Wednesday, July 11, 2012


   Some time ago I was a guest on a Philadelphia TV talk show about the abuse tragedy in the church.  The host asked me, "What has this done to your faith?"  I answered, "Nothing.    I have no trouble with Jesus Christ.  What I have is a severe organization problem."  It was a simple answer with a complex follow-through.

   To begin with, we must continue to give our fullest possible support to the victims of abuse.  This means believing them, and then listening to them and acting on their behalf.  We must continue to fight for an extension of the Statute of Limitations.  And following Msgr. Lynn's conviction, we must vigorously push the District Attorney to continue his investigations and indictments up the clerical ladder.

   Second, we must deal with our anger.  All of us who believe that Jesus Christ is most fully expressed in the Catholic faith have to ask, "How do we proceed in the face of a leadership that has lost all right to our credibility and respect?"  We would be naive to automatically believe anything the bishops say, since everything they say is tainted with their desperate attempt to hold on to their diminishing authority and power.  Also, as I describe on the page, THE NUNS AND THE VATICAN, the bishops are trapped in an old mindset that no longer gives them clear answers as to what is real and true.  Their clumsy campaign for religious freedom shows that they are not speaking the truth openly and directly.

   Philadelphia's Archbishop Chaput is trying to avoid the present situation as much as possible.  His expression of "sorrow" over Lynn's conviction was couched in language that sounded as if the trial and conviction happened on another planet.  And his promises to clean up the archdiocese are accompanied by his continuing cover-up of the priests whom  he is restoring to ministry.

   The bishops' behavior is dissident behavior.  There is nothing of Christ in it.  The corruption is truly deeply set.

   We are therefore walking our spiritual way in today's world without credible and respected leadership from our bishops.  But the rich Catholic spiritual tradition is still available to us, and we have the responsibility to access it and live it as fully as we possibly can.  (I will discuss the Mass in my next post.)  Every day we are challenged to make moral decisions, e.g., in our personal lives, politics, business, etc.  Without reliable leadership from our bishops, we can rely on our own investigation into our faith, on discussions with trusted spiritual mentors, and finally, on our own conscience.  And we must teach the true faith to our children and grandchildren.

  This is a disgraceful situation; it is not the complete, true church that the Spirit of Christ desired and expects.  Yet from our efforts, a new church will arise.  In the meantime, the present corrupt system is doing great spiritual harm, especially to those laity and clergy who still follow it without question.  I challenge any bishop to tell me where I'm wrong on any of this.

   The dissident, spiritually corrupt clerical system must be abandoned in favor of a transparent, system of true servant-leadership.  Right now, this is not in sight.  The bishops have given up their Christ-given, collegial right and responsibility to run the church with the pope.  And the laity are being denied their canonical and theological rights to affirm their equal baptismal dignity.  That leaves the situation up to the pope alone who, in fact, is standing above the church, and therefore, outside the church.  So there is plenty of justification for a spiritual revolution.  We must continue to publicly proclaim and teach our theological, canonical and spiritual right to live within a collaborative, spiritually honest system.  We owe it to ourselves, to our fellow laity and clergy, and to the bishops and pope.  And we owe it to society at large.  We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers.

   In the meantime, we continue to live our faith day by day.  Despite the sorrow, anger and challenges we are experiencing, in fact, within them, all that we do, we do for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ, to whom be all honor and glory, now and forever.  Amen.

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