Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
(Romans 5:12.15b.17-19.20b-21; Luke 12:35-38)
Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the United States has more than sinful and scandalous; it has been outrageous. About three thousand priests over a period of fifty years have been accused of such crime, according to the Church’s Promoter of Justice at the Vatican. Could any good come out of such a cesspool? Now it is safe to answer, “Yes.” The Church’s response, at least in the United States, has been thorough and effective. At one time the Church was lax in supervision: now it is exemplary. The checks to abuse that it has positioned have made it a model for curtailing the evil. The process can be sighted as an example of what St. Paul means in today’s reading from his Letter to the Romans that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.”
Paul is writing of the fallen state of human nature which goes back to the first man and woman. Even with the aid of the Covenants, humans were unable to curtail sinful activity. Then Jesus came to stem the downward thrust. He not only lived righteously but died to make manifest the egotism at the root of sin. His death, however, left no trace of personal disgrace as he rose in glory, the first instance of the blessing that is promised to all his followers.
The Holy Spirit has given the Church a resiliency to overcome scandals like sexual abuse fifteen years ago. The Spirit works through each of us. It urges us to abide by the norms that have been set up and to always examine our consciences so that we always act with prudence. With the Spirit’s guidance the Church has become the template for sexual temperance in the U.S. and beyond.
Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
(Romans 6:12-18; Luke 12:39-48)
St. Augustine famously told his people, “With you I am a Christian, for you I am a bishop. The second fills me with terror, the first, with great consolation.” The fear flowed from the responsibility he had to guide his diocese. He knew that God would judge him harshly if he failed to discharge his duties or if he used the episcopacy for his own gain. It goes without saying that Augustine took note of the gospel passage we read today.
In the passage Jesus warns his apostles that they are susceptible to a stricter judgment than others. Because he has taught them himself, they can have no excuse for abusing their authority. The bishops today are the successors of those apostles with the same responsibility of guiding the Church. Priests do not share the fullness of the apostolic mandate, but they are likewise well tutored in the gospels. Both bishops and priests can expect stiff punishment if they fail to give judicious pastoral care.
Sometimes in hearing the Eucharistic Prayer we may wonder why the clergy are given special mention. Some priests, you may have noticed, change the wording to include all ministers or all people. This is a forgivable sin. But surely it is charity that moves us to pray especially for bishops, priests, and deacons. They bear grave responsibility which they may fail to handle well leaving everyone in jeopardy.