(One thing the news reports often fail to mention is that a lot of progress has been made since 2002 in the United States when new safeguards were put into place in our Church to protect children and adults from predators. Most of the cases reported in the news are previous to 2002.)
That said, what are we to make of what is being revealed by these and future investigations? Upon reading many news articles on the scandals, I’ve experienced a lot of emotions from shock, anger, sadness, sickening feelings, thoughts that God deserves much better from his Church, as well as recognizing the devil is seeking to destroy individuals and the Church.
“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.”
(1 Peter 5:8-9)
I don’t know what God is putting into your heart, but this past month it has been impressed on me that there really is evil in the world. This evil has even made inroads into the Church. I don’t know all that has happened, will happen, or how to process it all, but here are a few thoughts on what we can do:
1. Pray and Sacrifice
We need to pray not only for the healing of victims, but for our priests, bishops, pope, and fellow Church members. Remember that “the Church” is not only the clergy; the Church is all of us. Through our baptism we are all part of Jesus’s Church and members of the mystical body of Christ. Our hope is in God, not in clergy. Our allegiance is to Jesus Christ.
In modern times, our blessed Mother in her apparitions such as at Fatima and other places asks for repentance, for all to stop sinning, to pray and make sacrifices for conversion of sinners, as well as for reparation for sin. She warned that if we don’t stop sinning, worse things will happen in the world, but at Fatima she said in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph and a period of peace will be granted to the world.
It seems that a purification of the Church is going on, first identifying the problem, and then working to solve the problems. For example, in my diocese if a priest is accused of abuse, that priest is immediately removed from ministry until the accusation is investigated and until he is proven innocent. This seems opposite of innocent until proven guilty, but maybe is necessary during these times.
There are at least two priests in my city who have been accused and taken out of ministry, and then later the accusations were found to be “not” credible so they returned. This is very difficult on priests. The many good priests and bishops need our encouragement and support. We also need support from fellow Catholics to help us remain faithful during this time of crisis. These times are very difficult for everyone who is serious about their faith.
So while we may be tired of the scandals and sickened by them, we know that Jesus wins in the end. It seems the Church will be purified one way or another, i.e. conversion from within or chastisements from without, or maybe both. As we await the end of the purification of the Church and the period of peace foretold by Our Lady of Fatima, we can help to bring it about by our own repentance, prayer, and actions.
The Angel’s Prayer at Fatima: The three children saw an angel prostrate before a host and chalice that hung in the air. Worshiping the Eucharist, the angel prayed, Most Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit- I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.
I feel God is calling us to be faithful members of the Church. As we know, Christ founded the Catholic Church on Peter and the apostles.
We can see how the devil is trying to destroy the Church from without by attacks and from within through tempting priests and others to do evil things, but the devil while causing damage will not succeed in destroying the Church altogether.
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14-16)
To be holy, we must stop committing any serious (mortal) sins, avoid all smaller (venial) sins, and even work on eliminating imperfections. God wants us to be united to him by loving him above all things and choosing God’s perfect will over and above our own imperfect will. To do this, we need the help of grace, which we get mainly from prayer and the sacraments such as frequent Confession and reception of the Eucharist. We can’t do it on our own. God desires to help us and desires we ask in prayer for his help.
To remain united to Christ, we need to pray often, stay in God’s grace (and if we fall into sin, repent, get up, and keep trying) and develop an interior life. This goodness of God living within us can then flow out to others through caring actions and good example. By having a deep interior life and living in God’s grace, we not only please God, but we can help bring God’s goodness to those whose lives we touch.
3. Focus on good, not evil.
While we can stay informed of what is going on in the world and Church, God calls us mainly to focus on what is good and to love others rather than focusing on evil or hating others. God hates sin, but loves sinners.
Part of focusing on Jesus Christ and good includes not holding resentment towards others. It is not easy, but if we are willing, God will help us. God calls us to forgive others (as in letting go of resentment), even while we seek to prevent people from hurting ourselves or others and even if we call the police regarding any criminal behavior.
How often must we forgive? Apparently as often as we want to be forgiven ourselves. In the Our Father, we pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Hating and wishing evil on others, hurts us more than them. Jesus said to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
“Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
However, forgiveness does not mean allowing abusive behavior. Having protective boundaries not only helps us but helps prevent others from hurting us and others. Apparently we can’t automatically trust others, not even those who would seem trustworthy. This includes not only clergy, but teachers, coaches, etc.
While we may be sickened, saddened, angry, scandalized, etc., by what is revealed as the investigations of scandals continue, God desires that we live in his peace. St. Paul lived in ancient Rome where there was a lot of sin and injustice, including Christians being martyred, and yet he said the following:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9)
So in short, what can we do to get through this crisis in the Church and help reform the Church? Some things we can do with the help of God’s grace are: Love God and others, hope in and obey God, be faithful, be holy, encourage faithful priests and bishops and one another, forgive, pray regularly, offer sacrifices, and focus on Christ and what is good so that we may live in God’s peace. Be part of the solution and ultimately to be a saint.