Falling from Grace

The Grand Jury spoke while I was on a well-deserved holiday and anticipating my God-daughter’s wedding. Its gruesome verdict hit me in the stomach like a rock from outer space, burrowing deep grooves of anger and horror into my mind-heart-spirit, blowing the holiday fun to smithereens. What to say about the Pennsylvania Report with its graphic X-rated details? First, Holy Scripture lept to my mind:

When one member suffers, all suffer. (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)
Be very careful how you live. (Ephesians 5:15-18)
If anyone one causes but one of these little ones to stumble … (Matthew 18:6)
Discern the Body … before sharing the holy food and drink (1 Corinthians 11:29)

Next came the claims made by Rome throughout the centuries, now sounding like hollow echoes of a past era:
No salvation outside the church …
The fullness of the church exists in the Roman Catholic Church …
Priests act in persona Christi
Jesus is the only way …
The deposit of the only true Eucharist and Holy Orders …

If any RC priest dared to ignore this report in his homily the Sunday following its publication, it would only increase the betrayal and hypocrisy, delivering yet another death knell to an institution that has stood as a bulwark for Truth, claiming the exclusive corner on salvation, shepherding a global flock with a benign patriarchal/fatherly hand – or so many thought.

Now, with razor-sharp precision, the emperor is stripped of its regal clothes. The only posture worthy of any honesty is raw transparency and tearful humility on the part of every priest, deacon and bishop, guilty or not, but nevertheless complicit in a system that concealed more than it revealed. The dark destructive shadows crushing vulnerable souls are now emerging under the scrutinizing, merciless light of justice and truth. Men who saw it their duty to tie heavy burdens around the necks of God’s good people, ordinary folk struggling to live with integrity and decency, are now hanging in the scales of justice. Men who acted “in persona Christi,” claiming exclusive powers to consecrate/transform and administer the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation did so with deviant hearts, filled with the filth of soul-destroying behaviour, the details of which are too horrific to recount. Be careful how you live, warned St. Paul. Be careful how you live, warned the Fathers and custodians of the faith. Be careful …

While many reports of clergy sexually abusing minors have been released in the past decades, this report somehow has an acid core: never before has the dichotomy between saint and sinner been depicted so graphically and detestably. Never before has anything cast such shameful light on the immaturity and irresponsibility of men – underdeveloped, weak and terrified of their own humanity – intoxicated with ecclesiastical power deformed by an institutional harnass of an all-male celibate priesthood that ended up choking them softly and sweetly, taking unsuspecting innocent lives with them.

I feel like throwing up … We desperately need an ecclesial #MeToo movement as well as an ecclesial Truth and Reconciliation process. How come such secular initiatives keep arising from outside the very institution that claims the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable and abused, and that claims to be all about truth and healing, justice and reconciliation in Christ Jesus? The betrayal and hypocrisy are simply too much to comprehend … Shell-shocked bishops are fumbling inadequate responses, priests are becoming hesitant about wearing their collar in public. All of a sudden, Catholics are wondering: are you one of them too? How deep and wide does this virus go?

Is the institutional church collapsing under the weight of its false certainties? Is this the same church that nourished my faith and guided my life in such meaningful ways? Is this the same church in which my own priestly calling was awakened despite its own refusal to bless that call? The dominoes are falling, the structures are crumbling — the Emperor has no clothes … No words, just kneeling in bewilderment, breathing heavily in between the sobs of my spirit, prayerfully whispering that haunting hymn our own Leonard Cohen has given us in prophetic poetry, with a much-needed addition:

O gather up the brokenness, and bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises you never dared to vow
The splinters that you carry, the cross you left behind
Come healing of the body, come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it the penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit, come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy in arbitrary space
And none of us deserving the cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing where love has been confined
Come healing of the body, come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding that tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason, come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing an undivided love
The heart beneath is teaching to the broken heart above

Let the heavens falter, let the earth proclaim
Come healing of the altar, come healing of the name

O longing of the branches to lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries to purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it, the penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit, come healing of the limb

And while the structures crumble, just let the women speak
Come healing of the humble, come healing of the weak

O let the heavens hear it, the penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit, come healing of the limb

On August 20, 2018, Pope Francis published a Letter to All the Faithful.

Here is a poignant commentary on Pope Francis’ letter that articulates many of my own deepest feelings and emotions.

An agonizing reflection by a faithful Catholic is here.

For those who seek a broader historical analysis to how we got here, read Massimo Faggioli‘s thoughtful piece.

And then there is our own Canadian Senator Murray Sinclair. This is what he has to say in a CBC article on the pope asking for forgiveness in regards to revelations of abuse of children by priests in Pennsylvania:

This makes me wonder why such a request for forgiveness was not made of the several thousand Survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools who were abused by priests. Less than 1000 non-Indigenous children in Pennsylvania apparently are entitled to the Pope’s personal request for forgiveness, but when given the chance, he declined to issue even a simple apology to the many thousand more Indigenous victims in Canada. Survivors are being abused once again.

August 27, 2018. Another agonizing reflection on: “Why stay?”

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