What Comes from Within: The Sins of the Fathers (and Bishops) – Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
In an email to me, a loving friend and devoted Catholic, included this line concerning the recent news of further abuse and cover ups in the Church: “I can only think now about my grandchildren and what in God’s name will the Church hold for them.”
The Catholic Church has had a deepening problem with credibility for many years when it involves protecting vulnerable people.. The erosion of trust is spreading so quickly that it will take a long time for the Church to recover. And if we are fortunate, it will recover with new models, rather than ever return to an old normal.
We hear some truthful words from today’s Gospel. “The things that come out of a person are what defile them. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.”
Very few have committed all the items on this list, but all of us are well-aware of the particular evils that come from our own hearts. Jealousy, gossip, and anger are more likely than murder. Our sins are rarely so severe that they change our lives or send us to prison. More common is the gradual accumulation of little things that become unfortunate patterns in our life. However, we know that some things that come from within are deserving of prison.
No Catholic who pays even the slightest attention to our culture can be naïve about the scandal of clerical abuse in our world. We all know that the issue is also a reality in families and in every profession in the world. It is not enough to say the problem is much bigger than the Church. That is not a helpful place to go. It makes us think that we can deal with the issue and then go back to the way things used to be. We cannot go back.
With each revelation of abuse or the cover up of abuse, the Church becomes less and less credible. Should authorities in the Church be surprised by the decreasing numbers in the pews! Should they be surprised that so many good people pay no attention to Church teaching on moral issues, especially ones that deal with sexuality!
Some Church authorities seem to assume that people will listen to their instruction on their lives and then ignore the reality of how those very authorities use the bodies and hearts of people under their authority.
An August 24, 2018 letter from Arturo Sosa, SJ, Superior General of the Jesuits throughout the world, is a follow up to Pope Francis’ recent letter on sharing the suffering of victims of abuse and fostering a culture of protection. Sosa calls us to collaborate with Francis in “healing this situation in the Church.” I’ll pray for that and I’ll do all I can to bring healing. But I suggest that prayer and good thoughts are not enough. Sometimes something more is required.