jeudi, novembre 30, 2006

Evil in the church, goodness on the cross

Recently it has been popular for intellectuals unfriendly to organized religion to attack it on the grounds that the institutions have been responsible for promoting mass murder, crusades, pogroms and encouraging engineers to fly planes into buildings. While flashy and certainly annoying to those of religious sensibility, this argument ultimately fails to convince. The reason? It doesn't account for the millions, perhaps billions of other believers throughout the centuries who have quietly done good in the name of their particular faith. What I personally find a more compelling argument against religious institutions is meeting people who trusted the institution and its representatives and were deeply, sometimes forever harmed by them. The diocese of Pennsylvania has recently been roiled by Bishop Charles Bennison's alleged involvement or lack of involvement in the sexual abuse perpetrated by his brother when he was a youth director at Bishop (then Father) Bennison's parish back in the 70's. In this diocese, the allegations have been the occasion for outrage. As more and more victims come forward to talk about their abuse by some Roman Catholic priests, victims and general public alike are plunged into the legacy of evil behavior by very, very sick men in the name of God. From cardinals to office clerks, church bureaucrats turned their heads while the lives of innocents were destroyed. Is it not understandable that some of these women and men cannot bear to walk back into the house of the family in which they were betrayed? God help us. The men and women who turned their heads and pretended not to see should be on their knees asking for forgiveness on behalf of the faith they represent. I myself have felt betrayed by church leaders I trusted. I was broken-hearted as lay leaders I cared about stood silently and let my reputation (or so I felt) be tarnished by gossip. The journey to forgiveness has been long and hard, and it's not over yet. Every now and again something occurs to push me back into the trauma of those months of public humiliation. But I don't get these men, like me so very broken, confused with my Savior. He's the guy who was hated by many of the religious authorities and secular authorities of his time. He's the man who was given into his enemies hands by one of his friends. He's the prophet, king and Messiah who let Himself be crucified so that he could experience our death and offer up our pain for our redemption. When old wounds are open, and my tears fall again, it is to His feet that I crawl-ultimate victim and final Victor.

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