Sunday, February 13, 2011

Priestly Bad Apples

There is an old saying that I often reminded folks to consider: "don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

The meaning behind this simple old saying is that it is the baby which is by far the most important, precious thing. It may be sitting in a pool of filth, scum, and slime. So what? Toss the water, keep the baby.

The same theory can be applied to many things in life, but most especially must always be remembered when dealing with the most important things. One of those most important things is your spiritual life. Christians throughout history have far too often thrown the baby, in this case the Church, out with whatever bath water was mucking things up at any particular time.

In the past, Christians have left the Church, the only one founded by Jesus Christ himself, because they didn't like things that were going on within the hierarchy, or because they didn't believe in some matter of doctrine, or because they had been let down or felt betrayed by some scandal. This is exactly how Protestantism and Orthodoxy began.

The splits, or schisms, within the Church have left many wounds unhealed after centuries, and have left hundreds of millions of true believers in Jesus Christ susceptible to heretical teachings and practices.
The scars may never fully heal, and the Church may never be truly reunited, until the return of Christ himself in the final days.

There is a lesson to be learned here for Philadelphia-area Catholics in particular who are digesting and reacting to the news this past week of further revelations of sexual abuse of children at the hands of some in the Priesthood.

Current priests Charles Englehardt and Edward Avery, former priest James Brennan, teacher Bernard Shero, and sex-abuse investigator Monsignor William Lynn were all charged in the latest chapter of the scandals.

The lesson is that these unholy and abusive actions by people who claimed, to quote the Rev. Joseph Garvin in his homily today at St. Christopher's Church in Somerton "to represent God but who in actuality represented Satan" were not representative of the Church, it's priests, it's teachers, or it's vision.

Rather these rogue priests are, as have been all abusers uncovered in recent years, criminals and deviants who used the Church to destroy Christian lives and fracture the Church itself, Satan's own avowed goal.

Priests, teachers, and other Church representatives who are the actual abusers need to continue to be weeded out and prosecuted.

It is not enough at the current time to simply fall back on the position, as Cardinal Justin Rigali has in his letter to parishioners this week that "..there is no admitted or established abuser in ministry." That is an obvious defensive copout at a time when the Church needs to go on the offensive against it's rogues.

The Catholic Church has promised to, as stated by David Clohessy in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, "remove credibly accused clerics." Clohessy is the executive director of the Chicago-based "SNAP" (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests", and he is absolutely correct when he calls on the Cardinal to identify and suspend accused priests in furtherance of the protection of our precious children.

We as Catholics have a role as elements of this long-standing scandal continue to unfold. We must continue to insist that Church hierarchy aggressively investigate any and all allegations of abuse, be they past or current.

We must insist that the Church always err on the side of protecting children in every allegation case. We must also remember to hold ourselves accountable for our own conduct in representing our Church to outsiders as well as to other Catholics.

But perhaps most importantly we must remember to not "throw the baby out with the bath water" in this situation. The Church is still the family and faith founded by Jesus Christ, and as such it is the single most important institution in all of our lives, including our own families.

We must stand by the Church, not flee from it. We must pray for and embrace the Church, not abandon it. We must strengthen the Church with our lives and our faith, not allow the devil to weaken it further.

Tough times don't last, tough people do. The Catholic Church has lasted for over two millenia because we are a tough people, that toughness forged on the cross by Christ himself in our name. For the steadfastness in suffering that he undertook for our sakes on that afternoon at Calvary, we must willingly suffer and boldly overcome today.

As of 1995 there were almost a billion Roman Catholics spread throughout the world. As of 2005 there were more than 400,000 Catholic priests serving them. There have been over 4,000 American Catholic priests accused of abuse over the past half century, just 4% of the more than 109,000 American priests serving during that time.

There is no way that we can allow these Satanic priestly bad apples spoil our entire bushel of a beautiful Church.

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