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The Word on the Week

Cardinal sins.

What do you call a decent man who is caught up in sins committed 37 years ago? – Seán Brady. It’s impossible not to feel sympathy for him as he is hounded by the media to the very door of his cathedral.

In any other situation resignation would clear the air, give a modicum of satisfaction to the abused and put in place someone who was not a “lame duck” or “wounded healer”, the description preferred by the Cardinal. But not in these circumstances.

Part of the trouble lies in the term “religious” used to distinguish those in church office from the laity. There is a `forever` element to their appointments. The higher up the tree you go the more forever it gets! Voluntary resignation is not an option. The very idea of resignation hints at a mistake having been made in the ordination process clashing with the notion of infallibility which surrounds the procedure.

So the decent man cannot retire at 73 but must continue with a coadjutor Bishop to run the show till the changeover can be made in Rome’s time.

Such is the lot of those with a high profile while the real villains, the Norbertine Order, whose duty it was to deal with the paedophile priest in question, manage to stay out of trouble.

Such are the ways of man.

What does the Bible have to say?

“Put not your trust in princes” the Psalmist advises in Psalm 146 verse 3 and that would include princes of the church. The psalmist goes on to say that mortal men cannot save – salvation comes from the Lord (Jonah chapter 2 verse 9).

The problems arise when we are attracted to those who appear to be in authority; because they are attractive! They look the part.

I once shared a hotel room with a priest who described himself, when decked in his robes, as an alter Christ. He certainly looked impressive although his disobedient dog, who shared the room with us, showed something less than respect!

Jeremiah was well aware of how easily we are seduced away from faith in the invisible God to faith in men or objects we can see. In Chapter 17 verses 5 & 7 he tells it like it is, “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” And the contrast, “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him”.

Let’s give the last word to St Peter, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts chapter 4 verse 12). And that name is Jesus who alone is worthy of our trust.