The Catholic Crisis – So Where’s My Anger?

The “summer of shame” as it has come to be called has left a lot of Catholics seething with anger. They’re mad at the bishops. They’re mad at the pope. They’re mad at priests who promote the gay agenda. They’re mad at priests and bishops who do nothing. They’re mad that the pope shut down the American bishops attempts to do something about the crisis. They’re mad. They’re hopping mad.

I’m mad too, but I’m also aware of other aspects to the strong emotions. Firstly, I think it’s perfectly okay to be mad. The Sacred Scriptures say, “Be angry, but sin not.” I like that. There’s plenty of room for righteous anger. However, the emotion usually passes. Only crazy people stay angry all the time, and if the mood passes we’re likely to drift back into complacency and the hum drum of our ordinary lives. We should use the anger to motivate us to do something about the problem, and to do something positive…not just a non stop rant.

What does that mean? If a person is responsible in some way for discipline in the church–a bishop, seminary rector, director of formation, priest or religious superior, then it is their job to effect the discipline the New Testament and canon law demands. If that is not our role, then we must all do what we can with what we have where we are.

Secondly, it’s is always instructive to take the big picture.  One of the reasons I made Triumphs and Tragedies, my podcast series on church history, was for Catholics to see that the corruption, immorality and heresy have always been part of Catholic life–indeed always been part of the life of the people of God from the Book of Genesis onward. Does this make it right? Of course not, but it helps us understand a bit better the mysterious ways of God’s providence.

This is the third point: everybody who is religious has to face the reality of sinners in Christ’s church. Look, what did you expect? A perfect church? No. Furthermore, have you ever been part of one of those religious sects where everything does seem perfect? You know the sort where everyone goes around with a silly grin on their face all the time, where the boys’ hair is combed, the girls are clutching big Bibles and everyone is “practically perfect in every way”? Don’t those groups give you the creeps? Don’t you sense that it is not real, and you’re not surprised when it turns out that the pastor has been bedding the devotees and the deputy leader has had his hand in the money pot.

This is reality. This is the parable of the wheat and tares. The two grow together. Remember, the tares look just like the wheat at the early stage, but the tares are actually poisonous. Furthermore, Jesus teaches that we are to simply leave it alone. The wheat and tares grow together, and only at the harvest will the tares be picked out, for by then they will have remained green while the wheat has grown golden and fruitful. One more point: Jesus says the tares were sown in the field by Satan. Concerned about the sinners in the church: They’re the tares.

Here’s the fourth point: if this is true, then God is working his purpose out not only despite the poisonous tares being there but through them. He used Judas. He used the Jewish religious leaders. He used Pilate. He used Herod. He used the wicked ones to accomplish his glory.

Haven’t you found this true in your own life of faith? He has used your sin to bring you closer to him. He has used the bad things that have happened to draw you closer to his love. He has used the horror of this world to bring you closer to his glory. This is what he does. He uses everything to accomplish his will. That’s what his omnipotence is all about.

Therefore I wonder why I should continue in anger. My God is in control, and he is the one who takes the worst thing that could happen: that we should kill the Lord of Glory–and uses it for our redemption. This is the core message of the cross, and the core message of the Christian gospel. God is working his purpose out and he will use the worst things we can imagine to bring about the very best.

That doesn’t mean we like the bad stuff and it doesn’t mean we put our head in the sand. It doesn’t mean we abandon our anger. It doesn’t mean we  trip along in some sort of soft focus Pollyanna religion.

It does mean that God is in charge, and I don’t need to wallow in the anger. I get down on my knees, then get up and get going in my service to my God and my church, and I can do so with optimism and good cheer because I know God’s in charge.

Some people will say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It is that attitude that has allowed all the rot to accumulate in the church.” I understand that and sympathize, but in fact the reasons for the rot accumulating in the church are manifold and complex. It has to do with five hundred years of philosophical, political, theological and cultural rot. It has to do with human sinfulness, deceit and corruption. It has to do with a loss of faith, the loss of moral compass and a multitude of problems.

Nevertheless, God is at work. He does not abandon his church. He is persistent. He is creative. He is gentle and he is kind and he plays a long game.

A very long game.

2018-12-04T12:50:59+00:00December 4th, 2018|Categories: Blog|6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Donald Campbell December 4, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Ah, yes, the wheat and the tares. Compare and contrast (for example):

    Jesus – MT 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

    Jesus – REV 2:19-21 ” Yet I hold this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, who teaches and misleads my servants to play the harlot and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her harlotry. So I will cast her on a sickbed and plunge those who commit adultery with her into intense suffering unless they repent of her works.

    St. Paul – 1 COR 5:1-2 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

    St. Paul – 1 COR 5 11-13 But I now write to you not to associate with anyone named a brother, if he is immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a robber, not even to eat with such a person. For why should I be judging outsiders? Is it not your business to judge those within? God will judge those outside. “Purge the evil person from your midst.”

    St. Paul – TITUS 3: 10-11 After a first and second warning, break off contact with a heretic, realizing that such a person is perverted and sinful and stands self-condemned.

    • Dwight Longenecker December 4, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      Yes, indeed, and those who have the responsibility for church discipline should heed all these verses. That’s what I meant by saying that each of us should do what we can with what we have where we are.However, I may not have made that clear enough and will edit the blog post accordingly.

  2. C. Marie Purgiel December 5, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    OK, I’m confused. In your blog post, Fr. Longenecker, you write to make the point that “corruption, immorality and heresy have always been part of Catholic life–indeed always been part of the life of the people of God from the Book of Genesis onward” and “everybody who is religious has to face the reality of sinners in Christ’s church.” In other words, our Catholic Church has always been about the inclusion of sinners. What I am confused about is what Mr. Campbell–in his comments on the post and Scripture quotations he cites–seems to be saying that we must “Let him who has done this (sinned) be removed from among you” St. Paul – 1 COR 5:1-2; and “not to associate with anyone named a brother, if he is immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a robber, not even to eat with such a person….Purge the evil person from your midst.” St. Paul – 1 COR 5 11-13. What am I not getting here?. .. To “purge evil persons from our midst (the Church)” seems inconsistent with the point that the Church has always been full of sinners and sin, and always will be. To “purge evil persons from our midst” seems to imply that we must exclude these evil persons because we are better than them . . .and not sinners. Please clarify, if you will.

    • Dwight Longenecker December 5, 2018 at 4:50 pm

      We must accept that there will be sinners in our midst–even unrepentant sinners. That is a reality. But it is also the responsibility of those who are given leadership to guide, correct, discipline and even expel from the membership those who persist in open sin without repentance. Therefore, “woe to false shepherds” who do not carry out their responsibilities.

  3. Frederick Snyder December 8, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    And we are to forgive 70 times 7. Nearly of us have experienced habitual sin (doer or receiver).

    But what are the proper protocols for forgiveness?

    Should we forgive a sinner who refuses to acknowledge his sin? Who refuses to make amends? Who refuses to adjust his life toward a better path? Should we keep a serious sinner in his position of authority?How many times can a charming bank manager embezzle before he is fired?

    • Dwight Longenecker December 8, 2018 at 9:03 pm

      No. We can only forgive if forgiveness is asked for. Forgiveness requires two parties. That is why in the ancient world it was considered to be sealed by a solemn contract or covenant.

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