The Bigger Agenda

Pope Francis has made one brief statement in response to the incriminating document released by former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò on Sunday. He said:

“I will not say one word on this. I think this statement speaks for itself, and you have sufficient journalistic capacity to reach your own conclusions. When time will pass and you’ll draw the conclusions, maybe I will speak. But I’d like that you do this job in a professional way.”

I have admired Pope Francis even before I was Catholic. I cheered his election as someone from the Western Hemisphere who had served the Church in a Latin culture and understood the concerns and issues of those of the Southern Hemisphere where the Church is growing and more dynamic than the Northern Hemisphere. I have wanted to give him every benefit of the doubt, even when some of his statements seemed problematic.

However on the topic of sexual abuse, his actions have not matched up to his earlier commitment of “zero tolerance” for those who use their position of power to abuse children, adolescents and even adults, specifically seminarians.

The situation in the U.S. is not unique. And the seeming slowness to respond to those who suffer has surfaced in Chile and Honduras most recently.

Not only is Pope Francis silent. But while we all watch and wonder, a self-appointed spokesman for the pope, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, spoke up to defend Francis in an interview with NBC News. He stated:

“The pope has a bigger agenda. He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”

Most faithful Catholics would agree that there is a time and a place to talk about the environment. And if we’re ranking issues, protecting migrants should be above the environment, in my humble opinion. However, the Church, especially her prelates will have no moral authority to carry on the work of the Church, protect migrants or worry about the environment, if first they do not in humility seek the truth, and root out the rottenness that allows this depravity to continue.

Thinking about Jesus, who is the founder of the Church, He has some specific words that seem to go to the heart of this:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30, NRSV)

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6 NRSV)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15, NRSV)

In love it is time to speak the truth as Jesus did. It is better for those who have authority in the Church to excise that thing that causes sin–lose that–better that, than end up eternally in hell! If by your actions, actively or passively, you place a stumbling block before God’s children who look to you for spiritual guidance, Jesus has a special millstone that will have your name engraved on it. And finally, if you are saying one thing with your mouth, but living a lie and leading the flock astray, not only are you a child of hell, but hell will be your destiny.

For the love of God, for the love of Christ’s Church, for the love of the flock, and for the care of your soul–if you are living a lie–it’s not too late to confess and surrender yourself to the mercy of Almighty God. If you don’t, you are no good to us or to Jesus Christ and His Church.

The BIG 4-0!

Forty years ago today Charlotte Lawn and Gary Wiley were united in holy matrimony in the Jamestown, NY, Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Both in our early twenties, we could not imagine at that time all that life would bring our way, as is true for every couple who begins their lives together. For all the things we didn’t know, there were two things we were committed to:

  1. Our relationship with Jesus Christ. We were willing to follow Him wherever He would lead us.
  2. Our relationship to each other. We expressed it that day by vowing that we would never let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26), and by promising each other that divorce would never be an option in our relationship.

And we lived happily ever after? That would not be an accurate description of the past forty years. There have been times of defeat, discouragement, disappointment, depression (me), and distance, if we’re honest. But the two things that we committed to before God served as a foundation for the potentially deadly “D’s” that came our way.

Over the years we had the privilege of offering premarital preparation for 50 plus couples, mostly in New York City, not typically thought of a great place to begin a marriage and see it thrive. The experience with each couple allowed us as mentors to work on our own relationship and share our experiences of how God was faithful in the early years, the child-rearing years, in the empty nest years, and in those years when the things we had hoped for didn’t always come to fruition.

Two and one-half years ago, we experienced an incredible blessing in our relationship when we had our marriage convalidated just a few days after coming into the Roman Catholic Church. What that means is that we “brought our marriage into the Catholic Church” and partook in the Sacrament of Matrimony, recognizing that our true vocation is that of being married and living out our sacrament before a watching world.

Looking back at the commitments we made 40 years ago, I’m so thankful. God’s mercy and grace were present to us then, even when the challenges of life were overwhelming. And now, we’re even more aware of God’s faithfulness.

Happy anniversary Charlotte! I am a blessed man! Here’s to 40 more! Saints Anne and Joachim, pray for us! Amen.