I had written at length yesterday about the uneasy relationship I presently have with the institutional side of the Catholic Church – provoked by the relentless abuse crisis and the subsequent failures of the Church and hierarchy to act with any compassion or integrity toward the victims of such abuse, with disregard for the value of all people and with an utter absence of concern for anything other than institutional reputation and fiscal protection of assets. It isn’t an easy place to be. However, I had also noted the more rooted relationship I have with the ‘other side’ of the same Church – with the sacramental and spiritual side.
So the question this generates is how to find some kind of balance between the two? For, though these are two sides, it is the same Church. That is the dichotomy.
Do I want to leave the Church? No. Tempting though that can be at particular moments when I am most outraged by it’s action or inaction, the answer is still no. What, then, keeps me here as a member of this Church?
The answer is very simple.
There is much I can do alone as an individual Christian and Catholic. I can live out in my daily life, to the best of my ability, that which I profess to believe. I can try to emulate the person of Christ in His relationship to those around Him, particularly the most down-trodden, the hurt, the silenced, the overlooked, the ignored, the shunned and so many others. And I can pray. I can do all these things on my own without ‘needing’ to be a part of any Church.
But there is one thing I cannot do on my own, which can come only through the Church. And that is the Eucharist.
This faith of mine is communal as much as it is personal. The Eucharist is Christ – and it is Christ in community as much as in the individual person. It is about the relationship not only between Christ and I, but between Christ and all of us – and between each and every one of us. In this sense, the Eucharist is the ‘hub’ of this divine wheel of relationship.
Consequently, regardless of how irate I might feel at so much that is wrong with the institution of the Church, here I am and here I will remain.
But I spoke of finding balance; how do I try to achieve that?
For all those areas I wrote about yesterday, I need a plan. And it is this.
First, I have to do all in my power to support those most intimately touched by all the issues of which I spoke. That means, first and foremost, listening to them and making sure their voices can speak out and are clearly heard, and supporting them in this. These voices are, despite the silencing they continue to be subject to, the ones which will – ultimately – change things for the better. If they do not or cannot speak out, everything stays the same. And I have to encourage and enable others to do the same.
Second, I have to do whatever I can to throw light on the darkness which hangs like a pall across the institutional Church, and to hold to account those who have so egregiously – and deliberately – failed in the promises they made publicly to the people of God, who are the Church. Only light can banish this darkness and so we all need to be very honest about this devastating and on-going crisis of morality and of faith.
Third, I have to recognise that what I am able to achieve is necessarily limited, for I am nothing really, no more than one person. That said, individual people are often able to achieve more than they might initially imagine. Recognising my littleness, I have to hand it all over to the One who is truly and perfectly able to change things – God. That’s where prayer comes in. Prayer can and does change things – not of itself, but by the One to whom it is addressed.
Lastly, I need to do all this with charity and with humility. Pride, arrogance and presumption sound the death knell of good intentions.
I suspect the ‘prayer’ part is where I will need to rely most greatly.
All of this, at the end, has to be clothed in hope; hope that there remains some inherent goodness within the Church and her hierarchy. Hope that amongst all the evil which is undoubtedly present there is, too, something worth saving and which will triumph eventually.
I shall keep praying.