Maybe some of you who came into the Catholic Church because of Pope Benedict XVI’s generous offer to Anglicans are wondering what on earth did I get myself in for by joining the Catholic Church?
For me, none of what is being revealed in the present scandal is new or surprising. I factored this in prior to becoming Catholic. But I can understand for others, this is shocking and maybe even demoralizing. What are we to do?
I believe our response should be prayer, fasting, reparation, and ever deeper conversion to ensure that after the current pruning the Church is undergoing there remains healthy, living growth abiding in the Vine who is Jesus Christs. We must resist the temptation to use the human energy of anger to try to make things right using our own power.
Here’s an excerpt:
Faced with stories of the depravity of sinners within the Church, I have been tempted to despair. And why? The reality of sin — even sin in the Church — is nothing new. We are a Church made of sinners, but we are sinners called to sanctity. So what is new? What is new is the seeming acceptance of sin by some in the Church, and the apparent efforts to cover over sin by them and others. Unless and until we take seriously our call to sanctity, we, as an institution and as individuals, will continue to suffer the “wages of sin.”
For too long we have diminished the reality of sin — we have refused to call a sin a sin — and we have excused sin in the name of a mistaken notion of mercy. In our efforts to be open to the world we have become all too willing to abandon the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In order to avoid causing offense we offer to ourselves and to others niceties and human consolation.
Why do we do this? Is it out of an earnest desire to display a misguided sense of being “pastoral?” Have we covered over the truth out of fear? Are we afraid of being disliked by people in this world? Or are we afraid of being called hypocrites because we are not striving tirelessly for holiness in our own lives?
Perhaps these are the reasons, but perhaps it is more or less complex than this. In the end, the excuses do not matter. We must be done with sin. It must be rooted out and again considered unacceptable. Love sinners? Yes. Accept true repentance? Yes. But do not say sin is okay. And do not pretend that grave violations of office and of trust come without grave, lasting consequences.
For the Church, the crisis we face is not limited to the McCarrick affair, or the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, or anything else that may come. The deeper crisis that must be addressed is the license for sin to have a home in individuals at every level of the Church. There is a certain comfort level with sin that has come to pervade our teaching, our preaching, our decision making, and our very way of living.
If you’ll permit me, what the Church needs now is more hatred! As I have said previously, St. Thomas Aquinas said that hatred of wickedness actually belongs to the virtue of charity. As the Book of Proverbs says “My mouth shall meditate truth, and my lips shall hate wickedness (Prov. 8:7).” It is an act of love to hate sin and to call others to turn away from sin.
Please read it all. What are you doing to hate sin in your own life? How are you lenient with yourself on your own sinful behavior? Then, there’s the whole issue of the demonic.
If you know anything about demonic activity, and this is something that lay people should not get too involved with, then you know that certain demons specialize in certain kinds of sins. They will attach themselves like spiritual lampreys to the souls of people who commit them and also to the places where the sins were committed. Once a demon gets hold, they claim the right to be there, until the layers of their connection are broken one by one. That’s what exorcism rites do: they break the legalistic claims of the Enemy to be there.
We need to pay attention to that statement, because we all run the risk of giving demonic forces “permission” to gain access to our minds and hearts through sins that may seem to us to be justified in response to evil.
If we see this horror and react with judgment that really is a form of thinking ourselves morally superior, of cultivating anger, then we risk giving a foothold to the enemy, and soon bitterness takes root. Or we give way to critical spirits, spirits of division, of rebellion and aha, the evil one has got you coming and going. Entertaining these spirits, which we justify because we are reacting to evil, can quickly become a compulsion and give way to greater sin.
Our sins may seem quite small to us in comparison to the egregious evils we react to, but as Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” (John 8:34)
St. Paul warns us in Ephesians: 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”
I am not advocating passivity or “doing nothing,” or being “non-judgmental” to the point of being a Pollyanna who let’s everything pass. We are to discern evil by the light of God, not by our own light, and our energy to fight evil should be the Lord’s, not ours.
Fr. Z writes:
Dear readers… this is all out war. It is war on every level, human and supernatural. The Enemy of the soul is a really good general, a relentless and malevolent tactician of destruction of souls and long view strategist The Enemy preys on human weakness. War is horrible, vicious and seriously ugly. Spiritual war is worse than material.
So, how to we ensure our human weakness is not being deployed in this battle? Fr. Z warns us to be careful what we wish for in our outrage over the present revelations.
Your calls for short term retribution or for instant action etc. will have their own repercussions down the road. For example, even as many people call for the resignation and removal of this or that bishop, cardinal, etc., keep in mind that there is only one guy, in the human sphere, who signs off on the new bishops and cardinals. Try to picture the results over time if you get what you ask for.
Finally, please take this to heart.
This is a primarily a supernatural battle that is being fought right now. The bloody trenches and killing alleys are directly through the ranks of the Church’s priests, and they directly involve matters intimately tied into the very center of the Church’s core, priesthood and sacraments like Penance.
No priest, no Eucharist, no Church.
This war involves human weakness, identity perversion, and also demonic possession. Hence, our response has to involve all of these dimensions.
Pray for your priests and for bishops, cardinals and the Pope. Put on the whole armor of God and remember our weapons are not carnal, but spiritual to the pulling down of strongholds. Don’t allow those strongholds to form in your own soul. Through honest self-examination and the sacrament of Confession, allow the Holy Spirit to tear down those strongholds that are already there, and only then you are ready for battle.