Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pope Francis on the current milieu- a few thoughts in passing

Towards the end of my post castigating Brandeis University (see "Conscience: A matter on which I must take a stand") for siding with the oppressors instead of the oppressed by unilaterally deciding to withdraw the honorary doctorate they were going to confer on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I wrote:
Let's not forget that Christians are not entirely guiltless in related matters. May we continue to repent and seek to live in the triumphant love of Jesus Christ, which we are preparing to celebrate at Easter. I think it's important for victims to be able to share their stories without fear of more violence
Therefore, I was very happy to read the very next morning what Pope Francis said about this matter during his meeting with the leadership of the France-based International Catholic Child Bureau:
I feel called to take responsibility for all the evil some priests – large in number, but not in proportion to the total – have committed and to ask forgiveness for the damage they’ve done with the sexual abuse of children.

The Church is aware of this damage
While I do not presume to lecture the Holy Father on what he should say, I do think, at least from where I sit, that continually expressing surprise that this would, or even could, happen in the Church, as the Pope did when he said that it was hard for him to believe that "men of the Church" would do such thing, is harmful. It can and has happened. We need to know that certain "men of the Church" are more than capable of such things. Who knows what evil lurks in the human heart? On the other hand, Deacon Greg, citing John Allen, rightly draws our attention to what Pope Francis did right in his remarks: "Why what Francis said about sex abuse yesterday matters."

A little more than a week ago, Deacon Greg also noted that reports of such outrageous behavior on the part of "men of the Church" continues to be reported here in the U.S. Some of these accusations proved to be substantial. According to the most recent USCCB audit, conducted for the period between 1 July 2012 - 30 June 2013, "936 Allegations Of Sexual Abuse Were Made Last Year." Of those, 27 "allegations have been substantiated." More than 700 clerics were accused of abuse, including more than 500 priests and 11 deacons.

At least Pope Francis seems to partially refute his dismay concerning certain evils committed by "men of the Church" with his refreshing emphasis on the fact that, precisely as Christians, as "men of the Church," our enemy has us in his cross-hairs. In his homily for daily Mass just yesterday, the Holy Father noted:
We too are tempted, we too are the target of attacks by the devil because the spirit of Evil does not want our holiness, he does not want our Christian witness, he does not want us to be disciples of Christ. And what does the Spirit of Evil do, through his temptations, to distance us from the path of Jesus? The temptation of the devil has three characteristics and we need to learn about them in order not to fall into the trap. What does Satan do to distance us from the path of Jesus? Firstly, his temptation begins gradually but grows and is always growing. Secondly, it grows and infects another person, it spreads to another and seeks to be part of the community. And in the end, in order to calm the soul, it justifies itself. It grows, it spreads and it justifies itself
It is impossible for our Enemy to succeed without our complicity.

As we asked some four years ago, "Alongside all the limitations and within the Church’s wounded humanity, is there or is there not something greater than sin, something radically greater than sin? Is there something that can shatter the inexorable weight of our evil?" We need to end the denial so as to end our collective self-deception by continually returning to the only One who is greater.

According the U.K.'s Catholic Herald newspaper, there were a few other things in Pope Francis' comments that, understandably, were lost as the result of his apology and strong condemnation of sexual abuse within the Church. I think these things are worth noting. I will even be so bold as to assert that these issues are tangentially related.

The first was the Pope's insistence of the need to defend a child's right "to grow in a family with a mother and father able to create a healthy environment for their growth and affective maturity," which allows the child to mature "in relationship to the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother."

His Holiness also strongly defended the "right" of parents to determine the proper "moral and religious education" for their children. He insisted that this parental determination should not undermined by, or given a lesser priority, than the cirriculum offered in schools. School cirricula, he pointed out, to use the words from the Catholic Herald article, is often constituted by "thinly veiled courses of indoctrination into whatever ideology is strongest at the moment." In this vein, he went on to say that it is sometimes difficult to discern whether parents are sending their children to school for authentic education, or if they send their children "to a re-education camp" like those run by totalitarian regimes.

In his balanced manner, which balance is frequently lost in secular media reporting, he went on to state that children can't be raised in "glass jars," but need to be taught and equipped, as part of an authentic education, to grapple with contemporary issues in a media-saturated culture while respecting the freedom and dignity of others.

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