When I was a student at UT, I had a meeting with then-Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin in his office at the Chancery. I met with him there a few times for a few different things and I couldn’t tell you which of those applied in this case. I can’t remember much from the conversation except one story that has stuck with me all of these years.
Bishop Aymond was telling of a conflict within a parish he was mediating. Two factions within the parish were causing hay to fly, not listening to one other, not respecting one another, etc. Finally, out of frustration, Bishop Aymond, as the story was told, said “It’s not about you! It’s not you either, it’s about Jesus Christ!”
That’s where I’m at with the latest round of sexual abuse issues in the Church.
I really don’t know what happened in any particular church, school, camp at any particular time nor do I know what did any bishop, the pontiff included, do or not do in response to any of these particulars. I don’t know if they were acting in good faith; I don’t know if any individual was trying to stage a cover-up.
All in all, to me and for me, it doesn’t matter.
I believe that the Holy Father is the Vicar of Christ on earth, but I remember that the Rock–Peter, the first Pope–publicly rejected being associated with Jesus. The Holy Father, by virtue of the position and the office, deserves our respect and, as Catholics, we should defer to him. He isn’t infallible (except, as crystallized by Vatican I, when he speaks ex cathedra, which virtually never occurs. Twice since 1800). He’s human. He sins.
That being said, I’m far from being convinced these latest reports are examples of a pope sinning. Simply can’t trust the New York Times anytime there’s an opportunity to bash the Church.
The men who abused their power, our trust by not only breaking their vow, but by abusing children deserve as much as both the Catholic and secular legal systems can throw at them. God is merciful, but that does not equal a free ride. Bishops erred, perhaps sinfully so, in how they, or let those under them, handle situations. I honestly believe that in the vast majority of bishops are truly trying to do the best they can and, in the past, they didn’t appreciate the seriousness of the issue. I don’t know if, when much of this abuse took place, anyone had a full appreciation of the serious nature of these acts.
Ergo, mistakes were made. But, the Church is trying to learn from them and doing a fine job of it at that.
I’m digressing from my original point. None of that matters. When it comes down to it, it’s not about the Pope or the Cardinals. It’s not about the media (or whether or not they trying to report on this matter in a responsible way in all organizations–Catholic, governmental, secular–or if they actually are simply attaching the Church). Honestly, it’s not about these priests of whom all Catholics are ashamed and it’s not about the victims, although all of our prayers should be with them.
It’s about Jesus Christ.
As the sun prepares to rise on this Holy Thursday, Jesus Christ is all that matters. From the first days of the Church, he chose men who were weak, sinned, would fail, would be tempted and used their gifts to spread the Gospel message to all of us who now teach and profess the Catholic faith.
Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and Christ alone can the Church have hope in tomorrow. Jesus Christ is the truth and through Christ alone can the truth can be not only known, but understood.
Jesus Christ is the only hope for these men who did the unspeakable to those Jesus himself commanded us to protect the most.
Jesus Christ is the only one who can truly bring healing to the victims. The Church, as the Body of Christ, must bring Jesus to these victims, but in a truly humble, contrite way. We, as the people, need to get our own egos out of the way so Jesus can work through us.
The Holy Father and the Church have their roles in bringing me closer to Christ. The richness of our faith. Guiding me when I stray. Ensuring that my work reflects my faith. But at the end of the day, it’s not about the Church. It’s about Jesus Christ.
My faith is not shaken by these reports, whether they are 10% or 100% based on fact. Why? My faith isn’t defined or built on a foundation of Pope Benedict XVI or Bishop Vasquez or Father Bill. My faith is in the Way, Truth and the Light–Jesus Christ. Christ is infallible–always and in all things and at all times. The Church could be as corrupt as it was during the worst of times, but it truly doesn’t change the faith.
My final thoughts on the sex abuse scandal is that all of this is sickening, disgusting and horrible. Law enforcement should do whatever they can. Church officials should do whatever they can. However, for me, for my personal spiritual journey, it doesn’t matter. “The path to heaven is heaven because Jesus said ‘I am the way’”. I’m seeking heaven. I’m seeking Christ. That’s my focus. That’s my aim. Everything else takes a back seat.
Update: It is now August 2018. A lot more words are needed.