See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Friday, October 02, 2009

Another look at what scandal is and does.


From my POV.
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Many people now know about the arrest of Canadian Bishop Lahey on child pornography charges.
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Once hailed as a brave advocate for survivors of child sexual abuse, Mr. Lahey faces one count of possession and one count of importation of child pornography, after the discovery of images on his laptop computer at Ottawa's airport while he was returning from a foreign visit on Sept. 15.
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Mr. Lahey is well known in Nova Scotia as the bishop who did what no previous Catholic leader had done before: accept responsibility and apologize -- without any resort to litigation -- for the sex-abuse crimes of a former priest in his diocese.
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The victims of that abuse, dating back to the 1950s, are now eligible for compensation from a $15-million out-of-court settlement Lahey negotiated earlier this year.

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Mr. Lahey was in the midst of a difficult fundraising effort across his diocese to generate money for the settlement, when he was pulled aside by Canada Border Services agents for a random check of his laptop at Ottawa International."
Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2055255#ixzz0Sn7PPfOg
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I think it possible, and I hope it is true, that this bishop is innocent of the charges and that the material on his laptop was simply part of his private investigation and research. In the meantime, I noticed on another blog that people in his diocese are talking about leaving the Church if these rumors prove to be true.
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Commenter's mean well when they say things like, "I will not leave because of some man's sin or bad example. If these people really knew their faith - they would not leave the Church." On one level that makes sense and I understand the goodwill behind that statement - nevertheless a bishop's fall from grace, if it be true, is huge. Bishops are our shepherds in the faith - they are our leaders and teachers in the faith. When they fall, or when a priest falls, it is a terrible scandal.
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The effects of scandal.
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Scandal leads to sin and many times, loss of faith. One's faith can be shaken even when one claims to know one's faith. The bishops and priests who scandalize the faithful by their sins and or apostasy, they too know their faith - just as well if not better than the people they lead. And yet - they betray the faith, fall into sin, and sometimes apostatize entirely.
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So we should never think we are safe from scandal because we know our faith. We shouldn't be too harsh about those who leave the Church because of scandal. Catholics have to understand that this is exactly what scandal does and means - to scandalize someone is to cause them to sin, to lose faith. If the accusations against Bishop Lahey are proven to be true, this bishop scandalized his people.
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We need to pray for the real victims - the people who are scandalized and the victims of the pornography industry. As for the Bishop, if the charges are true, unless he repents and makes amends it would have been better if he had never been born.
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St. Paul explains that our brothers and sisters in faith who are scandalized are weak - Christ refers to them as little ones - they have faith, but it is weak, and scandal can rob them of it.
"Extend a kind welcome to those who are weak in faith... we must no longer pass judgement on one another. Instead you should resolve to put no stumbling block or hindrance in your brother's way." - Romans 14. Knowledge of the faith is not a competition, someone who appears to be unaffected by a public sin because his faith is strong is not better than the believer whose faith is weak and suffers scandal. It is not the same thing as priding oneself upon scholastic achievement while disparaging the under-educated.
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Little children (simple, ordinary folk) do not have to understand the faith in order to believe. In truth, anyone can have the gift of faith taken away or destroyed by those who cause scandal. Especially when the ones who cause scandal are those who know the faith, who understand the faith - those who have ears to hear, eyes to see, and so on.
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People have to understand this and stop feeling sorry and making excuses for the bastards who take advantage of their positions to exploit the weak and give scandal to little ones. "Scandals will inevitably arise, but woe to him through whom they come. He would be better off thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck than giving scandal to one of these little ones." - Luke 17
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Intellectual pride.
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Today we place so much emphasis on intellectual knowledge and knowing the answers to theological questions, that isn't a bad thing at all. That is why the Catholic Church has a catechism, and why those in positions of leadership and teaching are trained in theology. It is a good thing. Nevertheless, our knowledge and academic achievements often become for us a source of pride and self-assurance. Our knowledge will not save us - our faith will. Yes, we must nurture our faith with prayer, the sacraments, and study, and exercise it in good works - but we need to remember it is a gift and can be lost... Lost though it can be, one still retains all of that knowledge.
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Think of the people who left the Church who know our religion, our faith better than ourselves. I know a woman at a Catholic company who knew just about every Vatican document, understood dogma and knew her scriptures. She left the Church and returned to her old religion, Wicca. She still works at the same company because she is so knowledgeable about the faith and Catholic devotions.
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I know another woman who had been a novice with a well known religious order - a "good one" as people like to qualify them. Her spiritual director was a fine priest from a traditional order, well known for his sound theology and spirituality, a priest faithful to prayer - rising in the night for adoration - even when he was spending the night in the same bed with his little novice. They both knew their faith, and practiced the devotions to sustain it. Father had been helping sister through some sexual difficulties through his interpretation of JPII's theology of the body. Kind of scandalous huh? She is no longer a candidate for religious life and is having troubles with her faith.
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I once prided myself on believing so firmly and completely in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, my faith "fixed on Jesus" convinced me that my own faith could never be shaken. Until two religious superiors I greatly esteemed abandoned their vocations, one to found a new order, the other to pursue an academic career and "come out". I knew my faith. I had experienced many graces. My eyes were fixed upon Jesus. I couldn't admit it at the time, nevertheless I was deeply scandalized - my faith was shaken, and I fell away - for a couple of years. It is a miracle that I came back.
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I hope to never, ever again say things like - "How can they leave just because some man sinned or disappointed them - I know my faith, I understand my faith - I'm not going."
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Understand the faith - what does that mean anyway? Can anyone explain the Trinity? Transubstantiation? The Virgin Birth? The Immaculate Conception? Peter knew Christ was the Son of God, yet he denied him. Judas, who was anything but honest, betrayed him. They both knew their faith. A person could speculate that one man, Peter, had been scandalized and therefore fell away. While the other man, Judas, became a part, if not the source of scandal - thus it was better for him to have never been born.

