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A Leaven In The World… Scandal, Suffering, And Forgiveness

August 6, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

“And he said to his disciples: It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If thy brother sin against thee, reprove him: and if he do penance, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying, I repent; forgive him” (Luke 17:1-4).
Always, at every moment around the world, the human face of the Church is at peace or under siege, tranquil or turbulent, growing through generous and faithful families or shrinking under martyrdom, the culture of death, or apostasy. The members of the Body of Christ appear to live the same life as those around us but with one significant difference: We are in the world but not of the world. We may suffer very much like others who do not share our faith but with different results. What others deem as loss we, as St. Paul teaches, consider gain. Through faith in Christ nothing is lost to those who believe.
In once-Catholic Quebec, as in many places, the Body of Christ is in decline and churches have become temples of cheese, fitness, and eroticism, a consequence of being sold in light of dwindling attendance and strained finances. As attacks on the Catholic Church mount in Nicaragua, where government officials are fomenting violence by targeting Catholic leaders as enemies of the people, tens of thousands of the faithful have reacted by taking to the streets to defend the bishops.
And in D.C. a former cardinal and archbishop is now banished, having resigned from the college of papal electors. He hides in seclusion, awaiting a canonical trial, sentenced to a life of prayer and penance. The faithful in this portion of the Church are increasingly no longer attempting to defend the bishops.
The suffering Church is a constant reality because it is in the nature of man to experience the weakness of the flesh through both illness and sin. For those who believe, however, suffering is transformed and redemptive through faith in the God who suffered for love of us. Suffering because of the sins of the Church’s members, however, is another thing entirely when it constitutes scandal. The Lord Himself spoke of scandal only to paint in starkest and most dire terms the punishment that will be meted out to those who “cause one of the least of these little ones to stumble.” It takes the form of a millstone which, fastened around the neck of the offender, ensures his swift and effective punishment by drowning in the depths of the sea.
At this moment, many have now been exposed, through the media, to former Cardinal McCarrick’s sins. He used his powerful position to lead others, both the young and adult seminarians and priests, into grave sin. He then used his office to further the cover-up of his crimes and those of others, even in the name of preventing sexual abuse in the Church following the abuse scandals of 2002. He did so by serving as a public face of the bishops’ putative collective efforts to stop the abuse, while excepting himself and the other bishops from the guidelines imposed on the Church for that purpose.
In a stark example of a bishop speaking out without waiting for the approval of the USCCB, Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth, Texas has called for the laicization of Theodore McCarrick. Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, N.Y., also issued a statement on the McCarrick affair.
The ecclesial tsunami resulting from the McCormick scandal has caused waves even on the Tiber. Kevin Cardinal Farrell reportedly canceled his planned appearance at the Knights of Columbus annual convention this year in Baltimore. This after denying any knowledge of Cardinal McCarrick’s nefarious activities, despite having shared an apartment with him in Washington for six years. The anger on this side of the pond is so palpable that, even from the distance of Rome, the head of the dicastery for Marriage and Family has quite likely decided not to risk the possibility of ugly confrontations with irate faithful stateside.
He famously declared years ago that “the scandals are over.” He already has a tendency to avoid due diligence and rush to conclusions in the absence of fact-finding efforts. He continues to bury his head in the sand, believing the Roman adage that if you wait long enough, every problem will die with its human source.
Will Cardinal Farrell now officiate at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin? He has said that he would rather dismiss the whole McCarrick affair and concentrate on his appearance at the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Dublin. He can meet families and their needs right where he is in Rome, however, by dealing forthrightly with the issues that are scaring families away from sending their sons to seminaries. Any number of world meetings for families will not produce fruit if the axe is not taken to the root of the tree of scandal.
The Lord teaches, “If he do penance, forgive him.” Cardinal McCarrick has thus far shown no voluntary inclination to penance, having met the revelations with either denial or silence. He agreed to termination of his public ministry, as he described it, “in obedience to the Holy See.” He must do penance, even if it is forced upon him, for his own good.
The ones who now need the spiritual freedom of forgiveness most of all are his victims, who we must never abandon but must accompany with compassion and solicitude faithfully and constantly for the sake of their healing and salvation.
It is not by mistake that the Lord’s words about the grievous suffering brought by scandal are followed so closely by His teaching on forgiveness. The one should follow the other as day follows night. Justice delayed for the crimes of sinners or lack of sorrow by the malefactor need not hinder the salvation of others. We forgive for our own sakes, that nothing will be lost to us, our hope of Heaven secure. Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen. @MCITLFrAphorism

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