way. Most immediately in my case as an evangelizer. Talk about the best way to undermine any evangelical effort; an effort to propagate the Church’s teaching; to make the Church attractive to people; to draw them to Christ. What would be more effective way to undo that work than to have priests engaging in the sexual abuse of young people. In terms of our credibility; our role in the public forum; choose your issue. We are undermined in every way by it, which is why we have to come to grips with it. We can’t rest until the thing has been solved.

Brenton Cordeiro, Companions of the Cross seminarian: The Church is being purged right now and light is being shone in places where darkness once thrived. The Church will emerge from this crisis stronger and holier. But we, as Catholics, need to show the world why we love the Church that our Saviour established, and show them that the Catholic Church is not defined by the predator-priests who once stood among her many shepherds.

And a bit of perspective by two Catholic writers from a century ago who were familiar with Church scandal:

J.R.R. Tolkien: Our love may be chilled and our will eroded by the spectacle of the shortcomings, folly, and even sins of the Church and its ministers, but I do not think that one who has once had faith goes back over the line for these reasons (least of all anyone with any historical knowledge).

G.K. Chesterton: To sum up, in so far as it is true that recent centuries have seen an attenuation of Christian doctrine, recent centuries have only seen what the most remote centuries have seen. And even the modern example has only ended as the medieval and pre-medieval examples ended. It is already clear, and grows clearer every day, that it is not going to end in the disappearance of the diminished creed; but rather in the return of those parts of it that had really disappeared.