The recent scandals in the Church, from the revelations regarding the crimes of Cardinal McCarrick to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report to the allegations about Pope Francis, are devastating. In this post, I want to share some practical considerations for what we can do in this time of crisis.
First and foremost, the pain we are enduring due to this crisis pales in comparison to the pain that innocent children suffered at the hands of priests and bishops. Let’s not take our focus off of those who have been most affected. Lift up your prayers for their healing, and lift up your voice to call for the just punishment of their perpetrators and the correction of a system that allowed such heinous crimes to occur.
Second, the recent testimony of Archbishop Vigano contains accusations that incriminate Church leaders on the highest levels, including Pope Francis. His allegations, however, remain unconfirmed by actual evidence. It is important to remember that evil cannot correct evil. Emotions of anger and even exasperation are certainly understandable, but do not let justified emotions give way to unjust actions. Jumping to unfair conclusions and making rash judgments would merely add sin to sin and correct nothing. Until actual evidence confirms the truth or falsity of Vigano’s accusations, our duty in charity as brothers and sisters is to withhold judgment and – much like our civil court system – presume innocence until proven guilty. Wouldn’t we want to be treated the same?
Of course, simply not doing something, merely not judging rashly is not enough to resolve the tension and pain that we’re experiencing right now. We want to actually do something. Bishop Robert Barron and Fr. Mike Schmitz express that desire well in these videos:
I echo their words. Friends, do not flee the Church. Fight for it. Do not leave the Church. Lead it. It is not a mistake that we are here in this time. We have the opportunity to be a part of the great work of redemption, the great work of overcoming evil with good. And we do so by becoming Saints ourselves.
Christ’s work of redemption is not about structures and systems. It is about forgiveness of sins and conversion of life through communion with Him. It’s about becoming Saints. That will necessarily express itself in structures and systems, but all of that is secondary. Losing sight of what is primary has been cause of the scandals we are experiencing. Let’s not do the same. Let’s become Saints.
Becoming Saints includes raising a prophetic voice to condemn sin and call for repentance, and the most effective way we can do so is also by being the first to obey that voice. It is right to be disgusted at the way that some Church leaders have compromised the faith they profess to believe. But are we also disgusted at the way we do the same? Where are the areas of compromise in our own lives of faith?
Christ’s work of redemption begins with us. Only then can we be a source of redemption for others. That is how God has worked reform in His Church throughout history. St. Catherine of Siena lived in a time of great corruption in the Church, and she certainly raised a prophetic voice to condemn sin and call for repentance in her time. She did so authentically and effectively, though, because she was the first to listen to that voice.
Christ’s work of redemption began with her, and she became a source of redemption for others. She received forgiveness for her sins and was thoroughly converted through communion with Christ. Her holiness changed the world. Ours can do the same.
Her words now are perhaps more appropriate than ever: “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” Our Church and world need the fire of Christ’s love – both to purify iniquity and console the afflicted. Will you be the one bring it?
We can seize this moment. We can take part in Christ’s redemption and victory over sin and evil. Or we can point the finger at others and run. Our brothers and sisters who are victims deserve better. The Church deserves better. We deserve better. Let’s become Saints.
Fr. Greg Gerhart is the Associate Pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Center. Before entering seminary, Fr. Greg graduated from Texas A&M University and worked at The Pines, a Catholic youth camp in East Texas. He studied Moral Theology and Bioethics and is also interested in Liturgy and Social Justice. Fr. Greg enjoys playing sports!