Thursday, February 21, 2019

Reasonable and Unreasonable Petitions

As the abuse summit moves forward, we will see many people calling for different solutions. Some of them will be reasonable. Others will not. The difference is ultimately one of whether the demand recognizes what the Church can legitimately do. The Church cannot change her doctrine. The Church cannot do evil so good may come of it. Any demands along this line are doomed to failure. The Church cannot remove evil from her midst by decree. If she could, St. Peter probably would have done that the day after Pentecost in AD 33. The weeds will remain among the wheat (see Matthew 13:24-30) [§].

And that’s why the Church cannot forget her obligation to be God’s chosen means to bring salvation into the world. As much as the actions of men like McCarrick disgust us, we are not freed from our obligations to seek their salvation. This is difficult and painful. I can’t claim to know what victims and their family members went through. I certainly can’t say, “Well, I would have handled it better.” For all I know, I might have responded to it much worse if I had been in their place.

There are also reasonable petitions. The victims and their family members have a right to make their needs known, provided it is done in a respectful manner. Canon 212 reads:

This means that we the faithful can certainly make known our needs. But we must respect the shepherds of the Church in doing so. We must respect the teachings on faith and morals in doing so. If our petitions do not heed these requirements, then the Church must refuse them. That doesn’t mean that the Church is “doing nothing.”

In my opinion, I think it is reasonable to expect that the Church establish policies that handle bishops who abuse or are culpably silent. I think it’s reasonable to expect that the Church take complaints of abuse seriously. But if our preferred ways of doing this go against what the Church can or must do, we will be disappointed. We must obey God’s teachings.

God remains in control of His Church, even when some of those who shepherd us fail, or even do evil. Cleaning out this vile evil may take years, or even decades after the summit ends—those who did or willingly turned a blind eye to evil will no doubt try to hide the fact, making it as difficult as possible to discover—but it will be done.

In the meantime, we should be praying for the victims, that they find healing and justice. We should also be pray for the Summit that they find a way to justly reform the Church from evil that has gone on too long. But, when we seek justice, our position before The Lord must be like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22:42. We must say, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” 


[§] That doesn’t mean being passive in the face of injustice. The fact that we can’t violently uproot the suspected weeds (exact God’s Judgment for Him) does not mean we must let evil go unchecked.

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