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Weeds among the Wheat: Facing Scandal (Again)

I am putting news links in this post out of a sense of responsibility, so you can see that I am not making this stuff up. However, for your peace of mind I do not recommend that you read the articles I have linked. If you feel the need to get the facts, please pray to the Holy Spirit for a grace of sanctification of the mind so that you do not suffer interior harm from what you will find in the news items.

We thought this was pretty much behind us. At least I did. When the Pope met with the bishops of Chile in May over the clergy sex abuse scandal in that nation, I thought that we in the north finally had our house in as much order as one could expect in this valley of tears. Ha! Just weeks later, "verifiable allegations" of sexual misconduct against a retired Cardinal brought it all back. Since then, more revelations have come forth, including a powerful testimonial by a priest who had been a seminarian under McCarrick in Newark but moved to Albany to escape the bishop's advances (as well as the sexual assaults of certain seminarians who had been emboldened by the bishop's abusive behavior).

This past week the anger levels on Catholic social media continued rising to combustible levels. Not only had McCarrick gotten away with his evil deeds (at least one case of abuse of a minor, and a number of accusations by adults who were they might say "trapped" under his jurisdiction), he clearly managed to do so with the help of friends in high places. It seems that McCarrick's misdeeds were shruggingly and silently tolerated even as he advanced from Bishop of Metuchen to Archbishop of Newark to Archbishop of Washington DC to Cardinal. So far no one (beginning with McCarrick) admits knowing anything. (According to a report by the New York Times, the serial abuses ended before 1994, after McCarrick was confronted by an auxiliary bishop and the Papal Nuncio.)

Early this morning (July 28), Pope Francis accepted McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals and assigned him to a "life of prayer and penance" while awaiting a canonical trial on the charges made against him. The Pope has yet to name a place where the disgraced cleric will live, but he is not permitting McCarrick a choice in that matter, either.

Thanks be to God.

It is a real sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church that while all this was going on, and especially over these past seven days, the liturgy has presented us with powerful readings from the prophet Jeremiah pronouncing "Woe!" to the false shepherds of God's people. And today it is the Gospel that encourages us in a parable that is quite a picture of our current situation.

Let me share with you some of my lectio divina on today's Gospel:
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
"The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?'
He answered, 'An enemy has done this.'
His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
"First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn."'"
The Kingdom of God may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
Everything comes from God, and everything will one day return to God. But it comes from God in an incomplete form, a seed; he lets his creation grow and develop in its own way, with a power he has given it. "God looked at all he had made, and he found it very good" (Gen 1:31). When it returns to God, its development will bear a creaturely stamp, but it will be made "complete in Christ" (Col 2:10).

While everyone was asleep...
Most of this ugly saga took place under Saint John Paul's watch (McCarrick was named a bishop by Pope Paul VI one year before John Paul's election). Is it possible that "everyone was asleep" because the Polish Pope was so charismatic that we put all our trust in him?

his enemy sowed weeds all through the wheat...
"Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens" (Eph 6:12). The sinner is not our enemy, but is in the grip of "the enemy of human nature." It is urgent that we pray for the perpetrator of the abuse and all who assisted (even if out of misplaced loyalty) in covering for him. "For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light" (Lk 8:17).

the crop grew and bore fruit...
These are very hope-filled words! The weeds do not appear until the wheat is already "bearing fruit for eternal life" (cf. Jn 4:36)! The harvest is within view; the crop has reached a certain maturity. There is just a little time left for the grain to fully ripen. "The Lord is near!" (Phil 4:5).

Let them grow together until harvest.
Admittedly, this is the hardest part to accept. Like the farm hands in the parable, I want to go into the field and ruthlessly tear out anything that even looks like a weed, not only in the Church, but in my own heart. God sees that this could be even more destructive than what the weeds alone can do. Besides, with time and grace, it is possible for the weeds in God's field to become wheat. He wants us to tread lightly on his farmland. Despite appearances to the contrary, God is still in charge.

Collect the weeds ... for burning
It seems unfathomable that someone can believe in the just judgment of God and carry on an elaborate system of seduction and abuse of power. This is where the dogma of Hell never ceases to be relevant. Not that we can claim that anyone has yet been consigned to eternal damnation, but it remains the truth that God and his love can be rejected. We can "love self to the point of hatred for God" (wasn't it Augustine who said that?).

Gather the wheat into my barn.

Heaven, total communion with God, corresponds to our nature and desire. God has granted us to learn this already, while we are still "planted" in the field, so we can live with a conscious and deliberate view to Heaven; so that we can look forward to it; taste it in anticipation and be refreshed in trials by the thought of it. That is a huge grace, and the parable ends on this high note. "God makes all things work together for the good for those who love him" (Rom 8:28). It is a call to all of us sinners to let the Word of the Lord work on us, to transform our weeds into wheat for the Kingdom.

This post first appeared on Nunblog, please read the originial post: here

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Weeds among the Wheat: Facing Scandal (Again)


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