Jesus Christ did some very strange things after his crucifixion and resurrection. Good Friday and Easter Sunday meant that Jesus had defeated Satan, sin and death (I Cor 15:55-57). The gates of heaven were flung open to sinning and condemned human beings. The war was over and life had won over death.
However, unlike victors in earthly wars, Jesus left the enemy in place. He had put a leash on the Adversary, on Satan, but Satan is still allowed to tempt us, to try to lure us away from life to death. On top of that, Jesus left our sinful nature intact. We are just as prone to sin as we were before His Victory on the Cross. We are still born with original sin. In fact, we are born into a world that is in complete enmity against God (James 4:4). Jesus defeated the world, but then left it completely intact and His followers in it living side by side with the enemy.
Then, to top it off, Jesus went to heaven and left us in this mess! Of course, He did not leave us alone. He sent the Holy Spirit to live within us and guide us. But unlike our enemy, Satan, who forces himself upon us whether we want it or not, we have to make a conscious effort, every moment of our lives, to walk with the Holy Spirit while at the same time struggling with our still very intact sinful nature and living in a sinful world. Our every step is a constant, conscious struggle, and if we turn away from the Holy Spirit, Satan is right there to lure us to sin and death.
Our Lord did give us a Church, and He made Himself the spiritual head of it. But who does he put in charge of that church on earth? Sinful, fallen human beings. What?!? This is exactly the same as putting the inmates in charge of the asylum.
And who among the inmates does Jesus choose to lead His Church on earth? The very weakest of all - Simon Peter, the one who had actually denied even knowing Jesus. (In fact, I would not be surprised if Jesus would have chosen Judas if he had not killed himself.) What is up with this? Wouldn't it have made a lot more sense to choose Mary, Jesus' beloved mother, who had never once been defeated by Satan? But no, not Jesus. He goes with the weakest.
Then when it came time to choose the one to preach to the Gentiles, Jesus chose a Jew who had outdone himself in trying to destroy the Church, killing as many Christians as he could. A Christian-hating Jewish Pharisee to preach to the Gentiles?! Sure doesn't sound like a winning strategy to me.
C'mon Lord! Who fights a war like this - give your life to defeat the enemy, but then leave him and his system in place, and put weak, sinful leaders in charge of your own people? This is akin to the Allies winning the war against Hitler and fascism, and then leaving Hitler and his government in place. On top of that, the Allies actually live in that system with weak leaders who far too often sell out their own people.
This has essentially been the state of the Church since Christ ascended to heaven over 2000 years ago.
Of course, the above is all written from a purely human perspective. We know exactly why Our Lord chose to lead His church in such a fashion - not removing our sinful nature, leaving us in a sinful world, giving us sinful, weak leaders. It is to show that our strength does not come from any human or earthly source, but from the Blessed Trinity. We are not the ones who defeat Satan and sin - our victory is through Jesus Christ, and Him alone. In fact, the more we realize our own weakness and inability to defeat sin, the stronger and more victorious Jesus will be in us. The fight not does not belong to us. As God told Moses, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." Our Lord does the fighting for us. That is the only strategy that can win.
The truth of this has been borne out in the 2000 year history of the Church. The promise given to us by Our Lord - that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church - has held firm, notwithstanding the constant attacks both within and without the Church down through history. Christianity is the world's largest religion in the world. Despite the many splits among Christianity, Catholics still comprise 50% of all the world's Christians. Our Pope is still looked to as a world leader. The Catholic Church is the oldest existing organization in the world, and despite her problems, shows no signs of slowing down.
That doesn't change the fact that we are, as we have always been, a Church populated by sinners. And this is exactly as Jesus said it would be. Our Lord emphatically stated that He did not come to save the righteous but sinners. As He said, it is not the healthy in need of a physician, but the sick. To quote Pope Francis, the Church is a hospital. And you don't normally find healthy patients in a hospital.
And yet, looking at the Internet, so many are still shocked, shocked, that there are sinners in the Church. Certainly this is never something to take lightly, especially when it concerns leaders of the Church. I refer right now to the case of Cardinal McCarrick. This is a very great scandal, and something about which we all need to pray.
But I find it interesting that so many on the radical right actually seem to delight in this scandal. They are almost gloating over the fall of this prelate in the Church. Of course, these same people have little to nothing to say about Cardinal George Pell, a very high ranking Cardinal who is actually on trial for sexual abuse of minors. Cardinal Pell has always been a favorite among the right wing in the Church, so they pretty much pretend this one hasn't happened.
The sins of Cardinals Pell and McCarrick are nothing new in the Church. We have had popes guilty of this and more. As we saw at the very beginning of the Church, God tends to put the weak in charge. As long as these men realize their weakness, and look to God for their strength, they will prevail. We have an excellent leader in Pope Francis, who has identified himself to the entire world as a sinner. He has always made it very clear that his strength comes only from Jesus Christ and not from himself. Unfortunately, too many choose not to follow this example.
The fall of a prince of the Church is a very tragic event, but it does not mean that Christ has abandoned His Church. It does not mean that we should turn our backs on the hierarchy of the Church. To do so is turn our backs on Jesus Christ Himself. As laity, it is not our job to stand in judgment of anyone. Our job is to recognize our own sinfulness and pray for those who have succumbed to their weak nature.
I have read blogs which tell me that homosexuality is rampant among priests, that the entire hierarchy of the Church is basically corrupt and we can't trust any of them. I don't believe that, but even if it is true, does that mean that the Catholic Church has ceased to be the Mystical Body of Christ? Does that mean that we have to take matters into our own hands and publicly condemn everyone we suspect? To do this is to serve Satan himself, the author of division and scandal. As Our Lord told us, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
The Internet is, to say the least, very hazardous to our spiritual health. It is filled with people who all have their own agendas. Very few of those people are actually searching for truth. They just want to make their points and condemn everyone who doesn't agree with them. They show no concern, no compassion for the souls of those they condemn. This is not the way of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:12 tells us, "It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret." I am certainly not saying that the sins of Cardinal McCarrick and others should be swept under the rug. This same passage in Ephesians also tells us, "Have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. . . But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that is illuminated becomes a light itself." The Church must admit and deal with her sins, but that is not the job of the laity.
We are all on a spiritual journey, and we are all at different points in that journey. The one thing we have in common with each other is sin. As Romans 14:10 tells us:
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
Remember who the true Head of the Church is. Remember that He has already won the war, and that He will always prevail. Do not allow the judgments of others to cause you to become despondent or despairing. Pray for the leaders of the Church, remembering that they are but weak, sinful men who struggle just as you and I do. The Church has survived for millennia against greater foes than this, and she will continue to prevail. Pray for others, remembering your own sinfulness. And always look to the Cross, our only true salvation.
And take a break from the Internet. It will do you good.
And take a break from the Internet. It will do you good.