With all the talk of “Catholic scandal” buzzing through the media, I have often felt the urge to write a treatise on the indefectibility of the Catholic Church – the teaching that no matter how sinful Catholics or clergy act, the Catholic Church is still always the Church of Jesus Christ. Sin cannot destroy the handiwork of God, i.e. the Catholic Church.
However, such an argument will likely be received as hollow by those who already misunderstand Catholicism. Folks who already hate the Church hear our argument and say to us: “You Catholics carry a trump card that excuses you from every sin – the Church is the Church and no sin can destroy it…tell that to the eight-year-old boy who has been raped!”
My opinion is that wisdom and propriety require the silence that surrounded Job in his sorrows–the silence that surrounded Mary during the death of the Innocent. A Catholic apologist can make a fantastic defense of the sanctity of the Church, God’s righteousness, and expound on Theodicy in the face of clerical scandal. However, prudence sometimes requires sober silence of humility.
Perhaps we Catholics might rally to the prayer of Daniel:
“We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from thy commandments and ordinances…O Lord, according to all thy righteous acts, let thy anger and thy wrath turn away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy hill; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people have become a byword among all who are round about us…(Dan 9:5-16)
Notice that Daniel himself had not personally sinned or rebelled against God. Daniel was righteous compared to the idolaters of Israel and Judea. Nevertheless, he intercedes for the people of God, praying “We have sinned…” He makes reparation by saying, “We have sinned…”
The clerical abuse rate may only be at 1.7%, and may in fact be lower than the Protestant clergy abuse rate…but it should be at 0%.
Teachers and ministers don’t claim to act in persona Christi, to hold God in their hands, to absolve sinners, and they don’t respond to the intimate title of “Father.” Only Catholic priests bear these dignities. The world expects more of them and they should not be faulted for doing so.
The world is correct in holding the Catholic Church to higher standards. The truth is, we aren’t a school district or a denomination – we are the one true Holy Catholic Church of Christ – and the world expects us to live up to that claim.
Instead of defense, maybe we should hang our head and whisper with the prophet Daniel: “thy people have become a byword among all who are round about us…let thy anger and thy wrath turn away from thy city.”
It’s just my opinion – feel free to say otherwise.