The Answer to Scandal? Personal Holiness
Whenever the Church hits a low point, God raises up tremendous saints to save it. Today's Catholics should be those saints.
Excerpted from a longer sermon with permission.
Scandal is unfortunately nothing new for the Church. There have been many times in the history of the Church when the Church was much worse off than it is now. The history of the Church is like a cosine curve, with ups and downs throughout the centuries. At each of the times when the Church hit its low point, God raised up tremendous saints to bring the Church back to its real mission. It's almost as if in those times of darkness, the Light of Christ shone ever more brightly. I'd like to focus a little on a couple of saints whom God raised up in these most difficult times, because their wisdom can really guide us during this difficult time.
St. Francis de Sales was one saint God raised up after the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation was not principally about theology, about the faith - although theological differences came later - but about morals. There was an Augustinian priest, Martin Luther, who went down to Rome just after the papacy of the most notorious pope in history, Pope Alexander VI.
This pope never taught anything against the faith - the Holy Spirit prevented that - but he was simply a wicked man. He had nine children from six different concubines. He put out contracts against those he considered his enemies. Martin Luther visited Rome just after Alexander VI's papacy and wondered how God could allow such a wicked man to be the visible head of his Church. He went back to Germany and saw all types of moral problems. Priests were living in open relationships with women. Some were trying to profit from selling spiritual goods. There was a terrible immorality among lay Catholics. He was scandalized, as anyone who loved God might have been, by such rampant abuse. So he founded his own Church.
Eventually God raised up many saints to combat this and to bring people back to the Church Christ founded. St. Francis de Sales was one of them. At the risk of his life, he went through parts of what is now Switzerland, where the Calvinists were popular, preaching the Gospel with truth and love. Oftentimes he was beaten up on his way and left for dead. Once he was asked to address the situation of the scandal caused by so many of his brother priests. What he said is as important for us today as it was for his listeners then. He didn't pull any punches.He said, "Those who commit these types of scandals are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder," destroying other people's faith in God by their terrible example. But then he warned his listeners, "But I'm here among you to prevent something far worse for you. While those who give scandal are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder, those who take scandal - who allow scandals to destroy their faith - are guilty of spiritual suicide." They're guilty, he said, of cutting off their life with Christ, abandoning the source of life in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. He went among the people in what is now Switzerland trying to prevent their committing spiritual suicide on account of the scandals. I'm here to preach the same thing to you.