Earlier today Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., put out a statement looking at the well-documented role the laity has played in helping our church to “rebuild trust.” In the piece, Wuerl makes the by-now not particularly original or startling suggestion that hey, “Perhaps a board, made up of laywomen, laymen and bishops, could be established either at the national level or at the regional or provincial level to which such allegations could be brought and which would have the authorization to examine them for their credibility.”

Why yes, that would be a very good notion, indeed. Something we can all agree on, and now have only to determine how that may best be done, whether regions should be covered or individual diocese, what sort of lay people to involve and who will recommend and then select them. And that’s only the first of what will end up being all-but-uncountable, inexorable, steps in trying to cleanse the church of her systemic illness before it becomes a full-on sepsis.

What has happened to the church might be thought of as analogous to what happens within the human alimentary system. What is taken into the body affects every part of the body, for good or evil. When the body’s alimentary canal is polluted due to habitually unhealthy habits, the immune system is weakened, prone to infection, boils, digestive excrescences and more. The whole body becomes more susceptible to illness. Left unaddressed, a slow but predictable deterioration among our organs, and eventually the whole body, occurs. Homeostatis is lost and can only be regained with a combination of wholesome food, disciplined exercise, and the sort of rest that is truly restorative, often combined with either prescribed antibiotics or the inclusion of disinfecting foods and medicinal herbs to the diet.

Right now it is more than evident that the Church is suffering from what we might call a pollution of her spiritual alimentary canal — she’s dirty down to the depths of her gut. In order to be restored to health, she needs what is wholesome, what is disciplined, and what is disinfecting. Only then can she begin to recover from the damage done to her over several decades of lax liturgy, over-rich associations with worldly powers, under-nourishing agenda-ridden or ideologically-hewn theological candies, and poor catechetical formation. To be set fully to rights, she will also need the restorative rest that gives strength for rebuilding — the sort which might be found in quiet, penitential retreats her leadership seems to badly need.

But sometimes, even before the introduction of healthier foods and habits, the alimentary system is greatly served by fasting.

Let us each consider the state of the Church, and yes, the failings of our leadership — because that must be faced and addressed and resolved — but also bear in mind the small ways we may have contributed to the disorder of the church, perhaps because of an issue in the parish, or a failing within our own home and how we model the Christian life for our family.

We may touch only the smallest part of the spiritual alimentary canal currently filling our church with dis-ease, but the whole Church is affected, and we all can do our part to help bring about a restoration of health and vibrancy, for the sake of the world.

Prayer and fasting cost us very little, but if we want a readily-available Eucharistic Church — one able to confer the sacraments and feed the life of faith in our own neighborhoods — we need to start now, this very minute. Because we are about to be launched into a very dark night.

Image: Creative Commons