Answer to the latest church scandals is holiness
April 18, 2019
We are living through interesting times. These latest scandals in our church remind me of those stories from the Middle Ages of intrigue and scandal amongst the great powers, papal and otherwise. I disliked thinking that churchmen back then acted with such corrupt political motives. I am horrified that this is clearly what is happening now, though I suppose I always suspected it.
Many are rightly asking whether the accusations of Archbishop Viganò published on Aug. 25 against Pope Francis, Cardinals Wuerl, Tobin and Farrell, and others are true. It is for journalists and other authorities to get to the bottom of this. By the time this column is printed, we may indeed know much more.
A disturbing trend is the tendency to try to make these scandals a matter of us versus them. In any human organization, there are going to be factions. This is not always bad. But when a body gets as old and as big as the church, there are bound to be many factions and sub-factions and many more people invested in making sure that their faction “wins.” When we start to apply that mode of thinking to the church it can become problematic, particularly when it is applied to church teaching.
Most of us, I think, look at the church’s teaching as something we should try to follow. None of us does it perfectly. We all have biases. It’s never good, but it is oftentimes understandable. The problem is when we settle into our biases and start to use the teachings as a placeholder for whose team we’re on. If a certain teaching is associated with “the other side,” then I can start to dismiss people who agree with that teaching.
This has many bad effects. Converts have told me that negotiating the Catholic world is like walking through a minefield. One never knows what church teaching is accepted in this group or that group.
This internal fighting has come under a magnifying glass as a result of these scandals. One Catholic commentator noted recently that those making accusations against the cardinals and the Holy Father are on a “team” (his word, not mine). Therefore, the accusations must not be true. This is bad thinking, and it is a perfect example of trying to make the truth about what is going on in our church merely a matter of us versus them. It needs to stop.
For the average Catholic who strains to make sure that lunch boxes are packed for their kids and that there is enough money to cover tuition, none of this is important. What is important is that children and adults have been abused by predators in our church. And in the face of those facts, what is important is that we stay faithful to the sacraments.
We are living through interesting times. But they are not unique in our church’s history. What has always aided the church in the past are holy men and women who live their faith in authenticity.
Some have asked me what we can do. Fast and pray. Archbishop Lucas and our priests have committed to fasting and praying on each Thursday “for mercy and healing for the Church.” I will be joining them. Rededicate yourselves to living the Catholic faith fully, not just in terms of church teaching, but in terms of growing into a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus.
“There is nothing new under the sun,” the author of Ecclesiastes tells us. We’ve seen this corruption before. The answer is still the same: holiness. Let us pursue it together.
Deacon Omar Gutierrez is director of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith in the Archdiocese of Omaha. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.