For many Catholics, there is a sense that if the gates of hell are not prevailing, they are coming loose at the hinges, and bent at the bars. (Me, today)

Even as I write this, more headlines are opening up, showing us the truly worldwide nature of the corruption within the Church. It is unbelievably disheartening to read this news out of the UK, or these horrific stories out of Chile, and understand that we still haven’t heard it all — that more and more will yet bubble to the surface of this unholy stew, and it all must be faced and dealt with.

We’re going to have to really delve deeply into the Gospels to help us understand where we are, and keep our focus centered on Christ Jesus, because the work of healing, reforming, and restoring the church is going to be more arduous than any of us can imagine. It is going to test our faith over and over again. And it’s it will take an awful lot of time. Decades, I think.

Today’s Gospel reading does help us bring perspective to the notion of a “Church in Crisis”, as I write in my latest column at Word on Fire. Peter’s confession and Jesus giving him the keys to the Kingdom reminds us that the authority instituted by Christ hasn’t prevented our leadership from responding poorly to challenges, at least at first:

Whatever trust they had placed in Jesus and the Good News must have been increasingly battered as Christ’s passion proceeded, unto his death. They became afraid of the mobs — perhaps afraid of their own cowardly response to something so shocking — and so they hid, and did nothing. We might call it the Church’s first episode of leadership inertia in the face of crisis.

It wouldn’t be the last, either, but fortunately Jesus’ resurrection was swift…

This time, the apostolic leadership cannot hide for three days and then encounter the glorified Christ.

We feel lost, but we mustn’t. God is in this moment, just as surely as he was in the moment of Christ’s arrest, and Peter’s denial, and the Crucifixion, and Judas’ death.

Consider this: awful, untenable things have happened and time is a construct. To all of the unjust, horrific, and bloody tortures of those days of fear and passion in Jerusalem are merged our present troubles. Eventually, but not in three days, there will again be glory.

However, we do not have the Apostles’ chance to hide in fear…our need for real action, both individually and as a Church, is most urgent. Let us begin, right now, to take practical actions, and ponder how to bring them even further.

We can start here:

  • Speak up! If you know something, say something. Access local law enforcement if possible; seek a diocesan investigation. Anyone who has ever been abused will tell that silence abets it. Loving the Church too much to see it scandalized by revealing what you know? Honey, that ship has sailed. If your child is being abused, you do not “hide” it for the child’s sake. You validate the child’s importance, and demonstrate your love by going after the predator.
  • Appeal to the Holy Father: This week a group of prominent young Catholics signed an open letter to Rome begging for exposure, redress, and transparency. Circulate similar calls within your parish and diocese and send them to your bishop and to Rome. Any solution to our situation must be initiated through Rome. Request that Pope Francis appoint an investigator, and that this appointee create commissions to examine the realities of how and where our leadership have sinned, and that those commissions be led by faithful and agenda-free lay people of varying gifts, from canon lawyers to insightful moms and dads, for the sake of transparency.

Dawn Eden suggests that the bishops need to do a public act of penance. I absolutely agree, but I would hate to see that become “the thing we did”, forestalling real reform. Do read her piece.

Meanwhile, as promised last week, I’ve outlined 7 “first steps” in all — just to start. You can read the rest, here. Leave your own ideas in the comments.

Photo source: Pixabay