I tell my clients all the time when working on coping skills to not being reaction based but responding with their head and heart. In my concepts in my head of what I want to write about today, I need to work hard on some parts to follow my own advice on this subject: The latest bishop and priests sex abuse scandals.
I am a counselor in Phoenix, Arizona and have heard in my career disclosures of sex abuse. “Reaction” thoughts come to mind like capital punishment and castration seem like a pretty good deal for justice.
This is also juxtaposed with the fact that five years ago I was received into the Catholic Church knowing that there were scandals in its recent past. But I was aware of reform and in being exposed as a volunteer in my diocese I was schooled on a very tight protocol that applies to all workers in the Catholic Church here.
And now the latest bomb drops in two ways. One is with a cardinal preying sexually on vulnerable seminarians and, in one case too many, a teenager. Another is 300 abuse cases in Pennsylvania with much direct and enabling sin by leadership.
I have a good friend who is a Protestant pastor who wanted to know if my priest would say anything this Sunday. I said he would probably not mince words and he is informed by his experience as priest and as for many years a credentialed mental health professional like me.
As mass was going on today, I grew concerned that I was wrong. The lectionary readings were on John 6 which is often called the Bread of Life Discourse. This is an important passage for Catholics so I tried too be patient when he sat down at the end of the homily after not saying a peep. We transitioned then from Liturgy of the Word to Liturgy of the Eucharist. Same Jesus, same faith, but still wondering if there will be a response next week. Father John then goes through announcements at the end being just regular stuff to deal with.
Then another bomb drops but the good kind. Father John brings out a paper and states he is about to read a letter from our bishop but he is reading it “with protest and resentment”. The bishop calls for priests and laity of our dioceses to join with the national council of bishops in prayer and fasting for a healing in the Church. I was now not restless in the same way but a bit confused since I did not get what was wrong.
But Fr. John made several points. Though he reminded the congregation that the bishop had been a good reformer on several points, the body of bishops in America had been making the majority of priests and laity to carry all the weight of someone else’s sin for 30 years. He further stated that massive prayer, fasting and repentance to be applied to that side was completely inappropriate though it was being passed on with the authority of our local bishop. He then promised to be writing blogs the next several weeks about that and does hope for a way forward. By the way, he was born and raised in Pennsylvania.
This is what I call a drop the mic moment and the standing ovation spoke to that fact. I hope that more Fr. Johns like him are rising up. I also hope that many cardinals and bishops will do the decent thing and step aside.
So in an odd way, I am in a good enough state for now. The scandals do not alter by unwise decisions or egregious sin my research into the Catholic Church 5 years ago nor any of my Catholic centered blogs. I agree with the principle used against the heretical Donatists in the 3rd century: ex opere operato. This means that the sacramental grace is tied to the holiness of God and not the personal holiness of the minister.
And that is where I am left. In my heart, it is a hope in Jesus who is the author and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:1). It extends from his authority who he allows to pass through a select chain of sinners in a delegated authority. I can also insert some irony in here in that as I am writing this blog to release today, I already had a blog auto-set to release today on the Sacrament of Confession. It was uploaded several weeks ago. I will need to give credit more to God than luck on that.
My prayer for those in that chain from the Bishop of Rome to the Bishop of Phoenix is that they take on the prayer my local bishop says. “Watch over – – -[his personal own name]. He might betray you.”
For my local pastor at my parish it is different and departs from churchy wording more than any other time in my years of blogging. “Strengthen Father John. Continue to strengthen his heart as he continues not to take shit from anybody”. Just like Jesus turns some tables over in the temple when it was departing faith and becoming a “den of robbers”, we need the right stimulus with boldness to give a true reformation like the Church Jesus founded deserves.