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Friday, August 17, 2018

McCarrick, PA priests, the Devil: My response to our Church that's burning

Image result for fire
What can we do before the fire we finally see before us?
Photo credit: W. Chiu/AP

           It is an understatement that our holy Catholic Church is on fire right now.  Well it’s been burning for a very long time, but now the light of truth has allowed the rest of us to see it.  This summer we started with the scandal of (former) Cardinal McCarrick and his abuse of power, sexually assaulting seminarians and priests in his earlier years.  We learned about the cover up bishops and dioceses made.  And now in recent news: the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, with accusations of 300 priests responsible for sexual abuse incidents of almost 1,000 minors.  Even worse is the graphic detail of these abuses, which I do not recommend reading in its entirety.

              My sentiment is I’m sure, like many:  I felt and still feel literally ill and disgusted after reading any details of either scandal.  I mourned, and although no tears fell, I cried deep in my soul.  One thing I recognized is that this is not a “them” (priests and bishops) versus “us” (everyone else) struggle.  It’s just an “us” thing because we are all connected, those living and deceased, as the Body of Christ.  In that case, in my small way, I mourn the deep hurt my Body (the Church) has caused.  On behalf of all Catholics, I am so sorry for what my Church has done in destroying these young people’s lives. 

This is not a “them” (priests and bishops) versus “us” (everyone else) struggle.  It’s just an “us” thing because we are all connected, those living and deceased, as the Body of Christ.

I’m angry.  I’m really angry.  I’m angry that men whom people relied for fatherly love abused that role in the most sick, twisted, and unimaginable ways.  I’m angry at all the bishops who covered up these scandals, using more than a million dollars of the people’s money, offertory money, so these scandals can stay silent.  I’m angry at the response of both McCarrick and Cardinal Wuerl and their “surprise” of the news.  I have three young girls, and we teach our oldest to tell the truth always, even when it’s scary, even when it hurts.  I am angry because I feel lied to.  I am angry there seems to be no ownership, no apology.  These actions are an awful example to my children.

With that said, there are a few things I want to say, how I’ve been processing, that I feel few places have emphasized:


1.       I think it’s really important to take the time to be angry, mourn, and talk out our emotions with close people in our lives.  Especially bring it to the Lord in prayer.  Can we imagine how angry and sad Jesus must have felt taking these indescribable sins on the Cross, nailing it to His hands, cutting into His side?

2.      McCarrick, these PA priests, and all others who have done wrong: they are not the enemy.  The Enemy is the Devil.  Let me repeat that.  The Enemy. Is. The Devil.  He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named wants to stay exactly that---not named.  He wants to appear he has nothing to do with this and pin us against each other.  This is no means justifies these priests’ actions---they allowed Evil to be done through them---but in the beginning of it all, it is truly the Devil at work.  What a well-aimed missile to try to take out heads of our Church and infiltrate it from within.  Head shot.
                 McCarrick, these PA priests, and all others who have done wrong: they are not               the enemy.  The Enemy is the Devil.

3.       I need priests, good priests, to lead me, to lead us.  I’m incredibly grateful we have one where I work at the Catholic Student Center at University of Maryland.  He didn’t skip a beat, making sure to address the grand jury report in his homily the day after the news.  He plans to continue to do so and has made clear his door is open for anyone who wants to talk.  I am grateful he took the time to talk to our small staff, to discuss our plans for our students moving forward.  I know many priests who are doing this in our Archdiocese of Washington.  I need priests and bishops who will show how they’re leading with prayer and penance. The work of the priests I know, along with the great work of some of my lay friends, is why I still strongly believe in my local Church.

4.       We have to take the time and remember why we are Catholic.  For me, it begins with the Eucharist.  I can’t get over the clarity of John Chapter 6; it’s fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant from the Old Testament, the new sacrificial Lamb from Passover, the new Manna from the Desert, the Bread of Life for all of us to receive so we may have life, too.  And it all comes from the priest’s consecrated hands.  If I want to believe in everything Jesus said, I believe in the “keys” he handed Peter, the first pope, for his Church to be succeeded.  No pope means no bishops means no priests means no Eucharist.  I can’t live without it.  (The Eucharist, by the way, is priest proof.)

                   We have to take the time and remember why we are Catholic.  For me, it’s the                            Eucharist.

5.       We have to look to Mary who leads us to Christ.  Wednesday we just celebrated the Assumption of Mary, when every year I joke, “The day Mary assumed she was going to heaven.”  How much more do we need the image and love of the Holy Family?  With God, our Father and Mary, our Mother, I need now more than ever the authentic love only a perfect Father and Mother can provide. 

6.       I also have a lesson to learn from the bishops’ mistake, from them trying to hide the skeletons in their closet from their Bride, the Church.  I had to reflect if there are any skeletons left in my closet, that I was withholding from my bride, Mimi.  Praise be to God I’ve already apologized in the past for my most egregious offenses towards her. But I decided to make no assumptions, and asked her if I can tell her anything else I’m ashamed of and kept within.  I didn’t want to have a conversation, decades later, that could cause more damage.  I wanted her to love a more total, complete, broken me.
                  I had to reflect if there were any skeletons left in my closet, that I was                              withholding from my bride, Mimi.
7.       I learned a long time ago that I must say the words of forgiveness even when I’m not ready to.  Forgiving sets my heart free from being consumed by another.  Thursday morning’s Gospel, Jesus tells Peter that we must forgive our brothers “not seven times but seventy-seven times.”  I’m sure that also means 300 times and a 1,000 times.  Yesterday morning in prayer, I forgave out loud in specificity what was causing harm in my heart so it would not consume me. I forgave the priests and bishops I’m so mad at.  This does not mean I’m done being angry or will forget what happen.

         Jesus tells Peter that we must forgive our brothers “not seven times but seventy-seven               times.”  I’m sure that also means 300 times and a 1,000 times.

My Church is on fire and we all can finally see it.  When there is a fire, there’s two directions we can go: away or, if properly equipped, toward it.  The one thing we can’t do is stay where we are.  I cannot stay where I am in the fire of this mess---in my prayer life, in my penances, in my actions.  I must dive deeper into the mystery of the Eucharist.  I must cling to the Cross.  I must ask Mary to intercede.  I must look to the Saints who have suffered greater difficulties.  As I’ve been clawing out of my recent stagnant prayer life, the news has been cold water to my face. I must up my game.

I thought of the dear priests in my life, including a college best friend who just entered parish ministry, who will be persecuted for the sins of their brothers.  In addition to offering it up for victims, I feel called to offer my prayers and fasting for the protection of these priests I call friends, and all priests for their protection and purification.  I invite as many as possible to do the same.

Lastly, in my desire to see change in the sexual morality of the Church, I know I must start with myself.  It must begin with you.  I must continue to do what I can, with the help of Jesus, to keep my eyes, mind, and heart pure in this battle against the Devil. 

Brothers and sisters, we all now can see the Church on fire.  Take the time to process, be angry, and mourn.  Do not be silent.  Do not throw it under the dusty skeleton rug and move on with life.  When you’re ready, let’s together, run towards the fire.  The Church needs the cold water of the Holy Spirit, and it can begin with all of us in our prayers and offerings leaning on Christ.

Amén.


2 comments:

  1. Excellent perspective Matt, and incisively written. You have a large, merciful heart and love for the Church. Don't stop your superb work.

    ReplyDelete