No homily this week--I am in Toronto for the annual meeting of the board of Renewal Ministries. But just before leaving I had a long conversation with one friend in Ireland and an e-mail from another. The e-mail got me thinking, not for the first time by any means, about scandal in the Church.
Here's what it said: "Am I just angry, or has the institutional church become a hindrance to the mission for which it is intended? I think I may join the calls for reform. We need bishops to be above all else preachers of the Gospel and shepherds of the people. It's time to acknowledge that it ain't gonna happen from inside the walls of a chancery office. We need to start looking at new models - or maybe old models, I don't know, but we definitely need a different model than the one we have at the moment."
It won't be easy, but I am going to try to respond--over a period of time--pulling together a number of thoughts I've had since the clerical abuse scandals first hit Canada at the end of the 1980s. The most direct response to what my friend said will come later, when I draw on the insights of one of my professors who has written extensively on the need to see "the institutional Church" as one with the "spiritual Church" or whatever you want to call it. But I want to approach this systematically first.
I propose to write (briefly, I hope) along the following lines:
1. the Old Testamant: the infidelity of the Chosen People does not negate the Covenant; the psalmist's laments.
2. the Gospel: the case of Judas; the weakness of Peter; the fact that Christ died to save the worst--knew the worst.
3. New Testament: Paul's account of sexual immorality in the first communities; the Epistle of Jude.
4. scandal in the early Church and dissolute Popes in the Medieval Church.
5. Lumen gentium 8 and Gianfranco Ghirlanda's reflection on its analogy between the Church and the Incarnate Word.
6. Organizational behaviour: the current controversy in the RCMP, Watergate.
As you can see, I think that we need Scripture, ecclesiology, Church history and a bit of sociology to make sense of these dreadful things, along with some psychology (an area where I probably won't dare to tread).
I warn my readers--all eleven of you--not to expect a whole lot, but I guess a blog permits some random thoughts developed over time. But since I will be spending time this week with both Ralph Martin and Father Benedict Groeschel, both prophetic voices in the Church, I may well be inspired by their wisdom. In the meantime, one can only join Isaiah in his lament "O my people who have been threshed, beaten on my threshing floor."