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I dunno why, but all my life I’ve always felt to be in solidarity with those who are beaten down unjustly. I feel the injustice as if it is happening to me, right here, right now. No transference rubbish, just solidarity.
Some say that’s a bad thing, like those who “live the news” 24/7 more as an adrenaline fix — the “power of being in the know” — rather than anything to do with love for mankind.
I think it has more to do with a hightened sense of what it means to know one’s humanity before the Lord who has loved all of us so very much. This is about grief, which surges from love.
It’s not that I feel sorry for anyone. As our Lord says, we will all be salted with fire (Mark 9,49). There’s no getting out of that. Feeling sorry for someone merely adds to the burden of the one who is being unjustly treated. I mean, how does one respond to the wimpering of someone feeling oh so very sorry for you? Give me a break!
Remember what our Lord said to the women of Jerusalem who had the gall to feel sorry for Him and weep for Him, instead of truly being in solidarity with Him.
Luke 23,27 A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. 28 Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, 29 for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ 31 for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” [NAB]
If their tears were about repentance for sins, for how much harm they caused Jesus by their sins and are sorry for this out of love for Him, well, that would be great. But this is not what they are up to. They are merely lamenting a change in the status quo of the way things were, thinking it was better to have Jesus around for themselves than not. Not good. Can that be redirected? Only if we get over lamenting catastrophic persecution and grow up, not “feeling sorry” for Jesus or ourselves, but rather being in solidarity with His great work of redemption and salvation, which requires… what?… if not enthusiasm, joy and a good sense of humor? Sorrow, in the sense of grief, which comes from love, also admits of putting oneself forward with all solidarity in all enthusiasm, joy and a good sense of humor. The humor comes with the irony of our Lord having the likes of us for His friends.
At any rate, I remember only one other time I’ve been so distressed. I might recount that in the autobiography I might be able to write some day. That sorrow had to do with an aspect of the life of the Church about which Saint Robert Bellarmine said this: “The Church has never been closer to falling into hell.” I think I had the same sensation, the same depth of the same fright. It shakes one’s very being.
From time to time one’s vision of the hell the Lord stepped into in order to save us can become a bit clearer. That happened in another way a while back, when I asked you readers to prayer the Saint Michael prayer for a certain intention and then again for yourselves and the others who are praying this prayer. Keep this up, if you would. Another pray-er whom I’ve known a very long time said that she was getting physically harassed by one of Satan’s minions… Yikes!
Anyway, this sorrow (in the good sense of solidarity in seeing what needs to be done), is the matter of good soldiering in this Church Militant. Sorrow, in this sense, is the basis upon which mercy is provided. It is the misery-of-heart of miseri-cordia, allowing mercy, the fulfilment of a need, to take place. One isn’t to “feel sorry” for the father of the prodigal son just because his heart was sacrificed (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη) upon seeing his son. Rather, one is run alongside of him, in all solidarity, as he rushes out to his son, feeling what the father is feeling in having his heart sacrificed for his son. It’s a matter of solidarity. How awful it would have been if someone were to block the father’s progress to his son, telling him to feel sorry for himself and his ailing heart, and to forget about the son altogether for his own good! No, feeling sorry for someone is not the way to go. It is immensely frustrating to everyone. At its root, I’m convinced that people who “feel sorry” for others, often condescendingly, have rejected our Lord’s economy of salvation, thinking that all pain and suffering is absolutely evil, and that no good can come from it, ever. But I’m not going to feel sorry for such people! I will pray in solidarity with our Lord that they get their act together and become joyful and enthusiastic in all solidarity. Yikes!
At any rate, my vision of the hell into which the Lord stepped became all the more clear some days ago. What occasioned this sorrow — much like my previous bout with very profound sorrow — also has to do with the Church as a whole. It’s a kind of proverbial canary in the coal mine. If it drops dead on you, you know it’s not long before you’re dead as well, with canaries being more immediately susceptible to poisonous gases than men, though not by much. One can be so sorrowful but then still have a good day at, say, the Chrism Mass, though that sorrow is omnipresent, stressing out every fiber of one’s being on all levels.
So, what brought all this on you ask? It’s something that I think pretty much everyone would condemn me about, thinking I’m crazy to have such thoughts, exclaiming that I have all my priorities about justice and mercy upside down. Just so you know, before you click away from this post, I’ve just seen that proverbial canary in the coal mine, dead. Not a pretty sight. The full weight of the significance of that dead canary has slammed into my soul full strength.
As Holy Souls Hermitage readers know, this hermit has been a bit naive in regard to the sufferings of some of our priests in Holy Mother Church, even though, ironically, the hermitage is being offered for priests going through the purgatory of this life and the next, whatever that purgatory might entail. One of the things regarding which I was so oblivious is the plight of falsely accused and wrongly convicted priests, such as Father Gordon MacRae, whose accuser boasts that he lied to get money, the witnesses for whom now say that they all lied to get money as well. That set me off on a series of posts on the blog that you know well.
So, again, what happened? I had a long telephone call with someone who knows pretty much everything there is to know — inside out, upside down, backwards and forwards — regarding sexual abuse committed by clergy in the U.S.A. This conversation was my effort to understand the situation better.
We spoke of none of that, for the lot of it was a given for the both of us. There is something even worse. I knew about this “even worse” problem, but did not realize the extent of it. Now I know. There was no way I could have known. But he knows all this on an experiential level, that is, in his personal dealings with those involved. There may be no one who knows more about all this outside of our Holy Father. So, this fellow knows what he’s talking about.
