I'm very much a We-are-the-Church kind of person, not in a tediously arrogant lay-people-are-pure Call to Action kind of way, but just as a matter of fact. We are the Body of Christ. He lives through us, and nourished by Him in Eucharist, we are joined, we move, we have our being through Him - it is, after all, called "Communion."
But as I contemplate the Sins of the Fathers, coming at us in a steady, rather putrid stream these days, I find myself reflexively thinking, "That b*****! He's messing us up again! Another "leader" doing nothing but leading people away from the Church."
Like I'm a poster child for Power Evangelization myself or something. Oh yes, that's me.
Me with my own lengthy list of flaws, failings and sins. Why do I assume that I leave nothing but the pure love of Christ behind as I drag myself and my little shadow through our day?
Not to minimize or to excuse. Not to be one of those shockingly dull-witted parishioners or bishop's subjects who, when asked, offers a meaningless speech that begins with "It's too bad this happened" (as if human actions are akin to bad weather), is punctuated with "but" and ends with "we're all human."
Sidebar rant: If you, like I, have been wondering pretty much constantly, "How could this happen? How can this be tolerated?" listen to those very people. Read about the parishioners in Maine rallying 'round their admitted child-predator priests. See the walls of black gathered behind Bishops O'Connell and Lynch. Read the positive, "supportive" comments about Bishop Lynch on the Tampa Tribune website. Then you'll understand "how it happens" and "why it's tolerated."
Anyway. When I suggest refocusing, I don't mean to refrain from "judging," even though I know that's a really bad word these days and your ears are burning even just from reading it, and that is a really good trick in and of itself - ears burning from reading, that is. But the fact is, we've spent a lot of the past three decades really misunderstanding Jesus' warnings about judgment. He never meant for us to refrain from being the means through which God corrects sinners. That's one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, after all. Jesus very specifically tells the apostles how to "judge" fellow Christians in Matthew 18:15-20, and don't thrown Matthew 7 at me until you've read every word of it, right up until verse 5. Yeah. See what I mean?
It's not that we're not to "judge" at all, it's that we're to judge in the right spirit - knowing we're not God and fully, deeply and continually aware of our own faults - those beams sticking out of our own eyes.
Which brings us (finally!) back around to the point.
No doubt you, like I, have watched the events of the past months in dismay and worried about their impact on the way the Church is in the world - who's going to ever take us seriously as voices for truth when so much of our leadership seems so riddled with liars? Who's going to listen to us speak of the need to care for the defenseless, the poor, the voiceless, when so much of our institutional structure seems to have seen vicitms as the enemy in so many of these cases?
But do you know what? I can't do anything about any of that. I can't do anything about the structure and attitudes in the Archdiocese of Boston. I can't have any impact on the appointment of bishops. I can't insist that all seminarians now be vetted through me and subjected to my great wisdom. I can't personally assist the victims of these crimes, unless I happen to know one.
But I can do two things: I can pray about the whole wretched mess. And I can put a little more of my energy into that beam in my own eye. I can deepen my own relationship with Christ and pray for more openness to His love working through me. I can evaluate my own responses to others throughout the day and reflect on how Christlike they are. I can look at what I'm doing - or not - to build up the Body of Christ.