Homilette for Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church

(Ezekiel 34:1-11)

Ezekiel’s scolding the shepherds of Israel will remind some of us of the grave scandals in the Catholic Church. Just as the princes of Israel exploited their authority to make themselves rich so some priests have abused children sexually for their own satisfaction. Almost as abhorrent is the way a few bishops, the Church’s primary shepherds, allowed abuses to continue by not taking proper disciplinary actions.

Defendants of those involved in clerical abuse have contributed to the understanding of the situation. They have pointed out that priest-abusers were often victimized sexually themselves as children. They have also indicated that bishops often transferred problematic priests to other parishes with the assurance of psychologists that the abusers had reformed. We cannot accept these reasons as excuses for all or even most of the errant behavior. But we should appreciate better how evil has roots buried deep into both society and the human psyche.

Ezekiel’s diatribe should move every Christian in position of authority over others to recourse to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He or she needs to note how Jesus outlined a demanding course of behavior, gave perfect example himself, steadfastly called deviants back to righteousness, and graciously forgave sins. Also, those in authority are wise to pray daily to Jesus for prudence and justice, the virtues of effective leadership.