What he said is that even if a priest were to be totally exonerated, so that the accuser and any witnesses repented of lying, so that the prosecutors and judges repented of bearing false witness and knowingly convicting an innocent man, so that all those involved made a public confession and did public penance for their sin of calumny and wrongful imprisonment, even then, he said, he did not know of even one single bishop in the United States who would take him as he came out of prison. Not even one.
“Not even one?!”I exclaimed. “No,” he insisted, like I was from Mars and had no idea at all of what was going on in the Church in the U.S.A.: “No!”
He explained that there is a matter of public perception. Anyone who is accused, however falsely, and however exonerated, will surely nevertheless be treated as guilty forever, no matter what. It’s a kind of Caiphas the High Priest prophesy thing:
John 11,49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, 50 nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.”
Let’s change the words of that just a bit:
But one of them, called “Public Perception”, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the bishops risking losing face, in which case all would surely be lost.”
So, with that, the canary is dead, and so are we all. If the bishops can be just so unjust in this, they can be that unjust also in other things. People will lose any remaining shred of confidence they might have had.
But is it really all that bad?
I, for one, think that he’s wrong. I think that there are some bishops, perhaps few, but some, who would take such a priest, knowing that there would be only one way possible to do this, and that would not be to assign the priest quietly to a desk job or as some sub-assistant in residence at some nursing home, in which case the anti-Catholic press would throw a nutty, realizing that the bishop still thought the priest to be guilty, but reassigned him anyway.
The only way would be to welcome such a priest with a grand homecoming, the homecoming deserving of a martyr who survived with his life, somehow vomited up by the lions, somehow healed of burning, somehow no longer decapitated, somehow alive once again, a hero, who has witnessed for Christ, who has suffered in perfect solidarity with those who have been true victims. The only way would be to assign him, then, as, for instance, the pastor of some very prominent parish. That’s the only way.
Sure, the mass media would throw a nutty, but this would only be very temporary. It would last only as long as it took for the bishop to explain that such a priest, more than anyone, is an advocate for true victims, someone who has suffered in solidarity with them, someone who was raped by those bearing false witness in their efforts to rape true victims all over again, using the sufferings of true victims as a vehicle by which to get money for themselves, efforts to rape again and again, which the mass media have only promoted. Yes, that would shut the mass media up quickly. And it would give true victims a view of reality in which there are, in fact, priest-heroes on their side, who are in solidarity with them.
And that, my friends, would be a great way to break the diabolical grip that is strangling the Church. When once the logic of Caiaphas is abandoned, when once justice for all is protected, when once a bishop will look after and defend his priests publically, that is when “Public Perception” will change to be in favor of the Church and truly in favor of true victims. That is when we might start to see some journalists convicted in RICO lawsuits…
This takes a great deal of prayer, of sacrifice. But all it takes is one bishop to do this, and much, very much will begin to change. Such would be a watershed. This would be a great grace for the Church.
Further above I mentioned that this betrayal of good priests for the sake of Public Perception was even worse than the suffering of the victims of abuse. That might seem rather obtuse, which might surely seem to be an understatement, but let me explain…
Bishops are to be fathers of their diocesan families of faith. All are their spiritual children. No one is expendable. However, priests are, in virtue of Holy Orders, more closely connected as sons to the bishop than any others. Just as the difference between the priesthood of the laity and that of the ministerial priesthood differs essentially and not only degree, just so the killing off of his own priests for the sake of public perception (by rejecting an innocent priest) differs essentially and not only in degree with his killing off his non-ordained spiritual children for the sake of public perception (for instance, by reassigning a guilty priest). The killing of his own priests is in a very real sense a kind of suicide. In that case, the canary in the coal mine is non-resusitatably dead, rotting.
But with Jesus being the Lord of History, the canary is still alive… And, I believe that the face of the American episcopacy is changing. I believe that there are even more than a few bishops who are willing to risk whatever with public perception in order to do what is right before God and man. All it takes is one. Very many more will follow when they see the great graces which follow upon not betraying one’s priests, when they see the whole abuse problem come full circle in favor of both priests and true victims.
Just to say: that angel, I think, would just about kill anyone who felt sorry for our Lord instead of being in solidarity with Him in His mission! And the angel wouldn’t feel sorry about it one bit. And the angel does not feel sorry for the Lord. The angel is there to help push Him along in His mission to suffer and die for us (Luke 22,43) ! ! !
UPDATE: Of course, there is nothing worse than being a true victim of abuse. Let’s be clear. That’s incomparably worse than any priest getting falsely accused and treated as guilty after being exonerated. It’s a privilege for the priest to suffer as did Christ Jesus. It’s a privilege for him to be in perfect solidarity with victims. True victims suffer horrifically. What I was talking about in this post is the state of some ecclesiastics! Let’s be clear about that! Yikes!
By the way: A note on hope! Just to say, I wrote this post in a spirit of hope, actually. The thing is that I myself didn’t know anything about the plight of falsely accused and wrongly convicted priests. If I can all of a sudden be on board with the education provided by Father Gordon (thanks, Father!), then this is, of course, also very possible for others, including bishops. I mean, I’m a total idiot, and, if apart from grace, bad and evil. I have to think that bishops can do much, much better than me with all this if they but had a bit of an education such as I had in reading TheseStoneWalls!
Standing guard while the ladies forage in the forest…
Meanwhile, the ladyslippers are coming up thick as grass in honor of the Immaculate Conception…