Growing in Holiness in the Face of Scandal
Father John Eckert, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salisbury, North Carolina, wrote the following to his flock in light of the scandals currently rocking the Church. It is reprinted here with Fr. John’s permission.
It was a unique feeling, to put it quite mildly, last Sunday to see a headline claiming that Pope Francis is being accused of covering up abuse by certain high ranking clerics. I saw the headline just before leaving the rectory to come to the church for the 8:00 am Mass. I didn’t have time to look into the matter, and hence, didn’t say anything about it at the Masses.
After having a little more time to read the statement by Archbishop Vigano’, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and to reflect upon what he wrote, here are a few thoughts speaking both from my role as Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and as a fellow disciple of Jesus Christ and member of His Body, the Church:
Cleansing fire can be awfully painful, but it is often necessary. If what the Archbishop wrote is true, and I would say both from my knowledge of him and simply what I have observed in the Church since entering the seminary that it is at the very least credible, then we are in for a challenging few months ahead as more revelations come to light.
As difficult as this may be, remember that our Lord told us that the Truth will make us free. If there is sinful rot in the Church, we need to pray that it is exposed, removed, and that true healing can then begin.
As I preached two Sunday’s ago, the power, validity, and reality of the Sacraments are not dependent upon the holiness of the priest, whether he is the newest ordained man in the Church or the Holy Father himself. We are members of the Church because of Jesus Christ; don’t let the poor example of His ministers keep you from coming to Him.
Do not stay so focused on the breaking scandals that you forget to do your part. It is far easier to sit back and watch the outpouring of commentary than it is to get to the handwork of prayer and penance involved in growing in holiness ourselves and doing our duty to make the Church better.
This is NOT to say “nothing to see here.” However, it certainly plays into the devil’s hands to spend so much time looking at the beams in prelates eyes that we forget to address the splinters in our own (quote switched around purposefully for effect).
Focus on your own circle of influence. Pope Francis and the prelates named in that report are highly unlikely to be visiting Salisbury anytime soon. Keep praying and participating right here at Sacred Heart…
Use this latest revelation that clerics have done evil to convince you that it is time to spend substantial weekly time with the author of all that is right and good, Jesus Christ. Come to adoration, pray for our Church, and ask our Lord to raise up Saints, even from right here in Salisbury, to show that true authentic faith is possible!
Finally, in light of the readings for this Sunday, root out any duplicity in your own life. The reason why all this is harder to take when it is priests rather than politicians is because we priests are supposed to know better. We are supposed to be in relationship with Jesus Christ. While that is an absolutely true statement for priests, it is for all the baptized as well.
Do not fall into the trap of condemning others while continuing to cover up anything in your own life that you know to be sinful. To be free of sin and have nothing to hide is essentially the definition of peace. May everyone of us enjoy that kind of enduring peace!
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I know this is beyond a trying time. Please know that I am in this with you, I pray for you daily, and will continue to do all that I can for you as your pastor, and with you as a fellow disciple of Jesus Christ.
May Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows and Mother of the Church, pray for us and keep us strong even at the foot of the cross that we may experience the glory of the Resurrection.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
September 1, 2018