It seems, lately, that the Catholic Church just can’t keep itself out of the news. Among other things, last week we saw the former Cardinal McCarrick be laicized (removed from the clerical state) by the Pope and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith because of his sins and crimes with adults and minors. This weekend will see the gathering of the presidents of national conferences of bishops from around the world with Pope Francis to discuss the issue of clergy sexual abuse of minors. So many of us are keeping an eye to that to see what will happen, though we have been told to keep our expectations low. On the very day I am writing this column, the New York Times has published an article about the Vatican acknowledging it has procedures it follows for when a priest violates his promise of celibacy and fathers a child. All of this is very heavy and can be very daunting. It can make many of us move from being frustrated to downcast to outright angry, when we realize those to whom the welfare of the Church has been entrusted can let us down in such ways.
As all of this unfolds, I find myself calling to mind the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Jeremiah in last week’s first reading: “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord….Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.” I mentioned in my homily last week that these words don’t mean that we should never trust anyone. What these words do drive home for us, though, is that ultimately, our hope is in the Father and in Jesus. Jesus himself knew the weaknesses of those to whom he entrusted his Church. He was betrayed by one, denied by another, and abandoned by many of the others. But it was still the Church, and to human beings within it, to whom he entrusted the means by which he draws others to himself: the interpretation of the Scriptures and the celebration of the Sacraments. While these days may be difficult, and we may be tempted to think we can go it alone to Jesus without the Church, let us remember: Mr. McCarrick is not the Church. Neither is our faith the sum of the pitfalls of priests. What this summit of bishops will or will not do is not the reality of the love of the Father revealed in Jesus Christ. Whatever is going on in your heart or your mind in these days, it is more important than ever to cling to Jesus as your true hope and to receive the grace he desires to give you, most especially in the gift of himself in the Eucharist. If anyone ever has need to speak about what is going on in the Church, I encourage you to contact me or speak to a trusted friend.