As a priest and pastor I work very closely with others, both clergy, religious and laity, who work for the Church and also volunteer. And of course all of us work for the Church, often for lower salaries than we could command elsewhere, because we love the Church and her people.
But along with that love comes, at times a disappointment, hurt or even disillusionment. Perhaps it is just the local problems of parish that are found in any gathering of human beings: gossip, hurtful actions, hypocrisy, power struggles, wrongful priorities, favoritism, injustice and so forth.
And while these things happen everywhere, many somehow hope there will be less of it in the Church. So who have come to work for the Church began by thinking, “What a wonderful thing, to work for a church (instead of in the cut-throat business world etc). Perhaps they envisioned a place where people prayed together and supported each other more, perhaps a place where there was less competition, and strife.
Alas, such hopes are usually set aside early for any who work for the Church. We are after all running a hospital of sorts. And just like hospitals tend to attract sick people, so the Church attracts sinners and those who struggle. Jesus was found in strange company, such that the Pharisees, were scandalized. He rebuked them saying People who are well do not need a doctor, sick people do. I have come to call sinners, not the righteous. (Mk 2:17)
And thus idealistic notions of working in and for the Church often give way quickly when the phone rings with an impatient parishioner on the line, or when two group leaders argue over who gets to use the hall, or when the pastor is irritable and disorganized, or when the maintenance engineer is is found to be drinking on the job, or certain members of the choir are making anything but harmony, or when some parishioners who are favorites get attention and access from the old guard leaders, and newcomers are resisted.
And then, of course there are the more serious and wider issues such as the betrayal of clergy sexual abuse; or the deep disappointments that sometimes come from a lack of courage and leadership from bishops and priests; the scandal of dissent in the highest levels such as universities, seminaries and so forth; the acceptance of money from questionable sources; questionable partnerships with anti-life and and anti-Catholic organizations; the breakdown of discipline; the strange severity over some infractions, and the almost total laxity toward other problems. The list could on.
In all these sorts of situations, be they mere irritation, disappointment or deep disillusionment, I keep a little prayer card near my desk, that I sometimes read for my own benefit, and sometimes to share with those who feel discouraged at what happens (or does not happen) in the Church. At critical moments, I slide the card out and read it to myself or to others, especially those who love the Church and work closely with her.
It is a beautiful mediation for it recalls how great love often generates the deepest disappointments. But in the end, love still abides.
I realize that many who read here have great love for mother Church, and also deep disappointments. And I apologize that I cannot post all your comments in this regard. But I do understand, great love can also provoke great shock and anger. But, at the end of the day, this is a blog that seeks to instill greater love for the Church and for faith, not to further inflame anger.
That said, we all know that people disappoint, and thus the Church, filled with people, disappoints too. I DO understand even if I cannot always grant the forum desired to vent those concerns.
Consider however the following words. They are perhaps overstated in places. But love has its excesses. Take these words as a kind of elixir that, even if excessive, will hopefully speak to the pain that love sometimes causes. But in the end, love is what remains. Here are the words I often share with those freshly hurt:
How baffling you are, Oh Church,
and yet how I love you!
How you have made me suffer,
and yet how much I owe you!
I would like to see you destroyed,
and yet I need your presence.
You have given me so much scandal
and yet you have made me understand what sanctity is.
I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity,
more compromised, more false,
and yet I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful.
How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face,
and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.
No, I cannot free myself from you,
because I am you, though not completely.
And besides, where would I go?
Would I establish another?
I would not be able to establish it without the same faults,
for they are the same faults I carry in me.
And if I did establish another,
it would be my Church,
not the Church of Christ. – Carlo Carretto in “The God Who Comes”
Yes, where else would I go?