Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Collective Guilt??

I read this today on Fr. MacRae's blog and it got me thinking in a few directions.

Fr. MacRae asks the cost of Fr. Marcel Maciel's transgressions.  This is a good question, but I wonder if he's taken the answer far enough.

What is happening to priests is scary.  Horrifying.  I have been feeling the tensions build over the years among priests I know.  I once went to a priest I knew reasonably well and quite innocently asked "I've heard rumours.  Are they true?"  This was a reference to something I'd heard about his assisting at another parish outside his diocese.  The news had surprised me but I was fairly sure he'd know what I was referring to.  The immediate look on his face, and his "Please do NOT start a conversation like that!" made me realise just how close to the surface are rumours of a far more sinister form.

The base reason behind the rumours is also horrifying.  There are actually people suffering at the hands of priests.  Given that priests are to uphold Christ's teaching, this is reprehensible.  But the facts tell us that the desire to inflict harm is a human problem, not a priestly problem.  It happens everywhere.

But knowing that this abuse has actually happened somewhere in the Church, inflicted by Church clergy affects the faithful in a profound way.  For myself, I often feel like the ground is shifting under me.  I am afraid to express my faith in someone, for fear of my confidence later being shown to be misplaced.  We are called to explain the joy that is within us.  I sometimes feel that it is easier to explain my faith than it is to explain why I maintain it in the company of those teachers who would profane it.

The ready claim of "child pornography" being tossed at any priest reminds me a bit of an advertising ploy that we often fall for...a product being touted as being "free" of something that it never actually contained...implying that other similar products are NOT free of it.  An example:  When cholesterol began to be seen as a bad nutrient for consumption (and I do not claim to believe this), peanut butter was sometimes marketed as "cholesterol free" as if this was a development.  In fact, peanut butter has never contained cholesterol.  No lie was actually told, but the implications for other products were certainly there.

Then there's the hanging a lactation counsellor, I saw some of the advertising material created by the makers of artificial infant food targeting new mothers.  While giving the government required lip-service to breastfeeding, one video I remember showed a concerned looking mother holding her very young baby.  In the background were quietly spoken questions like "How do I know my baby is getting enough?".  The video never actually answered that particular question, even though it is entirely possible to tell if a naturally fed infant is being fed enough.  But a "formula" manufacturer doesn't necessarily want you to know that.

Hearing a priest defend himself against child pornography charges is a bit like asking the question "So, when did you stop beating your wife?"  No matter how it's answered, it doesn't sound good.

Not only is every priest "guilty" in the eyes of many, but every follower is guilty by association.  This cross will continue to demand a huge toll on followers whose faith is focussed more on an individual than on Christ.  It also has a toll on those who do not understand how language and emotions can be manipulated to create a desired end.

A great many of my parents' generation have left the Church, nominally because of the 'scandals'.  I realize that sometimes this is just an excuse for leaving an institution that no longer suits them.  But this generation would also have been young adults at the turn of Vatican II.  Along with so many things that have changed in that time, the Church has become disposable.  When something is seen as dirty, you throw it out.

In my own generation, we have suffered lack of catechesis, and a sort of 'anything goes' mentality which makes the Church simply an option among many.  So you don't pick the option you don't like.  Who would like the option that may endanger one's children?

For my children, it's second generation catechetical failure.  I've tried to stem the tide, but they're young and they're hearing the news...and we've had a lot of news.  How relevant is something that they KNOW is bad?  After all, mum seems to be the only one telling them otherwise...

The legacy of Fr. Maciel will haunt us for a long time.  Pray for our priests!

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