What kind of a man can command an anticipated audience of 500,000 in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon? What gems of wisdom can he produce in order to garner the grain, remove the dross, comfort the broken and shore up the edifice of an ailing church?
With expectations running high a lot is expected of this man. He has been portrayed as ‘Mr Good Guy’ over against the faceless others. He is expected to reach both the devoted and the disillusioned. A task which the Irish clergy have failed. Even our local Archbishop is pinning his hopes on the pope saying something to Irish society as to where it should be going. Who is equal to this task? It looks like he is being set up for a fall!
The World Meeting of Families which has taken place in Dublin this week and is the reason for the pope’s visit, produced some clarity. According to Marie Collins, herself a survivor of clerical abuse, the church’s reluctance to look into the matter is caused by fear of what it may find. There is the possibility of the ‘domino effect’ where there is a trail of abuse, some of which is allegedly documented in the Vatican and which, if followed, may open an even bigger can of worms.
The alternative is the continuing drip feed of abuse scandals not dissimilar to the drip feeding of the Trump scandals in the secular world. The only remedy is the unpalatable one of the person in charge of the facts making all material details and documents available for inspection by the appropriate secular authorities. Of course this is unlikely to happen as it involves pride and loss of esteem even perhaps to the loss of vocation or presidency!
The usual tactic of ignoring it and hope that it will go away, is no answer. A priest cannot forgive his own sins. He must go to confessional. But he cannot confess what he has not grieved over, and he cannot grieve over what he does not see, and he cannot repent over what he has not confessed. It needs the operation of God’s grace to open his eyes to see the destroyed lives his addiction has created.
When by God’s grace your eyes see and your heart is made willing to confess you know something of that glorious forgiving, rescuing and transforming grace that has become yours. But it is not natural. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the Serpent.
Both of them hid and neither stepped forward and confessed instead they passed the buck.
We have inherited from our first parents a sturdy form of self-righteousness. It comes naturally to us to think we are more righteous than we are. We all need the eye salve of the church in Laodicea (Revelation Chapter 3 verse 18) so we can stand unafraid before the revealing mirror of the Bible and see what we are really like. Then by faith in the cleansing power of the death of Christ we know that the blood of Christ covers all that has been exposed to Him. The greater fear for the pope, you and me is the delusions of self-righteousness that replace Christ’s righteousness in us (Romans Chapter 4 verses 1 to 6).