Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wheat and Weeds in the Catholic Church

"Therese" left the following comment to my first post on Jesus Christ and the salvation of non-Christians:
Here's one for ya.

I left the Catholic Church about 25 years ago. I was sick of the hierarchical, misogynistic mess. And knowing I couldn't change a 2000 year old church, I left. Besides, my brother was raped by a priest as a kid. I just couldn't go there anymore.

Fast-forward 20 years. I'm now hooked up with a priest through volunteer work. He invites me to his parish. He offers to tutor me so I can come back to the Church. After 2 years of arguing with the guy, I decided to try it.

3 months later, he cuts off my studies, does NOT explain anything directly to me, and tells my best friend he has fallen in love with me. He then sends me a letter ordering ME to find another parish.

His reward? An eventual (2 years later) transfer and a promotion, to "Very Reverend". The Bernard Law School of Career Advancement strikes again.

I'm happily an agnostic now, and will NEVER trust "Holy Mother Church" again. NEVER.

Am I going to Hell? If so, at least I should have some company.
First of all, I want to say that I completely understand why you feel such a lack of trust in the Church. Some of her more wretched members have certainly treated your poorly, and I think it would be difficult for any of us to say with certainty what we would do if we were in the same situation as you. It's just tough.........extremely tough.

Also, I know the effect that sexual abuse by a priest can have on a person. Someone close to me was violated by a priest, and it has had devastating effects on his life. When I hear of things like this, the same sentiment wells up in me that motivated the words of our Lord when he said, "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" (Lk 12:49). We know that when He comes again, the weeds will be separated from the wheat, and cast into the fire (cf. Mt 13:30). But, until then, they must live among us.

Can it be any other way? None of us are perfect. That weeds will exist among the wheat is inevitable. We too have been weeds in the Church at one time or another. We all sin, and this has a wounding effect on the Body of Christ. We can only pray for the increase of our own personal holiness, and for this same increase in others.

Furthermore, we must not allow the scandal of the weeds to overshadow the nurturing effect of the wheat in the Church. There are sinners in the Church......but there are also saints, good and hoy men and women who love the Church and who try diligently and daily to bring the presence of Christ to everyone they meet. People like that seem rare, don't they? I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Where were the saints when Fr. So-and-So was doing this to me?" But, they are there. Seek them out and you will find them.

Remember that saints don't seek the limelight like sinners do. They don't want attention or glory from those around them. They seek only to go about humble lives in service to the Lord. This often means that they are overlooked and disrespected. No news reporters clamor to interview them or write articles about them. But, go wherever good is being done and you will find them.

The sins of Her members have caused the Church to be labeled many derogatory things. She is "misogynistic", "pedophilic", "selfish", "heavy-handed", and even "murderous". But, the representatives of any organization or group of people are the ones who are faithful to the organization. In the faithful is everything that the organization hopes to be in the world.

When they live lives of faith, hope, and charity, when they decrease so that He may increase, when they sacrfice themselves for love of neighbor, they "make up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ" (Col 1:24). They build up the Church. They heal the wounds and the divisions that are caused by sin in the world. Our hope is in them and we must pray that we can be more like them.

But, Therese, I'm sure that all of this is of little solace to you now. It's difficult to hope in the merits of the saints when so much sin has effected your life. I'm sure it's difficult to imagine that any good can come from the Church, when Her priests --the very people who are supposed to represent her-- have hurt you so deeply. I simply want you to know that much good has come from the Church, and that She is in the business not of hurting people, but of leading them to Christ. Unfortunately, some people within Her do not wish to live out this mission, but She seeks every day for the conversion of their hearts.

As to your question about hell, I cannot say what your eternal reward will be. I know that the abuse you have experienced surely mitigates how guilty you are for leaving the Church. I know that it is possible to achieve healing and resolution of everything that has happened to you. I know that, as long as you have breath in your lungs, you have the opportunity to turn back to God and to take back all the good that was stolen from you by the evil in this world. I know that, as long as wheat exists with the weeds, there is hope...........and hope is what keeps us alive.

Therese, I pray that this was helpful. Perhaps you were not even looking for my help, but it was help that I desired to give. I know that this response was not perfect. Please excuse the inadequacies found therein.

Pax Christi,


Tiber Jumper said...

O Phat One!
That was so Phat!
I wish that all could read that when they hear of the scandals.
We also forget:
Peter lied, Jesus Died...but the Church still grew and flourished!! Because of the TRUTH!! (Not the earthen vessels that hold it)

Anonymous said...

Smart gal.

Eventually even the dullest blades get taken to the grindstone to be "sharpened up."

phatcatholic said...

anon............i didn't understand your post. can you explain what you are trying to say?

Floo said...

I tend to think of the Church as a beautiful apple tree with every branch heavy with apples. Some apples appear to be ripe but are rotten inside,some get knocked off the tree by a strong wind. Those who get knocked off the tree aren't bad apples, they just need someone to lift them off the ground.
The sex abuse scandals knocked alot of good apples off the Tree, but it's never too late to allow yourself to be lifted from among those rotting apples on the ground & become a part of the crop again.

phatcatholic said...

That's an appropriate image floo. It is reminiscent of the metaphor that Paul uses of branches being cut off and grafted to the olive tree (cf. Rom 11:16-24).

Anonymous said...

This was an edifying reflection. It is painful when members of the Church misrepresent Christ in their deeds. To some extent we are all guilty of this, but some cases are certainly grave. We can pray for healing, and that those who have been torn away from the family may one day be restored. When one member is hurting, all members hurt with them.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea whether the person who made the claims was correct or not because all I read were unsubstantiated alegations but you don't seem to have a problem accepting unsubstantiated alegations. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

If the person who posted knows that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ and still leaves the church then his/her salvation is in peril.

Anonymous said...

All the allegations about the sex abuse by Catholic priests has hurt us all Catholics very very deeply. It has cut us right through our hearts. If only you can imagine how deeply hurt we are, you would have come back to the church of Christ and live again with the faithfulls. That is why the parable of the weeds will explain to you the meaning of existants among the Evil One and his contemporaries.
Take heart girl, the church does not belong to us humans but it is God's. So be brave, re-enter and find the wheat among the weeds. We are here.Wait for the Lord's coming so He can bnudle the weeds and burn them in the furnace.

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