This has been a really hard time for me to want to be part of the Church.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned amid a sex abuse scandal. A grand jury in Pennsylvania is expected to release a damning report about child abuse in the Catholic dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. In response, Cardinal David Wuerl of Washington, D.C. proposed that the bishops should convene a panel of bishops to investigate allegations of abuse or misconduct (which is a really bad idea).
And then there's Willow Creek Church, whose elders and lead pastor resigned over their mishandling of sexual misconduct of the founding pastor, Bill Hybels.
I want to respond like Eric Cartman from the Cartoon, South Park:
But that's not really an option for me. As a Secular Franciscan, I live by a rule that calls me, like Saint Francis of Assisi, to
rebuild the Church and inspired by his example . . . to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity. (OFS Rule #6)
How do I do this? How can remain faithful in an institution that seems to continually fuck up when it comes to something so basic to human decency as not raping people, especially children?!?!?! Do they not teach that in seminary? One would think that they shouldn't have to, but maybe they do. . .
I'm angry. The struggle I face is to not let my anger sever my relationship with the Church, united as I am through my Baptism and deepened through my profession as a Secular Franciscan (OFS Rule #6, again). How can I not lose trust in a community when I clearly don't trust the people at its head?
I'm not really sure, but I hope the following may help me sit with my anger:
- Reflect on the meaning of the word faith. If it's simply a synonym for "belief," then I might as well pull a Cartman and just go home. After all, how can I believe the Church is holy when the she behaves in ways that are so obviously unholy? But, if I understand faith as the seeking of the Divine, then I'm led to a different set of questions: How do I find God in the Church? How does the community of the Church help me recognize, understand, and respond to my own call for holiness?
- Identify the structural evil. Belonging to a community is a responsibility. We all have a role to play in identifying structural evil--that is, evil that grows from how power is organized within an institution as opposed to personal moral failings, calling it out, healing the harm such sin causes, and then removing it. This requires me to ask the hard question: Am I part of the problem? Does my silence enable such evil to continue?
- Express gratitude for your community (as flawed as it may be). We can only share our blessings, our gifts, and our love, within the context of community. Without community, love is simply narcissism. Community is the context for love. I can take some time to identify moments when I received love from the community, when I shared my love with that community, and give thanks for those moments.
- Listen to Heidi Stevens. In today's Chicago Tribune, she wrote that "community is our instinct":
Politicians divide us. Pundits and fearmongers divide us. Laura Ingraham, when she says “the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore," divides us.
We’re strongest when we resist them. We’re strongest when we honor our instinct to connect with one another and, even more important, take care of one another.
We’re strongest when we stop looking for ways to divide people into hierarchies that pretend how we look or whom we love or how we worship or where we’re born should determine how much care and protection and freedom and grace we deserve.
By taking Heidi Stevens' advice, I can simply look at how I can take care of my community, regardless of who they are. After all we are all suffering in some way and need to show one another compassion.
“Master, to whom shall we go?" Peter said to Jesus when asked if they wanted to return to their former way of life. "You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68)
I suppose that's where I am now. As tempted as I am to say, "Screw you guys, I'm going home" like Eric Cartman, I know that there is no other home, there is nowhere else for me to go. I'm on a journey to discover Christ who dwells in me, and that journey is never traveled alone, but only in community.