The Church in Crisis
“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.” — Matthew 6:18
We must start with an acknowledgement that we know the end of the story. In all of the 2,000+ year history of the Church, we have had a promise from Jesus to the Apostle Peter, the first leader of the Church. He promised us that no matter what happens the bride of Christ, his Church, shall prevail. Jesus didn’t promise it would be easy, but that in the end when Jesus returns the Church will have survived.
We aren’t promised that it will be easy, but just that Hell will not prevail against it.
The challenge of bad leadership in the Church goes all the way back to its founding. Judas was an Apostle and he betrayed Christ. Peter, the first Pope, denied Jesus three times.
Even Saint John Chrysostom, an early Church father who lived in the 4th century was even more direct about the failures of Church leadership. He said, “I do not think there are many among Bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish.”
The fundamental fact is that we’re in the Church because we believe its fundamental truth claim: Jesus died, rose from the dead, and founded a Church that was holy, catholic, and apostolic. That’s why we’re here.
Now this doesn’t exculpate the Bishops, Priests, and lay leaders who were involved in committing and covering up these heinous crimes. One has to believe that the admonition about the mill stone around the neck being a superior option applies to all these folks.
There’s been a lot of ink spilled on the causes, possible solutions, and commentary around this issue. I am only going to focus on what I think is a thematic running through both the causes and the solution.
The Church does not take its truth claims seriously enough.
If we took our charge that the Catholic Church was founded by God as the vessel of salvation to the world and that everything we do had souls handing in the balance we would handle everything differently.
Too much of the Church’s response to this crisis has been out of the public relations and crisis communications playbook. As a practitioner of those arts they have their place, but their place is not to guide God’s bride on earth.
The Church should react as a Church. Sack cloth, ashes, prayers, and penance are the tools we have available. Some have suggested and I think it is a great idea that one of the starting moves should be a reinstatement of Friday as a yearlong day of abstinence from meat. Others that we should say the Prayer to St Michael at the conclusion of Mass once again. All these should be done. This is not a battle of the public perception of the Church. That’s the wrong battle. If we take the Church’s claim about itself seriously than this is a battle against immense evil and we should use all the tools available to us to win this battle.
We need to take ourselves more seriously and we need a Church hierarchy that takes the responsibilities that God has entrusted to them much more seriously.
Immense harm to people has been done in the last few generations of Church leadership. Souls have been lost, and we need to look the challenge in front of us in the light as a church not any other type of organization. Who cares about our brand. Be true to Jesus and the mission he entrusted to the Church first, last, and always.
But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,* and all these things will be given you besides. — Matthew 6:33
As Jesus told us already if we seek first the Kingdom, everything else will come. The Church needs to remember its purpose.