The Hurting, Healing Church
The Hurting, Healing Church
By John Mallon
From The Sooner Catholic; November 5, 1995
In this issue the Church confronts one of the most painful, shocking, scandalous, damaging, harmful, embarrassing and humiliating evils to have come to light in centuries: the abuse and sexual exploitation of children. Among the many indications of the profundity of this problem is that it is the only issue that can cause both so-called “left-wing” and “right wing” factions in the Church to stop accusing each other and hang their heads in shame and pray for God’s mercy on the Church.
At the same time the problem is certainly not unique to Catholicism. There are those who gloat whenever scandal rocks the Church and use it to confirm their own grudges against her. Some rejoice to see Catholic clergy caught in scandal. But objective studies show that Catholic clergy are proportionately no more prone to this perversion than married men, single men, or clergy of other religious denominations. Yet, because the world finds the Church’s witness to celibacy disturbing, since it points to the truth of the world to come, those with uneasy consciences take an unholy glee in the moral failures of those who bear this witness.
The Church exists to evangelize, that is, to proclaim the good news that Jesus has broken the power of sin, and that while we may still sin, we need not be enslaved to it. Sin is an addiction. We cannot fill the space within us that God designed only for Himself with any created good. To attempt to do so results in addiction since no created good can bear the responsibility. In this sense all sin is addiction, and all sin and addiction is idolatry — a violation of the first commandment. But, where sin abounds grace abounds all the more, and we have been blessed with the emergence of many various 12 step programs based on scriptural principles to aid in the healing of these pitfalls. The first step in overcoming our addiction (or sin) is to acknowledge it and our helplessness in the face of it.
Much life is wasted by the refusal to acknowledge sin as sin. The Church is reviled as putting people on “guilt trips.” This is a misunderstanding of both the Church and the healthy role guilt ought to play in our lives. Healthy guilt is an objective sense that we have done something wrong. In this sense, guilt is our friend. Like pain, it alerts us that something is out of order. Neurotic guilt, on the other hand, occurs when we have done nothing seriously wrong, and it may require the services of a counselor or other mental health professional. It also occurs in a very painful spiritual malady called scrupulosity, a fearful, tormenting guilt over the most insignificant things.
God does not want us to live like that, He wants to set us free, and all the resources for receiving this freedom are available in the Church. If you were the devil, and wanted to keep people in unnecessary torment and guilt, where would you strike? The Church, of course. Exploit the weakness of the Church’s ministers, seek to demolish trust and sow bitterness. But the gates of hell will not prevail. We have the Sacraments of Eucharist, and reconciliation. More and more people both lay and religious, are familiar with inner healing prayer, and healing of memories. If the Church seems intimidating to us because of our past, we can turn to Jesus in our hearts and ask Him for His healing, and ask Him to lead us to those of His people who will know just how to listen and care for us, and pray with us. It may surprise us to know they have felt very similar pain, and that the Lord chooses to work through broken vessels. And there we will be, in the midst of the hurting, healing Church. Jesus longs only to love us. Let us not keep Him waiting.
© By John Mallon, 1995, 2013, 2020
Much life is wasted by the refusal
to acknowledge sin as sin.