Bishops and priests getting a lashing from the Holy Father?? I stared in disbelief at the news article in front of me from the “Vatican Insider” as reported by Andrea Tornielli, Vatican City, dated 16th January 2014. After years of cover-up and shameless scandals related to money, power and sex, this tirade by the Pope was like a welcome breath of fresh air. However, it also brought home the sombre reality and frailty of man – any man – clergy or laity notwithstanding. The excellently written article by Andrea needs no interference from my part, so I have reproduced it completely in italics below.
At this morning’s homily in St. Martha’s House, Francis asked: “are we all ashamed of those scandals, of those failings of priests, bishops, laity?”
“But are we ashamed? So many scandals that I do not want to mention individually, but all of us know…” Pope Francis said during this morning’s mass at St. Martha’s House. Returning to the subject of corruption, Francis said these scandals take place because there is no living relationship with God and His Word. Instead of giving the people of God “the Bread of Life to eat,” “corrupt” priests offer them “a poisoned meal!” (highlights mine).
Commenting on today’s “reading and responsorial Psalm which recount the crushing defeat of the Israelites by the Philistines, the Pope noted that the people of God at that time had forsaken the Lord,” Vatican Radio reports. “It was said that the Word of God was “uncommon” at that time. The old priest Eli was “lukewarm” and his sons “corrupt; they frightened the people and beat them with sticks.” In their battle against the Philistines, the Israelites brought with them the Ark of the Covenant, but as something “magical,” “something external.” And they are defeated: the Ark is taken from them by their enemies. There is no true faith in God, in His real presence in life.”
“This passage of Scripture makes us think about what sort of relationship we have with God, with the Word of God,” Francis said. “Is it a formal relationship? Is it a distant relationship? The Word of God enters into our hearts, changes our hearts. Does it have this power or not? Is it a formal relationship? But the heart is closed to that Word! It leads us to think of the so many defeats of the Church, so many defeats of God’s people simply because they do not hear the Lord, do not seek the Lord, do not allow themselves to be sought by the Lord! And then after a tragedy, the prayer, this one:’ But, Lord, what happened? You have made us the scorn of our neighbours. The scorn and derision of those around us. You have made us the laughing stock (it: favola) among nations! All the nations shake their heads about us.'”
Then Francis referred explicitly to the scandals that have haunted the Church: “But are we ashamed? So many scandals that I do not want to mention individually, but all of us know…We know where they are! Scandals, some who charged a lot of money…. The shame of the Church! But are we all ashamed of those scandals, of those failings of priests, bishops, laity? Where was the Word of God in those scandals; where was the Word of God in those men and in those women? They did not have a relationship with God! They had a position in the Church, a position of power, even of comfort. But the Word of God, no! ‘But, I wear a medal,’ ‘I carry the Cross’ … Yes, just as those bore the Ark! Without the living relationship with God and the Word of God! I am reminded of the words of Jesus about those for whom scandals come … And here the scandal hit: bringing decay (it: decadenza) to the people of God, including (it: fino alla) the weakness and corruption of the priests”
Francis ended today’s homily by sparing a thought for the people of God: “Poor people! We do not give the Bread of Life to eat; we do give – in those cases – the bread of Truth! And many times, we even offer a poisoned meal! ‘Awaken! Why do you sleep, Lord?’ Let this be our prayer! ‘Awaken! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide Your face? Why do You forget our affliction and oppression?’ We ask the Lord that we never forget the Word of God, which is alive, so that it enters into our hearts and never to forget the holy people faithful to God who ask us to nourish and strengthen them.”
The scandals Francis was referring to are not few and still make headlines. From sex abuse against minors to financial crimes and controversies involving a number of individuals and structures linked to the Church, not to mention religious orders.
My comments: It appears that God is cleansing His House in earnest and is starting from the top. I was deeply impressed by his words highlighted in blue above. He hit the nail right on the head. No doubt these measures were long overdue and clearly appears to be the right steps being taken by the Holy See. Side by side with this move by Pope Francis, the UN has also questioned the Vatican at length on the same issues from the secular front. Another article dated 15th January, 2014, from the Associated Press (AP) reflects the eight-hour-gruelling-session of the Holy See by a Human Rights Panel of the UN with the Vatican representative Monsignor Charles Scicluna (pic left). Click here to read the same. This is a grim reminder of our frailty and vulnerability to sin. As the Lord deals with the issue according to His wisdom, God’s people need to storm the heavens in earnest prayer for all those involved, never forgetting that every one of us is weak and prone to fall. Thankfully, the “Vatican tells UN it wants to be ‘an example of best practice’ in the fight against paedophilia”. May God grant them the grace to keep up to it. Other issues on the anvil to be dealt with are the money laundering in the Vatican Bank and the infamous Gay Lobby inside the Vatican. As Pope Francis seems to be taking the right steps to correct the mess, the Church at large needs to raise their hands in intercessory prayer, that God’s Temple will be cleansed and that the Lord may raise up Holy Men and Women of God to work in His Vineyard henceforward.
I state these things humbly and hesitatingly, knowing that we laymen are not exempt, but are men and women of like passion, like Elijah (James 5:17 Amp), like our priests and nuns. Only let us drop the façade and the cloaks of self-righteousness and claimed extra-graces. Time and history has shown that we are all men and women like Elijah, men of like passions, no different, not special and in equal need of the grace of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit in order to walk in the righteousness and holiness which is Christ in us! (1 Cor 1:30).
So, let us bow our knees in repentance, humility and prayer, for the promise of the Lord is sure: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14 NIV).