Archive for July 12th, 2011

Cleansing the Temple

 Now the Jewish feast of Passover was near,  so Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  He found in the temple courts people selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers sitting at tables.  So he made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen. He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold the doves he said, “Take these things away from here! Do not make my Father’s house a marketplace!”  His disciples remembered that it was written, “Passion for your house will devour me.”   -John 2: 13-17

It seems it will never end, this unraveling of the Church.

First the abuse scandal. When it began in the 80s it seemed to many that it was a direct result of the moral relativism that had dominated the Church for so long. At least that is what “orthodox” Catholics told themselves. That was a comforting narrative, no doubt, but I was skeptical, not least because I knew a guy from my seminary days who had been convicted of abusing a boy in his early teens.

The Wanderer had reported the story, or rather, distorted the story. In their wishful take on it, the man was a liberal, and what did you expect?

But he was most definitely not any kind of liberal. He was temperamentally conservative, politically conservative, and held to a conservative approach to theology. He thought I was a dangerous radical and I thought he was just another company man.

So I never took that self-serving interpretation seriously and at this point no one can make that case.

For we have seen a long line of priests fall, and most of them were identified with the “conservative” wing of the Church. Many of them were founders and members of the newer orders, the ones so many saw great hope in: The Legionnaires, of course, but also SOLT, The Society  of St John, more than one of the Latin Mass orders.  Even my old community of reform Capuchins saw a young friar convicted for abusing young boys, which was a horrible shock to everyone familiar with them.

Fr Corapi is only the latest and most flamboyant example of the high flying priest who crashes and burns. I am relieved by only two things in his ongoing tale.

The first is that he has gone out with such outrageous antics that he has lost all but the most diehard of his followers, so the damage he is likely to do is less than if he had taken a more nuanced approach.

The second is that at least this priest had sins I can understand; he was involved with adult women. Almost a relief, sad to say. I am not particularly hard on the sins of the flesh, though of course vows, whether religious or marital, add a whole other dimension to the thing. And the fact that he cohabited with a woman changes the nature of the sin pretty dramatically. A lonely guy, stressed out and vulnerable, in the wrong place at the wrong time? I can understand that. But to live with a woman? That implies a level of premeditation that is much more grave.

What is puzzling in both the case of Fr Corapi and Fr Maciel is the fact that they could live with themselves. Think of it: they preach before thousands of admirers, receive all this adulation, give their blessing, then go home to their concubines and their dope.

How could they do this? What was going on inside them?

I have some small experience of unmerited adulation: I have written things from time to time that have inspired people, and when I have met folks who have been so inspired I have sometimes seen admiration in their eyes, like they thought because I could write something that was true or beautiful that I must be holy or something. This has often happened at a moment when I felt like I was on the losing end of a battle with some sin or other, and it is totally mortifying. How anyone could enjoy someone admiring them as something they know they are not is beyond me.

But apparently there are people who eat it up.

I believe that the technical term for such people is “whited sepulchers”, which is what Our Lord called the apparently righteous, who basked in the adulation of their peers.

Now to have a sepulcher ripped open is not pleasant. In fact it stinks to high heaven. But it is better than being deceived.

This is the age of the cleansing of the Temple. Our Saviour, who described Himself as “meek and lowly of heart” (other translations say “gentle and humble of heart) nevertheless took up a whip and chased the usurers and merchants out of the Temple. And apparently He is doing so again in the Temple that is the Church.

He is not going to stop until every last mercenary preacher is gone, all these professional Catholics flying First Class, or sponsoring “Catholic cruises” or turning Pilgrimage, which is supposed to be penitential,  into luxury travel, or feasting at a posh hotel the night before the March for Life, when we should be fasting, or living it up on the dime of the faithful, or would-be reformers who think that the way to do it is to raise millions and build a nice monastery, as if it were Field of Dreams, instead of hunkering down in a cave and pursuing God.

Away with them all, out the door with all the detritus of bourgeois Catholicism.

And please don’t think I’m something I’m not because I can write this….

Art by  Jhoti Sati

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