“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” – Matthew 7:15
I’ve been thinking about leadership again. I wrote an essay a couple of years ago about leadership in relation to civic leaders, especially those who will act as Commander in Chief of our US Military. With recent horrific details of Catholic priests’ and bishops’ reprehensible behavior I have been lamenting the lack of leadership among that group of people within the Church I love.
Too many of our Church’s Shepherds failed their flocks. I am so sad and discouraged at the lack of concern for the young victims by our supposed leaders. Jesus speaks of the shepherd leaving 99 to save the one lost sheep. (Matthew 18:12-13) I have not seen that kind of selfless concern from any of the Bishops who knew of the evils, but did nothing, who sometimes perpetrated the evil themselves. And then some of these go on to become Cardinals and just continue hiding all that evil in the darkness. Or engaging in the evils in the shadows themselves. They should all be men of the Light.
I want to see public contrition and public penance from our Church leaders. I believe we deserve that as faithful followers of the Church who truly believed all of our Bishops were being appointed through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, it would seem by the severely rotten fruit some have produced, that the Triune God had very little to do with some of these ordinations. (See Jesus’ words in Matthew, Chapter 7, verse 16.) In the previous verse Jesus warns agains false prophets and in this verse He tells His followers to point them out. That’s our job as faithful followers of Christ.
I have told my husband the wearing of sack cloth and ashes would not be too much for the spiritual leaders of our Church at this point, to show their remorse for their actions or inaction of their brethren. As for those who sinned and wounded the innocent and for those who sided with the violators, there should also be resignations and revocation of priestly faculties. And civil authorities should be involved for more recent cases of abuse against minors.
The response from our leadership has been weak, to say the least, thus far. I saw Father Jonathan Morris on a news show a couple of nights ago and he said about the Pennsylvania grand jury report that he was “embarrassed and ashamed” as a priest. A great young priest had the courage and humility to say those words. A great priest who has empathy and compassion for the victims. I would be glad and proud to call him “Father” for that is the conduct of a spiritual father. Tragically, it seems too many of his seniors are not so courageous and not so humble. They lack empathy and compassion for the victims, it is obvious by their actions and inaction for years…
How many times in Scripture is Jesus “moved with compassion?” How utterly disappointed our Lord must be. I am distressed, as so many are, at the seeming lack of belief by our leaders in the very things they were saying to us; we’ve been betrayed by these men who often said all the ‘right things,’ but the hypocrisy was unimaginable. How could they truly believe in any of the grace of the Sacraments they dispensed when they acted in such evil ways behind closed doors? How could they believe the Word of God they proclaimed at Mass when they ignored the words of Jesus in so many disgusting ways?
It disturbs me to the core of my soul to think that these who we believed to be men of God were behaving much more like the devil and his angels. God help us all. God have mercy on us. Let us pray for the grace that comes after a failure. A friend posted about that this morning. She said her pastor, a man who is as upset, outraged, and disappointed as the faithful are, told us he shared that observation in his homily this week. Grace follows the failure.
So, let us pray, let us work to be the Church we are called to be. Let us try to support the upright priests and bishops who still faithfully serve God and the Church. We are to be the Light of the world, the salt of the earth – each one of us. We can move forward determined to care for the poor, feed the hungry, give drink to those who thirst, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned, and most importantly share the Good News. We can be the Church as Jesus called us to be. This can indeed be a beginning, that ‘beauty from ashes’ we learn about in the Old Testament. (Isaiah 61:3) God can do that for us. But there must be an accounting and an acknowledgment by our leaders of wrongdoing and those who perpetrated evil must be removed. We need to witness serious repentance on the part of our spiritual leaders. And there must be a firm, public resolve to begin anew. It’s a must for they should understand how thoroughly betrayed we are by many in their ranks.
I am reminded of Paul’s words here: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) That gives me hope. Let us be there for one another as never before, recalling that the next portion of Paul’s letter is all about love. It remains, it endures, for God is love. Cling to that knowledge and ask for the grace to be all that the Lord of all Creation wants us to be.