In recent weeks, the Catholic Church has been shaken by new controversies and in particular, a resurgence of the sexual abuse scandal. This isn’t the first time in its history that the Church has faced controversy and scandal and I dare say it won’t be the last. That’s not because the Catholic Church is bad – it’s not – but rather its the product of human weakness fraught by the consequences of original sin. The perpetrators must certainly be made accountable for their actions and justice must be served. Many have called for a purging of the Church and some even have expressed an inclination to leave the Church altogether. Purging is necessary, but leaving isn’t the answer.
I can understand the pain and confusion the scandals have caused and I sympathize with those who may want to step away. But, I think that at this point in time, that’s the last thing any of us ought to do. With her gaping wounds once again bleeding, the Church needs us to stay strong, fervent, and prayerful. She is the institution of Christ himself – it’s not the institution that has caused the problems, it’s the frail, imperfect human beings within her who fell prey to the evil one. To make a very simple analogy, it’s not the house that’s causing the problems; it’s the people living in it. It’s essential to keep our perspective and to realize that the crimes of a certain number of individuals do not make the entire Catholic Church bad.
What’s called for now isn’t division and discord, but rather higher striving, increased fervency, greater courage, deeper sacrifice and stronger trust in the One who made us a Church in the first place.
Do not forget what our Lord told St. Peter:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (Mt 16:18)
Jesus wasn’t using cliches or exaggeration when he said this to Peter; he knew exactly what he was saying and he meant every word of it. And we must take him at his word.
Rather than lament that the Church isn’t what we’d prefer her to be, let’s instead be the Church she should be. We all are members of the Body of Christ – what makes one stronger and holier makes all of us stronger and holier. We can effect so much good by fostering hope, demonstrating exemplar faith, and valiantly defending what is good, true, and beautiful about the Church. Faith, charity, and hope are contagious and in these tumultuous times we need a veritable epidemic. Those who waiver need others to cling to who are stronger, and that means you and me.
What’s called for is heroic love that sees the Church as Christ intended her to be and not for what misguided and sinful beings have tried to make of her. It isn’t enough for us to believe in the Church (although we must certainly do that) or defend the Church (yes, we must do that, too), but we must be the Church for ourselves and others – a reflection of the Mystical Body of Christ and that which the gates of Hades shall never prevail.