16 comments:

  1. Terry,

    I think you make solid points, and make them well.

    Still, I wonder if it's fair to offer a reminder to those who do leave because they are scandalous that our faith is not (or ought not be) in men--good, bad or indifferent. Our faith is in God.

    My sense is that too many people never had, or didn't have enough of, faith in God--in God! Instead, I think we are tempted to have faith in our faith, or faith in the impression of the faith we have or whatever.

    When the rubber meets the road and we are emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, maybe physically, and perhaps, in some sense, spiritually, ripped apart by scandal, is there not still God there who is calling out to us for faith in Him, to see beyond the scandal and to take Him at His word?

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  2. Patrick - excellent point and you are absolutely correct, and what you say is what Our Lord taught, "Do as they say, not as they do." Nevertheless, scandal and sin have serious consequences - as you know. Thanks.

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  3. I wonder if its when we lift human people up, in our minds, to high levels and then they fall that's when we question our faith.

    I'm talking about people we admire who share our faith. We rely upon them for answers, for guidence and then when they turn out to be as unholy, maybe even less so, than we are we are shaken.

    I know Bishops-we all do-who are scandalous because they look the other way and don't speak out. I already have a marginal opinion of them now; though I respect their office. If one of them were to publicly cause a huge scandal, I would not be shocked or upset. I expect so little from them now.

    However, if someone I really admired; say, a huge crusader for life, or proponent of Adoration, or intelligent theologian, were to publicly fall, I'd be upset and hurt.

    I'm still not convinced it would cause me to lose my faith. It may shake it but I feel very strongly convinced that the faith is more than each of us.

    Probably completely babbling...hope it makes some kind of sense...

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  4. Terry, I have seen more and heard more in the past thirty years that I care to remember that would fit into the category of "scandal". And yes, it has wounded me, scarred me, and made me, at times, angry and bitter.
    Somehow, and I believe it is the Consecration to our Lady I made at age 16, I have been able to persevere. God is good. But what about the "little ones" as you mention? This is why I find it so difficult to accept the public behavior, esp. of Catholic politicians and prelates, that give the impression to the faithful that abortion, homosexual activity, contraception, and liturgical abuses are acceptable.
    Holy Guardian Angels, protect and pray for us!

