Sinners Anonymous: the Cross of Christ

7 Apr

The Church sex abuse scandal exploded onto the front pages in 2001, right around the time I was confirmed. Since then, my adult life has been punctuated by this painful unfolding of the worst kinds of sins, which were sinfully covered up. The Church has been marred to the point that it causes one to ask: how one can be a member of this organization? Think of it: little ones exploited by some priests, who were then protected by bishops, including one who anointed my head at my confirmation.  Am I just holding onto faith from habit? How can I invite others into the Church? Why “rediscover Catholicism,” when some of our leaders who sheltered child rapists, seem to have never discovered Catholicism at all?

I love the Church like crazy. Her churches, her schools, the grumpy old men bringing up the collection, the crazy old lady muttering her rosary; every inch of Her, I love. I want bishops and priests to shepherd us. I believe in the Church as a spiritual communion and the hierarchy and laity working together are the bones and muscle of that spiritual body. I love the Church and I believe She is the surest way to the One who offers salvation to us all, when a new scandal breaks, it hurts me and engages me.

Christ Carrying the Cross - Hieronymus Bosch

Christ Carrying the Cross – Hieronymus Bosch

How do I justify staying and inviting others to return/join? Because, I am a sinner. I am grumpy, moody, arrogant, I drink too much, think about sex too much, and I would rather eat a burger than help the poor. I have never done what some bishops and priests did, but I do sin and I need a home with sinners. Jesus did not come to call the righteous; he came to call sinners and he did a really good job. Look at the people who surrounded Jesus at the beginning of the Church–apostles, prostitutes, tax collectors, Pharisees—all were sinners. And today? Priests, nuns, bishops, laity, and, me: all are sinners. We are like an AA group, a bunch of recovering addicts led by recovering addicts. Fr. Romano Guardini wrote “The Church is the Cross on which Christ is always crucified. One cannot separate Christ from his bloody, painful Church.” Our Sinner’s Anonymous group is carried on Christ’s back.

God calls us into this Sinners Anonymous group. He surrounds Himself with sinners because under all of our sins, God plants and nurtures the good in us. It is in the Church, the Sinners Anonymous, that God makes saints (recovered sinners). God calls some of these recovering sinners to have families, some to join monasteries, some to become priests, and some to wear funny hats and to bear the authority that comes with them. I am not excusing anyone, nor do I deny the need for reform in the Church. I am just trying to explain why I stay and why I am inviting you to join. We all need help, maybe not as much as the child rapists and those who protected them, but we too are called to humble ourselves, to see our addiction to sin, and to find the steps of recovery the Church proposes. I stay because I believe the Church is the best place for the recovering sinners who have always surrounded Christ, and will until the day when God recovers all His sinners and transforms us into saints.

– Terence Sweeney

2 Responses to “Sinners Anonymous: the Cross of Christ”

  1. Kathy April 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    Thank you, Terence. I was very surprised to see an opinion from ‘the pews’ published in ‘the media’. Thanks for expressing how so many of us (1.2 billion?) feel. Many regards.

  2. savvylegacy April 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Reblogged this on Savvy Legacy.

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