Abp Dolan began his speech with a reference to St Paul’s Damascus Road experience and Jesus saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Why are you persecuting my followers, my friend, my disciples, my family.” He said, “Why are you persecuting ME.”
The New Testament resounds with the conviction that the Church and Christ are inseparable. You cannot know Christ without the Church. Outside the Church there is no salvation. The Church is the Body of Christ. He went on to say that the main problem with Christianity today is that people want the Shepherd without the flock, the Head without the Body, the General without the army, the Bridegroom without the Bride. Individualism has taken over the Church so that people want spirituality without religion and a subjective experience without the Church.
He spoke passionately about the problems in the church, the scandals, the human failures, the shame and the incompetence, complacency and lack of faith. Still, this is like a family. We are family and cannot be anything other. We accept our family and strive to love one another even when its hard–especially when its hard. It is okay–he said–to be angry, to quarrel, to point out the failure and shame, but it is not okay to leave. The shepherds are right to be penitent and say ‘sorry’ for their sins and the sins of their priests. However, there is a time to move on and build the future and learn from the mistakes.
He went on. He quoted poets and writers and theologians and historians. He was eloquent and funny and passionate and uncompromising. I had heard that he was a strong leader and a good speaker. Now I’ve seen him. May he live long and prosper.
As for those who would be angry all the time and complain about the failures of the church leadership–yes, be angry, but then get over it. If you can do something positive and good, then get on and do it. Why be angry forever? Who is affected by it? You of course. You will sink into the bitterness of your own bile and poison your own life with anger that is for sure, but you will also poison your faith by destroying hope and love. Furthermore, when you hold on to your anger and spread it to others your negative rage poisons the faith, hope and love of others too, and for that sin of scandal you will be answerable one day.
Allow me to address the ongoing rage and anger over the pedophile priests debacle. Horrible things happened. The hierarchy were negligent, incompetent and sometimes corrupt. Now we’ve paid. We’ve apologized until we’re blue in the face. We’ve paid out millions of dollars to claimants–not all of them authentic. We’ve put in place the most rigorous child protection program every established anywhere. We’re doing all we can to put things right.
By all means stay vigilant. By all means be alert and suspicious of wrong doing, but for your own faith and for the proclamation of the gospel and to put forward the good news of Jesus Christ in the fullness of the Catholic faith why not learn to let the anger go? Lift up your heads and realize that there is more that is pure and glorious and positive and good about our church than there is sordid and squalid and mean and corrupt.
Why not do yourselves and everyone you meet a favor and say good bye to Mr Angry and find the spirit of forgiveness, and with that find peace, and with that peace experience joy.