Good Friday

| April 2, 2010 | 2 Comments

The front page of the Washington Post today has a picture of the pastor of my local parish kneeling in prayer.  The story discusses his struggle over whether to reference the scandal rocking Europe of priestly sexual abuse.  Honestly, I barely glanced at the piece and didn’t even know it was Father Enzler until my daughter called it to my attention.  Like all Catholics, I’m disgusted by the scandal and I don’t need to know all the details.  I’m from Boston, so I’ve seen this movie before.  My standard response is that the Church, while divinely inspired, is a human institution with all of humanity’s flaws.

At noon, I went up to St. Matthews Cathedral a few blocks from my office to attend Good Friday Services.  Since it is such an important day in the liturgical calendar, I feel like I should do something to get into the spirit of the day.  It’s a long service and does provide some spiritual sustenance as you contemplate the events of that day.  Nothing says “melancholy” like a choir singing the Passion Chorale from St. Matthews Passion.

As I approached the Cathedral, I notice a crowd gathered across the street.  It was on behalf of abuse victims and was a very calm, peaceful and respectful vigil.  I learned later that Archbishop Weurl, who presided over the Good Friday services, stopped by the vigil and prayed with the group.  Good move.

During the service, the sex abuse scandal was brought up twice.  Once by a priest who was providing brief commentary on the famous “Last Words of Jesus.”  They are phrases that Jesus uttered on the cross before he died.  One phrase was, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”  The priest discussed various ways people feel forsaken by God.  At the end, he mentioned people abused by priest.  Importantly, he acknowledged that they were forsaken both by the priests they trusted, but hat they were also forsaken be the Church as an institution.  Archbishop Wuerl also mentioned the scandal in his big homily, but he included ringing support of the Pope and was somewhat more vague on the responsibility of the Church as an institution. 

So, I had to admire, to some degree, the effort to confront the issue.  Then, as I drove home, I heard about homily delivered by the Pope’s personal preacher in his Good Friday sermon.  He compared the criticism of the Pope to anti-Semitism that culminated in the Holocaust.  Big sigh!  Makes my speechless.  I guess I’m pleased that the Vatican had the good sense to reject the comparison.  And the comments of Rev. Thomas Reese  in the story about Fr. Enzler also gives some hope:

But not all Catholics have leapt to the church’s defense. The Rev. Thomas Reese, a scholar at Georgetown University, said the suffering-Jesus metaphor might be more fittingly applied to the victims of abuse. Reese, who spent the week analyzing the church’s crisis and preparing a Good Friday message for his chapel, said he asked himself, “Who among us has experienced the betrayal, suffering and torture Jesus felt more than the victims?

I doubt the Vatican will ever get it. The layers upon layers that provide an impenetrable bubble around the Pope deny him any sense of what’s really happening. They are in total institution protection mode. But they are so misguided. Rather than protecting the institution, they are destroying it from within.

Category: Catholic Church

Comments (2)

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  1. Laurel says:

    That there continues to be evidence that the "image of the institution" was protected at the expense children and that there is even a possibility that the Pope by his action, or in his case inaction, could have contributed to this, has rocked me to the core.

    I therefore disagree with your suggestion that the Pope is in a bubble and unaware of what is actually happening. I find his current silence deafening while at the same time speaking volumes about his inclination – "continue to protect the institution."

    As Marian Wright Edelman said, "If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much." Where does the church really stand?

  2. Laurel says:

    Here is a priest who gets it. A thoughtful and hopeful article by Fr. James Martin author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

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