I am not attempting to whitewash the Church. It must take its proper responsibility for any abuse of power, learn something from its self-abasement and work even harder to implement gospel values wherever they are most needed. It may take quite some time to emerge from the present morass but it is still a task worth pursuing. The Church must still follow, even when bruised and demoralised, Christ’s injunction to work towards bringing about the kingdom of God on earth, however impossible it looks from where we now stand.
But one thing that is often forgotten when we blithely judge and heedlessly pontificate about the wrongs of others is that we are, all of us, “broken.” It is part of being human. Who then can really cast the first stone? Who cannot have said at some point in their lives,” there but for the grace of God go I ?” Those personally chosen by Christ himself were hardly paragons of righteousness – Peter, Judas, James and John…enthusiastic at times but woefully weak as well. The evangelists and Paul have all, in their messages, brought out the idea of the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life, being the presence of Jesus to the broken. In fact, he shocked his contemporaries by his preparedness to share his own table with sinners. We cannot, therefore, forget that we are a Church of broken people, a Church of sinners. ” The Church, clasping sinners in her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. ( Lumen Gentium 8 ) “ So however bruised and demoralised, however abashed and ashamed, at this moment in history we struggle on, all too conscious of our frailties so nakedly exposed for all the world to see but encouraged by Paul’s message from the Lord that ” my power is at best in weakness.” ( 2 Cor 12:9 ) Let us reach out hungrily for that divine power when we, at this time, are experiencing such powerlessness and ignominy within so many Church communities.
Bernard Moylan is a retired Catholic priest in Sydney