Turn to the Lord First

Dear Friends in Christ:

By now, most, if not all of us, have heard the horrible and disturbing news concerning the revelations of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the report of the grand jury in Pennsylvania concerning how the various dioceses in that state handled allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the past. This is all extremely sad and upsetting and the details are gut wrenching. I know that many of you are angry, hurt and disappointed, and that is just the tip of the emotional iceberg. I can assure you that you are not alone and that Fathers Clark, Chuck and I are deeply hurt and angry about all of this as well. Once again we are seeing the Church we love, our children, our families and our clergy, hurt by these sins and crimes and the scandal that it has caused. At this time of sadness and pain, no words that the Pope can say or the Cardinals or Bishops or even parish priests can heal our hearts, take away our pain or abolish our fears. While our words are totally insufficient and inadequate, the words of the Lord are not. As we hear in this week’s gospel, Jesus has the words of everlasting life (Jn 6.68). Time and again, when the disciples were terrified, afraid, confused, hurt or lost, Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, the Word made flesh, assured them that he was with them. He is with us now and he will never abandon us.

Many people are demanding action and not just words. That is understandable and indeed right. But the first action is turning to the Lord. Policies and procedures, rules and guidelines, personnel changes, lawsuits and court cases, all have their place and each have an effect, good and bad. But the first action that needs to be taken by the bishops, the priests, and all of the faithful, is to turn to the Lord with all our hearts. If we are not with God, all of our actions will be for naught. If the Lord does not build the house in vain do the builders labor (Ps 127). It is first by opening our hearts and turning our lives completely to Jesus that he will guide and protect us. It was precisely the failure of some of the church’s ministers in following Jesus and being faithful to him that has brought us to this point and caused so much pain.

Again, we are reminded in a terrible way that the church is 100% made up of sinful human beings. This includes every one of her ministers. But there are two important things that we need to keep in mind. First and foremost, Jesus Christ is Lord! Jesus is victorious and has conquered the devil, sin and death. We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and no misdeed, or sin, no matter how great by any member of the church can undo that. Our mission, our call, is to live in the victory of Christ and to bring the good news of that salvation to others. Secondly, the grace that God wants us to have cannot be denied by anyone except ourselves. There may be some who are overwhelmed and so discouraged by these scandals that they may be tempted to walk away from the Catholic Church and maybe even God. That is exactly what the devil wants! Satan wants these evil acts, these sins, these failures of our shepherds to separate us from God. The devil can’t make us do anything; we have free will, but he can and does tempt us. Walking away from the church or from God does not make us any holier and does not make the church holier. When people walk away, even in disgust at the sinful acts of clerics, it does not bring about the change that is needed. So what can we do? How can we bring about change? Again, the words of Jesus guide us, when he tells us that some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting (MK 9.29). Pray, get closer to God, pray for the church and her ministers and know that the Lord is with us and his mercy endures forever!

In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately