Look, I could say a lot about the discussions of this week, but I’ll try to keep it short.
I think it’s safe to say that every single person posting comments here is a committed Christian, and the vast majority are committed, serious Catholics who love Christ.
I wish that when we respond to posts, we would remember that. None of us are perfect, and we all have problems, questions, issues and points that set us off and make us angry, fearful or simply drive us nuts.
But know that for most of the people posting here, their concerns are rooted in a concern for the Church – that her mission as the Body of Christ not be impeded, be lived out forcefully and clearly in the world. So that means that some are absolutely convinced that the truth must be told about the sinfulness of Church authorities and structures, and that truth must be confronted and dealt with. And if their tone seems harsh, it’s because they’ve seen a lot – either from inside the Church or as researchers in the area – and they have seen, firsthand, so many times, the other truth that too many Church authorities turn willfully blind eyes to these circumstances and events. They know that no one’s naive in the chanceries. They know, and they have known.
And I’m going to be blunt about this. Those of you who haven’t worked in the Church don’t know this, especially those of you are not (and that includes me, of course) who aren’t clergy. There is simply a different level of information and conversation among clerics. In other words, they say things to each other and know things that they don’t, and never will, say to the rest of us.
So if there is harshness in the tones of those who talk about these difficult issues, that’s why. It’s because sometimes, in order for the truth to come out, you have to be harsh. You may regret your tone later, and wish there were other ways to say it, but you also know how many destructive secrets have been kept under the veil of “politeness” and even “charity.”
And you really have to be honest about this. If it were not for secular journalists and trial lawyers, as much as we may question some of their motives, where would the truth be told? By the Catholic press? By diocesan staffers? Really?
I finally, on this point, invite you to read the Bible. There you will see that insitutional religious authority is hardly ever the hero. Much of the Old Testament is spent in the words of prophets castigating Israel, both its kings and its religious authorities. Jesus minces no words. Paul constantly cautions and corrects and warns of the possible wayward paths of those in authority.
Now, onto the other side. There is a legitimate concern by some of the only story being told about the Church is the sad, tragic, negative one. They want to make sure that the whole picture is presented, and done so consistently. There are good bishops, many good priests, and countless holy lay people. Doing the work of Christ. They want to make sure that in the truth-telling about the sinners, the saints are not obscured.
And this, too, is a legitimate concern, and we should all respect that sensibility, because it is a noble one.
So in our love of Christ, His Church, and all of God’s people, we remember: truth is vital – the whole truth. That means being willing to listen to bad news and celebrate good news, and to pray that God’s will be done, somehow, in all of it.