Letter to a Friend on Church Scandal
BREAKING UP IS BAD TO DO
You’ve told me that you are so infuriated by the latest clerical sex-abuse scandals that you’ve stopped going to Mass, and I gather that the Pennsylvania grand jury report released back in August was the last straw. What can I say? Your soreness is understandable. All who love the faith feel as you do. But before jumping ship, I ask you to consider a few things.
Remember that Jesus anticipated the demoralizing effect of scandal when He told His disciples to expect it. I repeat: They were to expect scandal, and scandal of the very kind we are witnessing. The language our Lord used to steel His listeners against disillusionment is remarkably relevant to what ails us today: “It is impossible that scandals should not come; but woe to him through whom they come! It were better for him if a millstone were hung about his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin” (Lk. 17:1-2).
In prophesying as He did, our Lord was trying to tell those among His followers whose faith may have been a trifle weak that the Church is human as well as divine. Bad apples there will always be. Judas was the first in a long line. But remember that the Church has always produced, and continues to produce, men and women of the caliber of John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Mother Angelica.
The resurgence of the sex scandals doesn’t mean that devout Catholics are on a thin diet spiritually. The grace obtained at Mass by a worthy reception of Holy Communion is incalculable and does not depend on the virtue of the celebrant. In like vein, our sins are forgiven in the confessional whether the man wearing the stole is a saint or a sinner. What matters is our disposition.
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