Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
(Ephesians 3:2-12; Luke 12:39-48)
Faulty church leadership has erupted into the news this year. The Attorney General of Pennsylvania documented numerous cases of episcopal cover-up of clerical child abuse. Former Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C., was cited for numerous homosexual incidents with clerics and seminarians. A bishop in Chile was forced to resign after protecting a pedophile priest and even reportedly witnessing his abusiveness. Even Pope Francis suffered a loss of credibility when he temporarily defended the Chilean bishop. Jesus warns against such misuse of holy offices in today’s gospel.
Jesus uses the startling image of a burglar to express how he will surprise those who use their authority to abuse others. He says that they will be punished severely if they knew of his concern for justice as all bishops and priests surely do. Peter has asked Jesus if the punishment applies to the apostles. Jesus answers effectively that they can bet their lives that it does.
The Church has survived worse scandals than the present ones. The corruption in the hierarchy in the Renaissance serves as a ready example. But this fact should be of little consolation. Its mission in an age of skepticism and autonomous thinking has been severely compromised. It must, as Francis as begun to do, root out the abuse of clerical power especially when it leads to sexual exploitation.