Saturday, April 17, 2010

The World Calls the Church to Repentance

Because the Church has not fulfilled its divine mandate over the last forty years to call the world to repentance, it was inevitable that the world would call the Church to repentance. No one knows this more than Pope Benedict XVI. He currently bears the burden of years of clerical mismanagement of pedophile priests within Catholic Church.

However, attentive onlookers will note that his pontificate was the impetus for immediate reform. Upon assuming the Chair of Peter, he wasted no time in disciplining high profile priests such as Fr. Gino Burresi, founder of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

Nevertheless, it is not all together a bad thing that he has taken the heat for the sins of the clergy. Indeed, the trials of Pope Benedict in recent weeks could be the beginning of the purification the Church needs. "For it is time,” says St. Peter, “for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God." (I Peter 4:17) For the household of God, divine judgment comes with greater speed and intensity than with other institutions.

It should be no surprise, then, that the Catholic Church- who holds herself up to a highest of standards in her own teachings -should find the world taking her at her word when Bishops and priests fall from grace. Sins committed by the men of Holy Orders are bound to draw public attention while the sins of other men are ignored and even defended. Our Lord, in the epistle to the Hebrews, issued a warning to this effect: “For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” (12:6)

The Church hierarchy, like their predecessors, has to lead the rest of the flock to repentance by taking that first step and repenting herself! There will be a time for criticizing and discrediting the media. Now is not that time. Pope Benedict XVI alluded to as much in a sermon on April 15, 2010: “We Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word penance,” “Now, under attack from the world,” he continues, “which talks to us of our sins, we can see that being able to do penance is a grace and we see how necessary it is to do penance and thus recognize what is wrong in our lives”.

Not preaching and teaching on repentance for so long- be they Bishops, priests, or lay people –can only mean that repentance has not been a high enough priority in our personal lives. It also an indication that the seriousness of sin and its real life consequences has been woefully underestimated from Bishops down to parents.

When “sin,” “hell” and the “Devil” are no longer part of the language we hear and speak, then those who are charged with shepherding sheep as Bishops, or, raising children as parents, forget that evil looms. The unintended consequence over the last forty years was that our guard was let down, the sheep left the fold while wolves entered freely.