Holy Week has always been about suffering. But this year the mystical body of the Church itself is suffering as we watch the institutional church slowly implode. My grandmother was of the generation who said that when you sin, you drive the crown of thorns deeper into Jesus’ head on the cross. It would be beyond her imagination that the very men Christ entrusted with his people---the people He died for---would be driving that crown into his skull themselves.
I’ve never expected much from the institutional church. It’s run by men who are as power hungry as they come. As an institution they do everything to protect their status quo, and since they deal in life and death—-literally from baptisms to funerals---they feel above the law, both secular and moral. Of course there are many individual priests who are decent and holy, but the institution suffers from terrible corruption of all kinds. It always has.
“The pontiff said faith in God helps lead one ‘toward the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion.’ “
The arrogance of these men is staggering. Jesus entrusted the most precious thing in the world---his followers---to them, then inch by inch, step by step, they let the dark side of human nature encroach into their work until they could no longer see how much damage they are doing to their flock.
It’s not a media conspiracy. It’s that these men have cut themselves off from most of reality. How else could you ever characterize substantiated charges of abuse as “petty gossip.”
Harrison Ford made a film in 1999 of the book Random Hearts, with Kristin Scott Thomas. It’s about a man and a woman, each whose spouse is having an affair with the other’s spouse. It’s a raw portrait of betrayal. Harrison Ford has a line that keeps echoing in my head: “What is the last thing [about your husband] that you know to be true?”
That’s how I feel now. I must keep my eyes on what I am certain of. And it’s Jesus, not the institution of the Church.
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew, 22:36 to 40
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
And so I will sing the Triduum of Holy Week, and the glory of Easter Sunday. I want to stand with other Catholics and share that community. We are the true church, in our every day lives and routines, in how we treat and care for others, in how we try to be good citizens of the nation and the world.
I deeply pray for all those who were physically and psychologically harmed by the very men meant to protect them.
And I pray for the souls of those who harmed them and those who protected the abusers on all levels. Should they face criminal charges and jail time, as high up the ladder as possible? Absolutely. But if that doesn’t happen, I am certain their Father will deal with them appropriately when their time comes. And there will be no dodging that reality.