“The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” ~ Matthew 16:18
Jesus told St. Peter when He handed over the keys to the kingdom that Hell wouldn’t prevail, not that it wouldn’t try. Nor strike hard when it would.
This is where we stand today. The Church is reeling from the arising of terrible scandal. The revelation isn’t just here in Buffalo and Pennsylvania, but it seems to have global implications as previously hidden abuse comes to light. If the abuse isn’t bad enough, hiding it is certainly salt in the wound. We have been let down. This has caused even the most stout of heart to shake in anger or fear. There are plenty of sources you can read with varying degrees of fairness to catch up. You should and will be angry. This has no room in the Church and should be cleaned out.
Here’s the thing though.
This doesn’t define our faith. The sins of others don’t make our identity. Our identity as Christians and the Universal Church is in Christ. As the faithful, we should take heart that the Kingdom the keys belong to when passed on to St. Peter is Jesus Christ led, Holy Spirit driven. I am reminded of God’s promise in Psalm 91,
Say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress, My God in whom I trust.” He will rescue you from the fowlers snare, from the destroying plague… Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you shall it not come. You need simply to watch; the punishment of the wicked you will see… He will call upon me and I will answer, I will be with him in distress. ~ Psalm 91: 2-3, 7-8, & 15
No one is above sin. Everyone alive is susceptible to stain, even the holiest of holies. Scandal and failure of trust has afflicted us since the beginning and through Scripture; the Angel Lucifer, Adam and Eve, King David. Let’s take a look at one of the twelve Apostles who walked with Jesus on a daily basis. Judas learned first hand from Jesus, laughed with Him, ate with Him. Before his fall, he was one of the shepherds. Yet Judas still betrayed him. We wouldn’t leave Jesus because of the failings Judas.
Every other Apostle represented Christ well, even through their own human limitations. Jesus knew all of this. This is a story not hidden from Scripture for us to take note. The price to pay for free will is the option for failure. And we will at times in the most egregious ways, as we find ourselves today. We have a whole history on the failings of humans in the Church. In the end however, Christ moves forward from Judas to die on the Cross and become Resurrected. Likewise, the Church will move forward because Christ is with us.
During some of the darkest times in our history is when great Saints have arisen to meet the challenges the Church has faced. While this may be a tough time for the faithful, we need not fear. God is with us. God is with you. The answer is not to walk away from Jesus in the Eucharist but to move closer. As Scott Hahn recently said, “It seems like a good time to pray like never before.”
While many of our shepherds have fallen, the vast majority of our priests are good. They are hurting through this as well, as Judas has sold them out too. While our trust in the priesthood has shaken, we need to remember that Peter, Andrew, John, and the others went on to Baptize, preach, forgive sins, heal, and build the Church. They gave their lives for Christ. Let’s not confuse Peter for Judas. Pray for them like never before.
Lastly, my friend Jeremy shared a quote that hits home for me from one of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien (author of Lord of the Rings) in a letter to his son about scandal, you can read commentary and the full letter here.
I think I am as sensitive as you (or any other Christian) to the scandals, both of clergy and laity. I have suffered grievously in my life from stupid, tired, dimmed, and even bad priests; but I now know enough about myself to be aware that I should not leave the church (which for me would mean leaving the allegiance of Our Lord) for any such reasons: I should leave because I did not believe, and should not believe anymore, even if I had never met anyone in orders who was not both wise and saintly. I should deny the Blessed Sacrament, that is: call our Lord a fraud to His face.
Stay strong faithful.