I am very angry with my church. I have been angry with my church in different ways since 2002. Sadly, this Easter season I was given new reasons for my anger. Yet this Easter I have also received a gift of grace; I met Jesus again on the road to his cross and I found in him a victim, too.
Jesus was made an object of public scorn. Catholic victims and their advocates, while championing the rights of children and petitioning for the release of documents that would provide clear evidence of the presence of serial child abusers in the clergy and serial conspirators in the hierarchy, have likewise been made the objects of public scorn. The comparison continues:
- Jesus spoke up against injustice in his faith community.
- Jesus recognized children, spoke to them, and condemned anyone who would harm a child.
- Jesus was rejected by the leaders of his faith community. He no longer “belonged” because he had dared to speak the truth and challenge their hypocrisy and immorality.
- Jesus was innocent of a crime but was judged responsible for his arrest and execution because he had incited the crowds by telling the Truth.
- Jesus was mocked, vilified, humiliated, and ultimately abandoned by his community.
- Jesus knew the pain of injustice and abandonment. But unlike many abuse victims Jesus did have a mother and a friend who stayed faithful and continued to believe in him despite what the authorities and community members had accused him of. At least in that way Jesus was blessed. Many victims have lost even those last vestiges of support. But we do not have to carry our crosses on our own.
I believe Jesus would willingly wash the feet of abuse victims, weep over them, and anoint them with oil, in abject sorrow over the sins perpetrated by those exercising authority in his name. I believe that Jesus would willingly take up our crosses and walk in our shoes in an attempt to express his love, in an attempt to convince us we had not been abandoned. I believe that Jesus already has.
What would Jesus say to the Catholic Church today? What message of hope would he share? There is nothing he could say to defend the indefensible behavior of the Catholic leaders, from local bishops to Vatican officials. I think he would speak to the victims and their families and to the ordinary, faithful and disillusioned Catholics. I think he would tell us to support each other, to reach out to each other, to share our pain, to create a community of faith, to continue seeking justice against oppressive and corrupt organizations. To really be “ekklesia” a people gathered with a common purpose and a common faith and commitment to God, Truth, Justice, and the marginalized. And I think he might remind us that we don’t need a certain building or a certain form of religious government to do this.
This resurrection season may victims and their advocates continue to rediscover the message and person of Jesus of Nazareth in hopeful and healing ways. And may the voices of truth and reason continue to be heard above the voices of hatred and anger.