16 September 2018
The Edge of Elfland
It seems lately all I do is apologize for how long it has been between letters. As you know, just over a month ago a cascade of scandal fell upon the Church. I gave my own brief response to it and stopped writing. I didn’t know how to keep on writing. My faith has not been shaken, but I couldn’t figure out how to keep writing about beauty or theology in the face of such ugliness and sin. I couldn’t pretend that the scandalous and criminal events which have been made known did not exist. I couldn’t go on as if nothing had happened, as if everything was exactly the same. I was lost as to what to write, how to write.
And yet, things are the same. In The Two Towers, Eomer asks of Aragorn:
‘How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’
‘As he ever has judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear […]’ (LOTR, Book 3 Chapter 2, 438).
Of course, for Eomer it was largely good wonders that had made him astonished. The sword that cut Sauron’s hand was reforged, men talked with the Lady of the Wood, and dwarf and elf walked together. We are reminded that men are evil, not because of what they eat or drink but because of what comes out of them. Still, good and ill have not changed. And because of that, I can keep on in the midst of this communal dark night of the soul. I can continue to see light, to drink it in as Boethius did after Lady Philosophy wiped away his tears and began her gentle medicine, as Reepicheep and Caspian and Lucy and Edmund and Eustace did as they reached the utter East. I can follow it as Nycteris followed the firefly which led her to true light. Dante shows us monks, friars, priests, bishops, and popes (one there and two soon to arrive) burning in Hell and yet, unlike most high school English students, he does not end with the Inferno, but eventually takes us to Paradise, to that vision of True Light from True Light.
Bolstered now that I may continue to write about things I always have for the hands of evil men cannot debase them, I want to say two more things. First, my prayers continue, chiefly, to be with the victims of our most recent sex abuse crisis as well as with those who are, perhaps, even now being abused. We cannot forget them as the infighting over Pope Francis, Vigano, and others continues. And second, just as I have before with politics, I will be turning my attention from the global to the local. I will be spending more time with my parish, my school, to help make sure that they are places where the Light burns away the darkness.To that end, I want to share with you a letter my wife and I helped prepare for our parish. This was shared during the homily on September 2nd. A few things have been left out since they are no longer relevant, but you may read the letter in its entirety here.
August 26, 2018
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
During the past month, we have been reminded of the destruction of sin both personally and communally. In the past, we have witnessed this pain first-hand here in New Hampshire. I am saddened for those who suffer. “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26). It was with these words from St. Paul that Pope Francis began his letter on the report of sexual abuse by priests in the Pennsylvania dioceses. Our own Bishop Peter Libasci, writing about the reports concerning Archbishop McCarrick said, “The outrage that many people have expressed over the circumstances of this case is justifiable.” Both Pope Francis and Bishop Peter remind us that members of our body have suffered at the hands of those who were meant to serve them and that our right response to this is anger. This scandal, an old word coming from the Greek for a trap or stumbling block, has and may continue to cause many to mistrust the Church, and we are called to suffer with those who have suffered. This is what it means to have compassion, to suffer with.Pope Francis calls us to this compassion when he tells us, “to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit.” St. Paul in his letter to the church in Rome tells us to, “weep with those who weep,” (Rom 12:15). Mary too should be our guide as she stood by her Son as he carried his cross and was crucified. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us. Yet we cannot weep only, we must also act and we must pray.
We must act to ensure that abuses will not happen again. We will continue to focus on the protocols in place here in our Parish and in the Diocese of Manchester. Bishop Peter Libasci has directed the Diocesan Review Board to evaluate all our policies, procedures, resources, and training programs that we currently have in place. We want to ensure that horrible crimes such as these do not happen again and that if they do there will be plans in place to ensure that perpetrators are soon found out and appropriately brought to justice. We will also continue to inform parishioners of resources such as training programs and the availability of the Office of Healing and Pastoral Care.
We must also pray. We must bring our sorrows and weeping of our brothers and sisters before the feet of God. We must pray for those who have been hurt, for those who feel they can no longer trust the Church, for those who may have left because of what has happened. We must pray for the perpetrators for their repentance and their conversion. We must pray for justice and healing. We must pray for ourselves, our families, and our community.
Pope Francis ends his letter asking for the Holy Spirit to “grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction (sorrow for sin) and our resolve courageously to combat them” we too, though we are not perpetrators of these crimes must pray for our own conversion, to break out of complacency and determined to see God’s true justice.
At a time such as this, it can be easy to turn our backs on the Church. Yet, though we are angry, we need to remember that here, in the broken image of the Church in the world, we still find Christ meeting us in the Eucharist and in the face of all who suffer. Even though some failed us, we are the people of God. It will be hard, trusts have been broken, and the way through the fog is not clear. But let us now not split apart, but come together. Let us now stand firm against sin and hypocrisy. Let us stand together in Christ against those who would cause scandal, against those who would cause pain.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Richard A. Roberge