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Can the Bishops Get It Right?

In the aftermath of the Fall USCCB gathering, one of the bishops complained to the others that he has been involved in this crisis for sixteen years and still they did not get it right.

Do they understand the problem? Do they understand that it is deeper than pedophilia or homosexuality?

What is the role of the priests and the bishops in the Church? It is not, as one priest explains, to teach people right from wrong. A priest or bishop can do this, but so can any good man or woman. The priest and the bishops receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders to be agents of the Truth which is Christ. It is their role to gather the entire Catholic community to be Christ’s witnesses testifying to the Truth[1]. This is so much different than describing oneself as a moralist or for that matter trying to conform to this age.

This is why the ordained must be in communion with Christ through prayer and the sacraments regularly. They must not be just business managers and executives, they must be men who live Christ in all they do and lead others as witnesses to Him. Those who do not understand this core of their vocation cannot understand the right solution to the problem.

The Church is the body of Christ and she exists to testify to the truth which is Jesus Christ. Apprehending that truth fully is beyond us as human beings. It is there, but, we cannot fully comprehend it any more than we can fully comprehend the way the brain works. We can only appreciate it when we seek to understand more of it every day by following Christ and living the fruits of that pilgrimage. The role of the ordained as apostles and disciples of Christ is to serve others by deepening their comprehension of the truth so that they too may witness to it. As Pope Pius XII taught:

It is He who imparts the light of faith to believers; it is He who enriches pastors and teachers and above all His Vicar on earth with the supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom, so that they may loyally preserve the treasury of faith, defend it vigorously, and explain and confirm it with reverence and devotion[2].

This is what we do. This is the meaning of everything we do.

Let me give you an example by contrasting this to what world class atheists are saying, who by the way are not witnesses to the truth.

They will tell you that one does not have to believe in God to know right from wrong.

That statement is absolutely true. But it does not go far enough and if you want to go to the deepest limits of the statement, you must not only believe in God but seek Him in Christ. The reason is simple: Atheism is built on the premise that all the universe is perceivable to us. If we cannot perceive God within our midst then, atheists reason, He must not be in our midst. The reason He is not, they say, is that He does not exist.

The Christian will teach that God is imminent and transcendent; God is within and ubiquitous. We can only begin to understand that statement when we understand we cannot perceive, as humans, all that exists in our universe. Taking a teaching from Jesus, we can perceive matter, but not spirit[3].

So let us look at this most deeply.

Why did Jesus die on the cross? The answer is simple: so that we could be saved.

From what were we to be saved? The answer is usually from damnation from the fires of Hell, etc. However, if you want a more physical description of what we were saved from, then look at what He suffered. He went through this horrible, horrible experience to save us from an even more horrible experience, the hint of which we can see in what he suffered on the cross.

His love was so powerful that He, fully aware of what awaits us, suffered and died for us, that we would not experience the fires of Hell for which we were destined. Now, if we embrace His gift and conform our lives to Him, we will never experience the horrors the universe has for those who end up in the wrong side of what we presently cannot see.

This brings up another misnomer about Jesus: that he condemns to Hell those who reject Him. Actually, he does not. He leaves to the darkest elements of the universe those who choose not to accept his saving action. It is like the drowning man who refuses to get into a lifeboat, or the homeless man who refuses to enter a shelter on a frigid night. Their obstinance makes it impossible to do anything for them, but to leave them to suffer in the elements in which they chose live. So it is with those who obstinately choose sin over salvation.[4]

This brings us back to the atheist. Any good person, whether or not he or she believes, knows not to steal or kill or commit adultery or perjure him or herself. Once we decide to be Christ’s disciples then He commands us to do everything to prevent our worst enemy from being lost to eternal damnation. This is why we must pray for and do good to our enemies.

It is like the man who spent his whole life trying to destroy your career, your family and your life who you find homeless on a frigid night in Boston and you beg him to come into your house to be warm. Christ’s call to the moral life is different than that of anyone else. It goes beyond the call of what is good and bad in the atheists’ mind.

Our moral behavior is a testimony to the truth that is Christ, not a method of earning our way to Heaven. The reason the Christian will act morally is because he or she is fully aware of a greater truth. It is Christ's demand that we bear fruit in the world. Our lives preach to others of Christ. This is the sowing of the seed that needs to bear fruit.

The reason for the sacrament of Holy Orders is to bring divine grace upon representatives to that truth in a total commitment of their lives. They live in service to the Church for salvation of all souls. Celibacy is part of that sign and commitment lived so that all may be saved. This includes those who do not understand what horrors await them if they choose to reject salvation.

When the bishops and other Catholics don’t understand this, live it or make it their priority, they lose a sense of purpose of whom they are and they are bound to oversee a collapse of their ministry and testimony. After all, what they have left has no foundation.

[1] See also John 18:37 and Pope Leo XIII Annun Sacrum #4

[2] Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi #50

[3] John 4:24

[4] CCC 1037

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