4th Sunday of Easter - Some Thoughts from the Pew

A time of crisis calls us to a deeper, more mature faith. The Crucified Christ teaches us that we carry within us - individually and as a community - the wounds of our world and of our Church... and the Risen Christ teaches us that these are also the wounds of Christ that have the potential to heal from the hurts that we have endured. The Cross conditions us to self-denial, to contradiction, and to the possibility of total failure. The Empty Tomb assures us that the victory and the power of the Risen Lord are ours. It is through that power that we defy the world and its standards.

But it doesn't end there. We also know that we are still in confrontation with sin and failure - with evil - every day. Every day, we see sin and death and disaster presented to us right in our own living rooms. The effects of September 11, 2001 are still with us; the Middle East has never been more unstable; the crisis of scandal in our Church continues to unfold and looks to be worsening. And each day we are called to give our response: a communal response based on a common faith, expressed within our common community - our church.

The Church is more than just an ecclesial institution - it is a community of people… educated, adult people, who do not need to be treated as if their own personal experiences of God count for nothing. Authenticity is not determined by the demand for blind obedience from those in power, but by how that power is put to use. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus used His Power to heal, to reconcile, to bring together and to build up. And He always allowed people to question, to think for themselves and to seek answers for legitimate concerns.

The Church is more than just a legislative body - as the Mystical Body of Christ, it is a dynamic reality as well; it changes its manner of being and acting from place to place and from age to age. While upholding and defending its most fundamental truths, it must also be sensitive and responsive to the demands of the times, for it has to signify and mediate God's grace to different groups of people, in accordance with their particular gifts, needs, and capacities.

We are the Church - all of us, together, the community of disciples. We may be hurt, confused, angry, afraid. Nevertheless, we are one, and God is with us.

Never once in the Gospels do we see Jesus choosing the institution, as important as it might be, over the needs and rights of the lowliest of persons. He was present to them in their joyful moments and also when they felt most abandoned. His "official statements" and "press releases" were those of love and service to others, and He proved by His actions that the words were important. He made sure that all of us - even to this day - would never be without His Risen presence. The Easter faith that we continue to celebrate affirms this to us.

This faith has been rocked - to say the least - in recent months by the terrible scandal of sexual misconduct, pedophilia and ephebophilia among Catholic clergy. Most of the publicized cases deal with those occurring in the United States, but cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests/bishops have recently come to light in other countries as well: England, Canada, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Australia and even in Poland.

Many see this as a media-led campaign to bring to the forefront cases which are decades old. Liberal Catholics have seized upon this current crisis as the failure of the institutional church, fixing responsibility on its continued embrace of clerical celibacy and its refusal to accept the role of women in the ordained ministry. Conservatives see it as yet another proof of post-Vatican II laxity, and are demanding that the Church take a tougher line on homosexuality and calling for a stronger orthodoxy.

While all of these are issues that definitely need to be addressed, it seems to me that the underlying and most critical issue in the currrent crisis is one of accountability...