The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
2019 – Cycle C
1 Samuel 26:7-9. 12-13, 22-23; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38.
I double knot my shoe laces so they won’t work themselves apart during the course of the day. The problem with that is I can get very frustrated trying to untie the knots. It’s similar with a rosary that has gotten tangled up by rolling around in your pocket.
This past week’s media barrage caused me to feel like I was caught in a tangle of knots.
Friday, 15 February: A book review entitled The Vatican’s Gay Overlords. Sunday 17 February: A NYTimes expose, “It Is not a Closet. It Is a Cage.” Gay Catholic Priests Speak Out. Monday: 18 February: Vatican’s Secret Rules for Catholic Priests Who Have Children.
Tuesday: 19 February: The Catholic Church Is Breaking People’s Hearts. An article over the dismissal of a Catholic school teacher who is gay and civilly married. Thursday: 21 February: The reporting of the abuse of nuns by priests and bishops and the opening of the Vatican Summit.
Wrap this up with the bow of the deposing of the former archbishop of Washington, DC, Cardinal McCarrick and the Attorney General subpoena of records from all eight New York State dioceses back to 1950 and you have a tangle of knots.
“In moments of darkness and great tribulation, when the knots and the tangles cannot be untangled or straightened out, nor things be clarified…” how do you respond?
Do you find that often the more you try and work out a tangle of knots the tighter the knots seem to become? If that is true, how do we respond to this knotty tangle of sexual abuse, cover – ups, the breaking of promises, the quandary over sexual orientations, fatherless children, legitimate journalistic inquiry, the continued confusion of homosexuality with pedophilia, present and past seminary training, the unchecked opinion – led chatter that floods news-feeds, and ideologically based accusations from within as well as outside the church?
In such a tangle of knots the natural urge, whether for an individual, an institution, a group, is to defend oneself. But when so much public discourse today takes place amid the frenetic noise of social media and a relentless stream of breaking news, might we turn to the example of Jesus during his trial before Pontius Pilate. How did he respond in his dark hour?
At his trial, Jesus presents no defense. Why? Not because he is innocent and his innocence will clearly speak for itself but rather, and here I believe the French novelist Emile Zola offers a possible answer, because the truth “will grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way”. That I expect maybe why Jesus did not put up a defense. The fullness of truth had not gathered its full power. That would not happen until sin and death were destroyed though the cross and resurrection. The present life of the Church though is a Friday; a Friday of gathering clouds and gathering truth. Unlike Jesus though, in this trial and agony the Church is not innocent. Yet the painful truth is sought and rightfully demanded by victims and those who truly love the church so that the fullness of truth may explode and destroy what needs to be destroyed so as to offer ultimate healing to us.
We must enter into an active period of acknowledging our feelings, listening to each other, intense prayer, reading and reflection on the related issues; for they are related. These are not clergy issues but human issues. We must admit that Christian lay women and men also sexually abuse children and vulnerable adults. Husbands and wives repudiate their marriage vows through adultery and abandonment. Chastity has been rejected by single Christians and couples living together outside of the Sacrament of Marriage. Clericalism, the abuse of power, can be found in other professions. There are more knots then we may want to realize.
The issues of who can be ordained, the discipline of celibacy, sexual orientation, a greater and meaningful decision making role for the laity in the church, particularly for women, human sexuality, clericalism, and the re-imagining of seminary training need frank and open discussion.
This, as Jesus has shown us, is not a time for defensiveness but for allowing the truth to gain its power.
Let Attorneys General do their job. Let legitimate media outlets in their work of journalism do their job. Have reasonable expectations for the Vatican Summit and what can realistically be accomplished for a community that numbers 1.2 billion Catholics and reflects numerous cultures and ways of approaching life. Reflect upon the fact that the universal Catholic Church is not the monolithic gathering in ways of thinking, outlook, belief and practice that many people have and continue to believe.
For yourself and others, be conscious of having a balanced view of our Church in this tangled time.
Be mindful, it was and is a small number of clergy who have done unthinkable and evil things and these clerics have already been removed from ministry. Realize we have been cleaning house since the 2002 Dallas Charter providing a safe environment for our youth and vulnerable adults. No other organization has done what the Catholic Church in the U.S. has done. Accept that we will always get bad publicity and we cannot get weighed down by a 24-hour news cycle. More importantly, we should not apologize for the good that we continue to do as the Catholic Church through our educational institutions of higher learning, the beauty of our liturgy and prayer, the outreach of our charitable agencies at the national and international levels, the uplifting the hearts and minds of even the non – believer by our treasury of art, music and architecture, and our theology which continually reflects upon the human situation in our relationship to God and each other.
As we demand and await upon the fullness and explosive power of truth, let us slowly and methodically undo knots, one at a time.
The image is of Mary, Untier of Knots or Mary, Undoer of Knots. The painting by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner, of around 1700, is in the Catholic pilgrimage church of St. Perter am Perlach, in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany.