Keeping the faith in tumultuous times

| November 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

With the Nov. 6 release of the new movie “Spotlight” — a film that centers on the investigation by the Boston Globe that brought the clergy sexual abuse scandal out into the open in 2002 — the curtain is raised yet again on a tragic piece of history in the U.S. Church.

The abuse crisis and its aftermath has been a dark, tumultuous time for Catholics. With each new revelation of past misdeeds, we have found ourselves asking when the revelations will stop, even as we know that — for the sake of the victims and ourselves — the scandals should never be forgotten.

More than a decade after that crisis first broke, the Church finds itself going through yet another difficult season.

In recent weeks, the Vatican has been plagued by intrigue, gossip and hierarchical infighting throughout the second Synod of Bishops on the family. On the heels of the synod were allegations of corruption and the arrest of two members of a Vatican committee in late October — one a laywoman and one a Vatican cleric — for leaking confidential financial information to Italian journalists. Then, in early November, came the publication of two books that contain enough damaging information to be dubbed “Son of Vatileaks,” a title that conjures up images of a “sequel” to the 2012 scandal in which the personal butler of Pope Benedict XVI was found guilty of leaking private documents to the press.

Whatever the resolution of this latest wave of crises, it is clear that the Church must necessarily commit itself to greater transparency and greater accountability.

But for we the faithful, this may be the time for us to gain some historical and spiritual perspective.

For more than two millennia beginning with the earliest apostles, the Church has weathered storm after storm, including betrayal, heresy, corruption and schism. Yet the Church still stands. We have Christ’s own promise, as related in the Gospel of Matthew, that it will remain so: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

At such times in the history of the Church — and there have been many — the question for faithful Catholics is always the same: How do we put aside the intrigues and scandals in our beautiful, messy Church and find a way, despite it all, to keep the faith? It’s at times like these where it behooves us to get back to basics: to strive to be, as Jesus asked us in the Sermon on the Mount, poor in spirit, meek, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers and persecuted for our faith. To care, as Jesus commands, for the hungry, the thirsty, the poor, the stranger, the prisoner, the least among us. And, as Pope Francis reminded Congress in September, to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated.

What’s more, such times of trial offer the faithful the opportunity to remember that, by the grace of God, our faith does not find its purchase in a Church employee, a priest, a bishop or even a pope. Instead, our faith is in Jesus Christ, savior and king. The individuals who make up our Church, be they laity or clergy, are just that — individuals. They are human beings who err, who struggle and who sin. Our task is to remain focused on what counts — Christ alone.

And as we enter the penitential and merciful season of Advent, let us pray for all those who hold positions of trust and responsibility in our Church.

This commentary appeared in the Nov. 4 issue of Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newsweekly based in Huntington, Indiana. It was written by the newspaper’s editorial board.

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