The entire Church needs a new Reformation, a new turning toward Christ.
Like most Catholics I know, I am dismayed and disgusted by the ongoing revelations of cover-ups by bishops of the sexual abuse of children by clergy (including bishops).
The chorus lines of bishops in the United States, Europe, Australia and elsewhere all giving us the song and dance that they are horrified at what has happened, and that they will now work and are working at ensuring that such scandal shall never occur again only adds to my distaste. It is obvious that wherever such a charade is being perpetrated, it is prompted not by concern for what is right, but solely because the spotlights of the media and civil authority are forcing the bishops onto the stage.
Their pious protestations that they have at last realized that they have failed Christ and the People of God and will henceforth be different are worthless. I, for one, cannot and will not believe any man with the title “bishop” again unless his life and actions provide evidence of his trustworthiness. The burden of proof rests now on that tribe.
Yes, there are good men among them. I even know a few. But it is increasingly clear that such exceptions are precisely that — exceptions. As a whole, they have been and continue to be more concerned with their image, their authority, their privileges and their finances than with justice and charity. Their collective mea culpa is worthless playacting. Their declarations that rather than stepping down and accepting blame they must now stay in charge and be the ones to correct the situation do not even rise to the level of risibility. No laughter, only jeers are the proper response.
In the United States, that the bishops’ concern was primarily themselves manifested itself in their excluding themselves from the stringent policies they instituted regarding the protection of children, policies that have, in fact, largely been effective in dealing with the problem of abusive priests and other church workers. However, by exempting themselves from those rules, bishops remained free to cover up, and even to perpetrate abuse themselves.
Why should I or anyone else trust them? It is now clear to all the world that they are willing to sacrifice children to some Baal they blasphemously dare to call the Church. What other betrayals might they be committing or be willing to commit that have yet to be exposed?
These were the thoughts that disturbed or absorbed my prayer at a Mass I recently attended. Were they distractions? In a sense, yes, but they were the real concern that I and we all must bring to the Lord. In my case, I think there may have been something of an answer to that unprayerlike prayer. It came when I was distracted from my distraction by a hymn the congregation began to sing.
In the 1860s, the Anglican Church in South Africa was torn by accusations of schism against a bishop, John Colenso. It appears in retrospect that he was probably right in much of what he said, but in any case, the Church was in turmoil over its bishop. Eventually, the controversy was brought to England for adjudication.
It was then, in 1866, that a Church of England priest, Samuel Stone, wrote lyrics in response to the controversy, lyrics that are sung even today to a tune by Samuel Wesley in churches of all denominations, including by Catholics.
“The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.”
Not angels. Not saints. Not popes. Not bishops. Not priests. Not Brothers or Sisters. Not one another. Not devotions. Not sacraments. Not rituals. Not structures. Not institutions. Not buildings. Not theology. Not canon law. Not catechisms. Not venerable customs. Not social or political stances. Not councils.
Our one and only foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord.
The desert into which the bishops have dragged us may, if we use the experience well, become the place to purify our faith. We as a People and as individuals have allowed many things of this world, including “religious” things of this world, to replace the one foundation we must have, Jesus Christ the Lord. We have allowed that foundation to be obscured by trimmings or whole edifices that we have added to it. Focusing on those accretions, we have lost sight of Jesus Christ.
The entire Church, including, and perhaps especially, its Catholic manifestation, needs a new Reformation, a new turning toward Christ. As in the first Reformation 500 years ago, we must return to the Word of God in Scripture in order to know Jesus at the source. We must deepen our prayer. We must join other disciples in communal worship. We must make the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, an integral part of our faith and life. We must serve Christ in our sisters and brothers, especially the poor in body, mind and spirit.
With Christ as our foundation, we can move forward, leaving behind those things, including those bishops, that hide him from us and the world.
Father William Grimm, MM, is the publisher of ucanews.com and is based in Tokyo.
This article was published by UCA News.