How often does a person have to get stung before recognizing the danger at hand? I am guessing that most people who have had an experience which generated pain know how to react in the future. You get stung by a wasp or a bee. You tend to avoid the critter in the future. You touch a stove and get burned. You learn not to touch the burner in the future when it is hot. It is a pretty simple lesson to learn.
I have seen comments on social media asking a relevant question. "How many times do Catholics have to get hurt before they finally walk away from the Church and the pain of the scandal?" Yesterday's news out of Illinois regarding 500 more abuse cases will certainly be enough to send even more people out the door of the Catholic Church. The pain just seems to never end. Some people do not want to be stung any longer.
I will celebrate my 20th anniversary as a deacon in June. I have been working in full time ministry for almost 19 years. On more than one occasion since 2002, people have asked me how I can continue to work for the Church under such scandalous circumstances. Most of the time I can easily answer that question. The Church is a divine institution made up of sinful human beings. I work for the Church because I believe the message of Jesus Christ. That message is communicated to us through the Church which is the pillar and foundation of truth. (See 1 Timothy 3:15) I want to be part of that.
However, after the general assembly wrapped up in November for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I will admit that it was a bit difficult to maintain hope and remain confident that the Church was on a way to healing. The news from the Illinois Attorney General yesterday affirmed my skepticism. While we know the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, we are certainly witnessing trials and tribulations at an alarming rate. Are we also witnessing a bit of chastisement due to our sinfulness and disregard for God?
While I am deeply saddened by this latest round of news, I realize that God continues to call us to faithfulness and holiness. We must renew our commitment to be people of prayer. Will we get stung a few more times before this is all said and done? Yes, we will. The investigations will continue to show the depths of sin in our midst. My heart breaks for all of the people who have been abused. It also breaks for all of those who will leave the faith because of the sins of others. How many in Church leadership will have wished for a millstone to have been tied around their necks and tossed into the sea when they reap the consequences of leading God's little ones astray?
In these final days of Advent, may we find inner strength from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion, fellowship, and power of the Holy Spirit.