Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Of Holy Mother Church

I had a discussion with my spiritual director yesterday about the recent scandals in the Church. While not defending any of the malfeasance,  he stated that many of the bishops and clergy were do what they were doing because they believe they are protecting Holy Mother Church.  It led to a discussion about what was meant by that.  Both of us think that there are many laypeople, priests, and bishops who first see Holy Mother Church as a collection of buildings, wealth, and other earthly structures. I can honestly say I have never seen Holy Mother Church as merely earthly structures, building, or hierarchy. They are her patrimony to be sure.  They serve a purpose. However, I have always seen Holy Mother Church as the beliefs, teachings, sacraments, and what we refer to as the Deposit of the Faith.  Holy Mother Church has had to forego her patrimony many times.  Her patrimony is usually laid waste in every persecution. From Rome to Elizabethan England to ISIS controlled territories, historically her churches have been destroyed and her hierarchy killed.  Yet she remains.  She remained in the catacombs or Rome.  She remained in the barns and hidden rooms of England. If the pressing RICO act investigations into the Church were to decimate the physical structures of the Church in this country, Holy Mother Church would remain.

I am not saying Holy Mother Church isn't being battered.  She most certainly has been and continues to be.  But the battering doesn't come in the form of dilapidated buildings long abandoned nor closed seminaries and convents.  It is coming from what emptied those buildings and caused property to have to be sold to pay the debt of lawsuits. It is what leads to the suspicion, disregard, and even potential criminal charges being leveled against priests and bishops. When the Deposit of  the Faith is assailed, that is where real damage is done. The Deposit of the Faith, the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church, are the soul of the Church.  Without it, no mater how beautiful the structures or how powerful her bishops, when the Deposit of the Faith is attacked Holy Mother Church suffers.

How is Holy Mother Church attacked?

She has been severely damaged by neglect. The work of evangelization has suffered greatly.  It failed when the primary form of education fell into a disorder of the validity of faith being validated by how a teaching made you feel.  If a teaching challenged, then permission was given by clerics to ignore the teaching or adapt it to what was comfortable.  How on earth did we go from the sanctity of marriage and family life to inviting the demonic presence of artificial birth control, homosexuality, pornography, and such being not merely turned a blind eyed but to be given permission?  Too many clerics worried about being approved of rather than protecting both Holy Mother Church and the sheep of their flock. Sometimes it was done because the desire to build Church buildings, schools, new departments at a university; truth was overwhelmed by the desire to build earthly kingdoms and expand power.

If Holy Mother Church was wrong about sexuality and family life, what else was she wrong about?  Is she wrong about Mass?  Gosh, maybe that might fuel both the rampant disbelief in the Eucharist, the decline in Mass attendance, the decline in clergy, and the shifting of Mass from Divine worship to bad theatrical productions?   What about confession and sin? Might the selling of the Deposit result in the nosedive of confessions and the disbelief in personal sin? No wonder the shift from personal sin to corporate sin took place!

Now, anything the Church teaches seems to be automatically disbelieved.  Pick your teaching want to ignore. Want to justify your belief in Social Darwinism, throw the corporal and spiritual works of mercy out the door.  Want to justify your belief in eugenics? Throw the teachings of human sexuality out the window. Want the worship of God to be more about the worship of you?  Throw the sacraments out! This is where Holy Mother Church is damaged.  Here is where she suffers.

To my brother clerics who have sold out the Deposit of the Faith to some other advantage, whether it be personal notoriety or accumulation of wealth,  to just keep people off your back, or to build or maintain: Not one brick of one church building enters the Kingdom of Heaven. Not one vestment, regardless of how grand,  tacky, or even creepy they are will enter the kingdom. There will be no Vatican nor chancery in heaven.  All of these things will no longer be needed. All these things, like our preaching, teaching, and witness are to point to heaven.

Every bit of damage that Holy Mother Church suffers is a direct result of a Judas moment: that moment where we decide that the Church can be compromised for my own personal gain.  What on earth goes through a cleric's mind to prey on his own flock in order to get some sense of sexual rush or power?  Can you be worried about the faith and prey on believers at the same time?  Why didn't bishops immediately put themselves between the flock and the predator, even if the predator was one of his own priest? I will wager that one cleric who has his Judas moment will aid and abet another cleric in their Judas moments...which is itself a Judas moment.  Why would a cleric tell a parishioner to engage in a behavior that will harm them?  Is it to be liked?  Is it to be thought of as relevant and cool?  Is that what your 30 pieces of silver are going to buy you?

The damage doesn't just come from the clergy.  Parents will teach their children the same kind of toxic lessons for the same self-serving rewards. The parent, for example, who teaches his or her children the unimportance of Mass is usually a parent that believes that themselves. The parent who teaches their children that what makes you happy or gets you ahead (sports, money, for example) is usually the parent who has done so themselves. The parent who hands their son the condom with the attitude that he's going to do it anyway is usually the parent who has bought into that reasoning. What do you buy with the thirty pieces of silver? Sleeping in?  Being thought of as being relevant and cool?

If we want to turn this around, if we truly want to protect Holy Mother Church, then we have to accept the following:

1) We have to repent.  To repent means to turn from evil and embrace the good. We must be able to identify our Judas moments and repent of them.  That means we must make amends for our Judas moments.  If that means we lose part of the patrimony of the Church, then that is what it means.  Notice, God never let the People of Israel keep the gains of their sins.

2)We have to embrace and teach the truth and nothing but the truth.  We have to accept that teaching the truth will bring persecution.  People will walk away angry.  They did from Jesus.  If we are following Him, some will walk away from us as well.

3)We must live so as to point to heaven.  Our job is not to be popular, honored, or comfortable.  We must be willing to risk everything to engage in the faith.

How did Catholicism survived the persecutions of Elizabethan England? It survived, although it lost every ounce of it earthly structures and hierarchy, because brave men crossed the English Channel to train in seminaries, knowing that in doing so, they signed their own death warrants.  It survived through a network of laypeople who hosted and hid those priests, and continued to be Catholic.  They ended up winning, but it did cost people their lives. It survived because people believed.

I don't want our bishops to protect buildings and power at the cost of covering up sin.  I want them to protect Holy Mother Church, especially from diabolical wolves in shepherd's clothing with banks of silver pieces to dole out to each and every Judas they can find. Holy Mother Church will survive. It is she who ends up married to Christ. We who are attached to her through faith and way of life enter the marriage feast with her. She doesn't bring stones of buildings, but the living stones of her body...us. We can not hold onto Holy Mother Church on one hand and hold the purse of the thirty pieces of silver in the other hand. To protect Holy Mother Church necessitates the dropping of that purse and every bit of ill gotten gain bought with it.

1 comment:

  1. This is exactly the kind of reflection I was looking for. Thanks