What do we do now? That is the question facing all of us within the Mystical Body in response to the ever growing scandals being brought to light. No doubt we are angry, but we must channel and harness that anger lest it become wrath and remain at the level of blind rage long-term.
As long as we are ruled by rage, we are unable to prudently decide a course of action. We often also go deaf and ignore the calls of our true shepherds who seek to guide us through this hurricane.
The calls for reform, letter writing campaigns, protests, and other similar responses are good. However,they are not the primary means by which we win this battle. The Church needs to be purified from this evil. But that purification requires our willingness to enter into the great spiritual warfare that is going on around us. It has always been our mission, but often we become blinded by the material aspect of our nature and set aside or abandon the spiritual. That, or we simply forget that the spiritual is higher than the material.
This war is against Satan. It is not simply a matter of Fallen men choosing to do diabolically evil acts. Satan is always after the priesthood and he’s always after each one of us. Every hour of every day, he seeks to drag us to hell.
The Enemy wants us to turn on one another. He seeks to sow greater seeds of division. He wants the laity to distrust the priesthood. He wants the priesthood to distance itself from the laity. That’s the whole point.
If we cannot harness our outrage for good and beg for the Holy Spirit to give us the eyes to see as Christ sees, then we will be impotent in the face of the Enemy. The spiritual battle is where purification will spring forth. It will be a long battle. One we will wage for the rest of our lives, but it is the battle we are all called to at Baptism.
We must not forget that the Church is “militant”. She is “the army of Christ”, the “levy of the living God”; “the levy of the great King”, in which we were enrolled at baptism and confirmation.
Henri de Lubac, Splendor of the Church, 185.
Prayer and Fasting
Evil never gives up power easily and without a fight. Our letters and outcry won’t matter at all unless we are first and foremost praying and fasting in atonement for the sins of the Church. Our Lord Himself tells us that certain sins must be driven out by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).
We must view this fight through the eyes of faith, not the organs that allow us to see the material world around us. The Church battles “powers and principalities” internally and exteriorly. The scandals reveal to us the breadth and depth of the fight before us and the rot that infects the Mystical Body.
“The Church is unceasingly torn by internal as well as exterior conflict”; the “mystery of iniquity” is at work without as well as within. The great struggle that had its prelude in heaven is fought out among men through the whole of time. People do not like their apathy thus disturbed and they are afraid of too lofty a vocation; the bonds of flesh and blood take some breaking. The world views as an insult and provocation anything that does not conform to its own ideas; feeling itself threatened by the least of the Church’s spiritual conquests, it is never without reaction to them.
This reality is true within the hierarchy, within the laity, and in the world. Far too many people grow apathetic, indifferent, or even hostile to the vocation we are all called to, which is sainthood. This conflict plays out in many ways, and tragically, even to the point of demonic sexual abuse of minors and other people. St. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 that the Enemy disguises himself as “an angel of light” and his followers will disguise themselves as righteous leaders. While it is shocking to hear of the horrific deeds committed, it is not surprising once we understand the rules of the battlefield we are all standing on. We are fighting the powers of hell inside of the Church today. It’s been the same way since the institution of the Church.
How do we actively enter into the fight?
Neither the Church’s weapons nor her objectives will be those of this world: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:3).” The war she conducts under the standard of the Cross and in the pattern of the great struggle of the Redemption and in continuity with it is a spiritual conflict. She is in action against “the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places”, and each one of us has constantly to be winning his own inner freedom, in conflict with hostile powers. The enemy has to be pursued and wiped out in the heart of each soldier, for “we do not come to Christ by way of repose and delight, but through all kinds of tribulations and temptations.”
First and foremost, we must be engaged in the battle that wages in our own heart. We all battle sin, temptations, and the decision to choose Christ or the world is always before us. There are times we all choose the latter and it is then that we must by God’s grace arise again, seek reconciliation in the Sacrament of Confession, and begin anew. We must be people of purity and virtue. It is impossible for us to help cleanse the Church if we ourselves are not living lives dedicated to Christ and actively fighting temptations the Enemy throws our way.
We should be ardently pursuing our vocation to become a saint. In so doing, we will be able to respond clearly in accordance with God’s will and draw others into friendship with us who are on the path to holiness. Holiness is rarely found in isolation. Groups of people who are living holy lives attract others and that is how change begins to happen. It is at the grassroots level that reform is enacted throughout Church history, as holy people gather together to proclaim the Good News by their lives. God sends holy saints to bring about purging, reform, and renewal.
Second, we must come to understand that the sins of the Church are not simply someone else’s. We are united to one another in communion through the glorified Body of Christ. We belong to one an other. That is why when we sin, our sins harm the Church, and we need to seek reconciliation with Christ and the Church. Many Catholics don’t realize that when we sin, the Sacrament of Penance reconciles us with Christ, but it also reconciles us with the Church. We damage the one body we are members of through our sins. That’s why egregious and grave sins inflict so much damage, even more so when committed by a priest who adds sacrilege to their evil deeds.
Rather than attack the good and holy priests who are encouraging the faithful to take up arms through prayer and fasting in atonement for the sins of the scandals, we need to come to understand in faith, charity, and hope that we are responsible for one another and we are united to one another at greater depths than any of us can even imagine. If we want to win this battle, then we must be willing to walk together in communion to the foot of the Cross and steadfastly offer sacrifices in atonement for these horrendous deeds. It’s painful, agonizing even, but part of growing in holiness is coming to endure suffering and entering into the suffering of others. Our brothers and sisters are suffering and they need us to stand by them as we all bear this Cross.
The Mystical Body is hemorrhaging at present and our prayers, sacrifices, fasting, Masses of atonement, etc. are how we stop the bleeding. This isn’t going to be immediate. In fact, this type of wound will take generations to cleanse and heal. In our love for Christ and the Church we must be willing to accept that we will be in this battle for the rest of our lives. The Church always takes the long view of history and so must we. Charity places demands upon us for future generations. Now that we know these diabolical deeds have been perpetrated by some our priests, we must be willing to fight Satan’s stronghold within the Church through our prayers, fasting, and sacrifices. It is irrelevant if we see progress. We still fight. There will be no instantaneous sign of victory. There will be glimpses, but the final victory is in Christ and all will be set to right at the end of time.