From Headline Bistro of the Knights of Columbus comes this piece by Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review.
My emphases and comments.
A Holy Father
by Kathryn Jean Lopez
It was Holy Week. It was Holy Week and everywhere I turned – or so it seemed to this news junkie — I heard calls for the pope’s resignation. He would step down, pundits on MSNBC could have had you believing, as if it were a foregone conclusion and absolutely necessity. The veritable end of the Catholic Church – or at least the Vatican — if you were to believe some writing for the New York Times, was both imminent and welcome.
Of course, at the same time you had churches in the sophisticated metropolises of New York and Washington, D.C., between which I divide my time, overflowing. As clear as the palpability of the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist is for me – a gift I wish for everyone – was the reality of what was going on. This is no end but a beginning. The story of redemption, yet again. The Cross conquers the sin and evil that we are known to succumb to.
A few months ago while he was in New York promoting his book, The Difference God Makes, I asked Francis Cardinal George of Chicago if the Church, right now, were undergoing a renewal. The story of Christianity is a continual story of renewal, he told me. The Church is always undergoing a renewal. [Perfectly correct, but that was the easy answer.]
It’s the story of men and each one of our souls. It’s why I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read the author of God Is Not Great declare that “here is an ancient Christian church that deals in awful certainties when it comes to outright condemnation of sins like divorce, abortion, contraception, and homosexuality between consenting adults. For these offenses there is no forgiveness.” There is always forgiveness! To miss that, is to miss it all! [I think this speaks to the spirit of the lex talionis which is so prominent today. It always has been, of course. But with the decline of skills of reasoning and the shortening of attentions spans, it is getting worse.]
Pope Benedict was recently in Turin, Italy. “I am here as Successor of Peter, and I carry in my heart the whole Church, indeed, all of humanity,” he said. He confessed to being drawn to the Shroud of Turin as so many others have been because there is a “light” in the “darkness” there. There is “victory” there. There is a glimpse of “the death of Jesus, but glimpse his resurrection [too]; in the heart of death there now beats life, inasmuch as love lives there.” Here Christ “takes upon himself man’s passion of every time and every place, even our passion, our suffering, our difficulties, our sins – ‘Passio Christi. Passio hominis’ — from this moment there emanates a solemn majesty, a paradoxical lordship.”
I thought of Benedict’s words while at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for the tenth anniversary of the death of John Cardinal O’Connor earlier this week. Ecumenically, we gathered to celebrate. Former New York mayor Ed Koch was there, remembering the man who, he said, changed his life through his loving friendship. Walking distance from the New York Times headquarters, I thought of one of the paper’s columnists and his campaign to convince the world that the ceremony is all remnants of a false and failing Church as I looked at Archbishop Timothy Dolan with his elaborate staff and miter as we celebrated Mass. He would go on to talk about the oblative power of the priesthood. ["oblative"! A word we don’t see used often enough. From Latin "offero", "oblative" has to do with the function of offering sacrifice to God and, as the reverse of the medal, bearing sacrifice. Christ (and his priests) are at the same time priest who offers and victim who is offered. Just as an aside, I don’t think she meant "oblate" in the sense of "pumpkin-shaped", though that would not be entirely out of bounds when applied to clergy.] And I couldn’t help to see the edifying beauty in it all – the Church’s beautiful spiritual and corporal works that gain the admiration of even those who don’t believe. But the bells and smells and discipline and traditions are not problems. Christ is the heart of the Church. A lack of fidelity, a rejection of Truth are the problems. [But meld the works of mercy to sound worship and the result is what I have been pushing here for years.]
The doors of the cathedral were open that evening. On one side I could almost see the consulate of the Venezuelan regime. On another side I saw Saks Fifth Avenue, where I not-too-long-ago encountered an in-your-face “Want It!” campaign that might have been an excellent way to encourage shopping but probably didn’t reflect the best of us. [Get this…] The world needs this solemn majesty. [Exactly.] Every man and woman outside and inside needs it. Sinners on and off the altar, all. Secular Jews, too.
Koch recently defended the Catholic Church against the attacks of the New York Times and others. He saw what others wouldn’t: that the pile-on has an agenda behind it. [Indeed.]
There are so many sins. There have always been and there always will be. But the Church today is reacting and protecting differently today than it once did. In part because we just know what we once didn’t. In part because there is more transparency. And in no small part because, especially here in the U.S., we have strict norms that won’t tolerate abuse and make laxity and coverup near to impossible.
One of those sinful, deeply shameful and hurtful stories is the still-unfolding story of the Legionaries of Christ. The Vatican recently released a clear and direct statement on the investigation five bishops conducted on the religious order. This statement outlines the multilayered role of the pope and other members of the hierarchy of the Church: to be teacher, to be father, and yes, to be enforcer. No tolerance for abuse. No question about what the heart of the Church is. There is compassion. There are no excuses and punishment, too.
If a heart can weep, I have watched this pope’s, as he speaks of scandal and meets with victims of abuse at the hands of priests who rejected their calling. They rejected their calling when they abused our Lord’s children. When his heart weeps, it’s united with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is as real as the Real Presence. And as the pope weeps, he must feel the pain of our Lord on the cross as we rejected him – rejected him as a priest did when he was not being a priest, who was not being Catholic, when he abused a child.
He weeps, too, because of all the priests and Catholics who walk around with a cloud above them, or who are confused and angry and hurt because of what a minority have done. He knows that there are men and women who are in grave danger of losing their faith because of others who have lacked the courage of integrity.
While MSNBC waits for the pope’s resignation, he, every day, leads a renewal. In our hearts and in the structure of the Church. I think even the New York Times realizes it. It’s why they grasp at old stories, trying to obscure what’s happening now. And even as they do that, they have to admit, as they recently did, that “there are indications that Benedict had a lower tolerance for sexual misconduct by elite clergy members than other top Vatican officials.” [Did the MSM campaign backfire, in a sense?]
Reading the statement on the Legion out of the Vatican, I’d conclude no tolerance. If it hadn’t been firm and had teeth, frankly, it would have been a bigger news story. The fact is that Benedict is a leader of renewal, a solution to the problem. [He is implementing, against great opposition, what I refer to as his "Marshall Plan" for the Church, to rebuild our Catholic identity after the last few decades of devastation.] He has been and continues to be. And that’s why, while trying to do the opposite, the “Paper of Record” couldn’t help but admit it. At a paper that has a libertine interest in the collapse of the institution that offers something radically countercultural, that has to be bad news. But it’s the news all the same, thanks be to God, working, in part, through our Holy Father today.
Pray. Listen. Be true. Fidelity to the faith, to our vocations, to our Lord, these are the answers to sin and scandal. Pray the Holy Father continues to be lead by the Spirit in this renewal, and each and every member of the Body of Christ.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com) and a nationally syndicated columnist.
WDTPRS kudos to Ms. Lopez.