Thursday, February 14, 2013

A New Day

What a difference a week makes. Pope Benedict XVI resigned. He had said all along he doesn’t think someone who is unable to do the job should stay, and I am glad for that. In these days of advanced technology, people often live longer but don’t necessarily retain competence. I don’t know if traditionalists would agree, but I hope they appreciate this is better than having years of waiting for another leader.

Some may dread change, but others look forward to it with cautious hope. Though some Catholics seem willing to ignore the child sex abuse crisis in the Church, may I remind them that we need to protect the vulnerable as well as hold up the faith. It should be possible to do both. No matter how one may dislike media, they have reported much that was true. In fact, it has been victims, their lawyers and the media who have informed us of secret policies of the Church. These have included hiding the identity of predator priests and passing them on to unsuspecting parishes and communities.

How can people accept child sexual abuse and endangerment from leaders of our Church? Catholic leaders should collectively know about evil and how important it is to overcome. Many Catholics don’t even believe in hell anymore. Does this kind of behavior deserve heaven? Christ died for our sins, but one of the first calls of His ministry was to repent (cf. Matthew 4:17 NABRE). When we sincerely are sorry, we also must try to do better!

It is not hard to suppose that the Christian Church is a favored target for evil. How better to turn people away from the Lord than to drag Christians into sinfulness? If you have read some of my posts, you know I’m interested in science. These days many scientists, including social scientists, don’t believe in the spiritual categories of good and evil. According to them, we have just evolved, there is no God. But from what I’ve read, some of the same people still define bad behavior in general terms of “hurting others.” This isn’t terribly logical, since one can’t define bad behavior without using the concepts of good and evil. How does their definition make it evil? If there is no good or evil, then hurting people is a neutral activity. Actually, in Darwinian terms, hurting others probably increases one’s own chance for survival.

It is a real shame that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI both got caught up in duplicity concerning sex abuse. It is a shame because they both also seemed to understand the Truth of Jesus Christ and His salvation for those who believe, and the importance of evangelization. Though many Catholic theologians might tell us otherwise, this is critical for Christians to know. The tendency now is to believe that anyone can get to heaven, a theology called “Universalism,” which is a side-effect of wishful thinking on the part of certain “intellectuals.” Ralph Martin has written a book about this problem, Will Many be Saved?  Martin goes into the details about two theologians who promoted this worldview and how their influence affected the faith of many.  He says they ignored a vital part of the Vatican II document concerning those who have never heard of Christ (Lumen Gentium, entire Section 16). Missions are still as important as ever, but now even many Christians are missing the point.

It is very easy to despair of change when the leadership seems so uninterested in what the followers think. Yet if we read Cyprian Davis’ book, The History of Black Catholics in the United States , we can be inspired by African American persistence in the face of demeaning prejudice by US Catholic clergy. Actually, the hierarchy in Rome was on the side of helping the descendants of slaves who pleaded their case to them. There was still much resistance, but eventually things changed for the better. However, the Protestants had already made great progress and many African Americans had joined them by the time the Catholics here saw the light.

In a way, we can be glad the hidden sins of our leadership are being exposed because that is the first step in fixing the problem. But the leaders are still without satisfactory solutions and we need to get this straightened out. No more secrets! No more ignoring bishops who have hidden sexual predators or have known about it!

But if leaders follow through as they should, do you know what that will do? It will create even more shortages than we already have with only celibate male priests and bishops. After all these sex scandals, I don’t want to hear about the beauty of celibate male priesthood or how priests don't have time for families. Celibacy may be a wonderful way of life for some, but celibacy is not necessary in order to serve the church. One example from the fourth century is St. Hilary of Poitiers who was made bishop. Even though he was married with a child, he had the time to fight a great heresy, Arianism. Admittedly, he was exiled and did a lot of studying and writing then. Perhaps we can look at that as a sabbatical.  But he also continued the battle and wrote hymns when restored to his office.

I feel sometimes like the leadership of the Catholic Church would rather provide obstacles to the Lord for the faithful than give us a helping hand. We need a forthright, just Church for our spiritual health and in order to evangelize. I sincerely hope the leaders humbly ask the Lord to protect all Christians from evil and pray that He teach us and help us to do our part for the good.

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