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  5. ...People have to understand this and stop feeling sorry and making excuses for the bastards who take advantage of their positions...

    Roman Catholic Priests and Bishops are not bastards.

    I will be the first to stand in defense of this Bishop or any other Priest or Bishop that has fallen, no matter how grave his sins might be.

    I encourage little old ladies and children to pray for them, to our Divine Master. I try to quietly do penance for them. This does not mean I sit on my fat behind and say a few Hail Marys. Sometimes it can include travel to distant Shrines or Monasteries to beg for mercy on their behalf. I am not a Saint of devotions, but I do know us men need to get going or we can get going.

    If someone loses their Faith, it is because they never had any. If they claim to have regained it, it is only because they have come to terms with their disbelief and have compromised their soul.

    If you want to know if you have Faith, pray for someone you hate, pray for someone that hates you, and never question whether the Lord answered your prayers.

    When you die, your Faith would have saved you, and those you prayed for will advocate on your behalf before our Lord.

    That is the only time you will know with confidence, whether you have Faith.

    *

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  6. Nazareth Priest said:
    Terry, I have seen more and heard more in the past thirty years that I care to remember that would fit into the category of "scandal". And yes, it has wounded me, scarred me, and made me, at times, angry and bitter.

    Add another 15 or 20 years to that and it will fit me perfectly...

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  7. People are too easily "scandalized" sometimes. It's became a "catch-all" to excuse all sorts of funny business. Dare I quote Angela from "The Office:"

    "Sometimes, you just have to grow a pair."

    That said, I like your take on Lahey.

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  8. I hate that this happened. Hate it hate it hate it.
    I work with this wonderful lady whose husband is in RCIA. I hoped she might join the Church too. Between Ted Kennedy's funeral and Bp. Lahey - fat effin' chance.

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  9. I know what you mean Angela - but if she knows you and sees your faith - in spite of all of these scandals - well, then she knows the Church is good. God bless.

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  10. I hang on, not because I'm strong but becuase there is no other place to go. I do have to say though, that a lot of people who say they left the Church becuase of some scandal were just looking for an excuse to leave.

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  11. I think there is a difference between being "offended" or "shocked" by someone's behavior and "scandalized", which means being lead to sin by bad example.
    With that said, Thom, I agree with you on that score, that we have to "toughen up" and not be so ready to stand in judgment or be in shock by the human condition.
    But it's the ones that are given bad example and almost lead into sin by those who have a responsibility to do better that causes me the greatest concern.

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  12. Father - I just added more to this discussion in a new post.

    I thought I made it clear in my post that scandal does indeed mean being led into sin by bad example however.

    Thanks for reiterating that.

    Dymphna,

    I think leaving the Church is considered a sin, right?

    I wouldn't ever presume that a person who left was just looking for an excuse to leave in the first place.

    That said, I urge all of you to continually pray for final perseverance and a happy death. Mother Agnes was so concerned about her sister Therese as she was dying that she prayed for this grace for her sister as she struggled upon her death bed.

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  13. Terry: You did a fine job of explaining the difference between being offended by someone's behavior and what scandal truly is.
    I was just trying to define more precisely what I meant; I must admit, that in the past, the bad example of priests and bishops had a definite effect upon me, for which I am truly sorry, and hope to amend through prayer and penance.
    Thanks.

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  14. I am not writing to excuse any bishop, because of their position and the fact that it is a very public one, they are held to a higher standard of accountablility. However, I never hear anything of the scandal of lay people which has probably contributed more to empting our pews than any sin of the clergy. By the scandals of the laity I mean in particular the scandals seen marriage: contraception, divorce, homesexuality, abuse, alcoholim, etc. All these scandals hit close to home for many people and are the cause of a loss of faith. When we get marriage fixed, the priesthood will be repaired as well!

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  15. Thanks rebecca - you are absolutely right. Fr. Corapi has made similar statements.

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