In case you haven’t noticed, the Church is a ghastly mess.
I almost said “an ungodly mess,” but that’s not the case at all. God is here, suffering with us. But the hierarchy’s sins are being laid bare and we see that the Bride of Christ was abused by the people who were supposed to be her caretakers, and she is a mess. At the moment we are all watching the Diocese of Buffalo fall apart in real time, with that public disgrace Bishop Malone flailing and claiming he won’t resign. We’re told that Archbishop Dolan is looking into it, and I’m not really convinced that will help.
What seems like moments ago, we were supposed to be happy that a bill had been struck down in one part of the country which would’ve forced priests to report sexual abuse confessed to them, violating the seal of confession. And I do not think that priests ought to be forced to violate the seal. But it was hard to not find it a bit ironic when we found out that Malone had allegedly protected a priest who had a credible accusation of violating the seal of confession against him. One can be forgiven for surmising that in practice, it’s persecution if a priest is compelled to violate the seal to help somebody, but it’s perfectly fine to violate the seal in order to participate in sexual harassment. That’s just one example of the layers of horror we’ve had to process lately.
In the midst of this, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced that their theme for Catechetical Sunday will be… “Stay With Us.” That’s the theme. They don’t use the entirety of the Bible verse “But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.” If they used it in context the verse would be from the disciples, jaded and miserable after the crucifixion of Christ, calling out to a person Who turned out to be the risen Christ who had been counseling them about the law and the prophets. As it is, quotemining the way that they did, it sounds like the bishops are just asking everybody to stay with them in spite of everything. As my friend Scott Eric Alt has pointed out, considering the events of the past couple of years, this sounds like something an abusive husband would say.
Ever tone deaf, the USCCB has illustrated their “Stay With Us” publications with a groovy Peter Max-style painting that would have seemed a little dated in the 1970s. In one corner are twin towers engulfed in smoke which look like a tasteless reference to 9/11, and considering that this campaign hit the USCCB facebook page on September 9th I don’t see how we were supposed to NOT draw that conclusion. But at second glance, they’re not poorly drawn office buildings burning after a terrorist attack, but poorly drawn smokestacks spewing carbon and dust from a badly regulated factory– you can see the faceless factory workers in their identical dull gray uniforms laboring away to the side of Jesus there. This is supposed to be inspiring.
And when I look up Catechetical Sunday on the USCCB website, the next thing I see is a message from Bishop Robert Barron of all people, with a message that begins “We live in an increasingly secularized society, which powerfully influences our young people, often compelling them to leave the Church altogether.”
They just don’t get it.
They honestly think it’s not them.
Here we are, the Body of Christ. That’s what you become when you are received into the Church. Christ is present in everyone, but in another way, we who are baptized become the Body of Christ. And what did our clergy and hierarchy do to the Body of Christ? They did what the holiest and the most haughty have always done to Christ. They broke Him.
Sometimes, when I go to Mass and see a priest breaking the consecrated Host over the chalice, dropping a little piece in and soaking it until it dissolves, I wonder: do they realize that that’s what they do to Christ when they hurt the laity? Besides all the other glorious meanings that gesture has, might it also have that meaning? Might it also be to remind the priest of what he holds in his hand when he ministers to us, and what he does to us when he fails?
In any case, whether they realized it or not, those who had power broke those who did not, and Christ was tortured to death.
And here we are, broken and dissolved bits of consecrated Host, walking away jaded and traumatized. The Lord is walking with us but we can’t see Him, because He is in us, suffering our trauma. It was Him they hurt all along, Him enthroned in us. It always is. You can’t hurt a person without hurting Christ.
And who is this running after us, demanding “Stay with us?”
It’s the USCCB waving a tasteless piece of clip art and telling us we’ve been led astray by the secular world.
Shame on you, our abusive shepherds. God help you when Christ returns in glory and finds out what you have done to the sheep.
Those of us who are still here are staying with Him, no thanks to you.
(image via Pixabay)