"God does not see as human beings see; they look at appearances, but Yahweh looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Reflection by Dr. Adriane Gullotta-Gsell Ph.D.
Recent news stories about the sex scandals within the Catholic Church have devastated all of us! In my lifetime, I never remember such unified repulsion, hurt, and anger within both the laity and the clergy on any one issue. It seems the Lord is cleaning HIS house!
Why exactly are we so upset? We’re angry at “Wolves in sheep’s clothing” injuring the innocent! The Lord says in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves.” Tragically, 100’s of priests, and even various bishops, who by appearances were holy and true spiritual leaders, were in actuality sexual predators, deviates, and criminals. The uprightness that we saw, God and the victims did not see.
These horrible events are more than just unfortunate and gravely sinful. I believe that God is exposing those ravenous wolves, who are being identified while also, hopefully, stopped in their tracks and eventually prosecuted civilly and canonically. It’s the beginning of a new Church, a Church that we pray will be sincerely holy on the inside as well as on the outside for "...Yahweh looks at the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7
We can’t change what has already happened, but we can change policy and practices to protect all of God’s people from those ravenous wolves who seek to prey on the innocent and vulnerable. We are being called to also pray and fast for our wounded Church, for all the victims, and in the spirit of mercy also for the perpetrators. We pray intensely to bring those within the Church into healing as well as God’s order, humility, purity, and holiness. Indeed, the Lord sees the many hearts that need to be purified and made holy within the Church. The Lord also sees the countless clergy and laity who sincerely have always tried to live in purity of mind, heart, soul, and behavior.
We all have to remember that we should never generalize about the clergy or any group. The sins of a few are not to be imposed on all. We, then, would fall into the sin of pride because of judging our brothers in Christ. Romans 14:10 teaches us, "You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat."
Should we leave the Church or avoid the sacraments in our disgust and anger? Absolutely, NOT! In John 6:67-69 our hearts are deeply touched when we read, “Then Jesus said to the twelve: ‘Will you also go away?’ And Simon Peter answered him: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou have the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.’” Knowing the reality about the true presence of Jesus' body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist in the Catholic Mass, leads us to the deep realization ... where could we ever go?
We, obviously, need to make major changes within the Church that would ultimately protect children and subordinates under all Church authority. There needs to be accountability and justice for perpetrators and those in authority who covered up these crimes. But, WE ARE THE CHURCH! Through our baptism and confirmation, we are called to stand up, speak out, and support our faith family … NOT run away from it! We are also called to attend Mass even MORE frequently to be filled with the true presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ!
This is about good vs. evil! The Lord has already told us in Matthew 16:18, “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The word, “Prevail,” means to “triumph or conquer." It does not mean “attack.” We were told in scripture that evil would come against the Church and God's people within it. The devil tempted even Jesus in the desert. What we are seeing is the Lord exposing those who did fall after the devil’s attack.
Hopefully, instead of stepping back, cowering, or walking away, the faithful will increase their active involvement in the Church, in order to help develop new practices that will protect the innocent and also care for those within the Church who need our loving support and strength. When we minister to the wounded within the Church, we also profoundly minister to the wounded Christ.
As the Lord’s people, we are to remain strong and not buckle in any spiritual, moral, and physical battle. In spite of scandal or the sins of a few within the Church, we, ourselves, are to try to live the words in Leviticus 19:2 sincerely, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy.” With that type of living, even with mistakes along the way, we can find deep peace and solace with the knowledge that the Lord is clearly looking at all of our hearts.
Lord God, we are all deeply shocked, hurt, and angered at the recent news stories about priests and bishops who injured the vulnerable. As much as we are dismayed, Lord, we know that you, personally, are deeply wounded by these actions and ultimate betrayals. Forgive them, Lord, and forgive all of us for our own sins and transgressions against your law of love toward you and our neighbor.
Lord, in your mercy completely heal the wounded within the Church whose lives were damaged and traumatized by these abuses. Purify your clergy and all of the faithful in your Church. Give all of us the grace to embrace and imitate the selfless love and sacrifice that you offered up for all humanity.
In the name of Jesus, see, purify, and renew our hearts, minds, and souls with a fresh outpouring of your Holy Spirit so we might live according to your perfect holy will. We thank you, Lord, and praise your Holy Name forever! Amen!