Difficult reading. Our first reading at Holy Mass today, from Ezekiel, chapter 16. When you were born, your navel cord was not cut… You were thrown on the ground as something loathsome… Then I passed by and saw you weltering in your blood.
The chapter actually gets a lot worse, more graphic. But the good souls who produced our Lectionary decided to spare us the worst of it, for reading publicly in church.
The Lord addresses His words in this prophecy to… the city of Jerusalem. The holy city. But, as the prophecy points out, Jerusalem began her urban life as a pagan city. Yes, Abraham obeyed God and climbed the mountain, willing to sacrifice his only son there. But then eight centuries passed before David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. And even after the temple got built there, other Hebrew holy sites vied for precedence with it. As we read in John 4, the Lord Jesus Himself debated with the Samaritan woman about where a child of Abraham ought to worship.
But: Something consecrated Jerusalem as the holy city, the image of heaven. A totally unique event. One that makes the ugliness of Ezekiel 16 look like a Hallmark card by comparison. The crucifixion of the innocent Lamb of God.
The Crucifixion consecrated the city and fulfilled the prophecy. When the sacraments unite us with Christ crucified, the beautiful part of Ezekiel 16 comes true: I bathed you with water, washed away your blood and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with an embroidered gown and put sandals of fine leather on your feet.
Christ bleeding, suffering, groaning to heaven, gasping for breath, dying: that has consecrated Jerusalem. That has consecrated us.
Difficult reading: The famous PA grand-jury report. I have read a great deal of it; stayed up late last night reading it. Difficult. Like looking at a crucifix.
We know that Christ suffers on hospital beds, and in war zones. He suffers in hungry children. He suffers in mothers who have lost a child. We know all this. We must bear this sight also: Christ suffers in victims of sexual abuse, including children. Including children abused by priests, priests that they and their families trusted.
The PA grand jury has done what our bishops have not had the stomach to do: They have held this crucifix up in front of us. Please, let’s see the report for the spiritual gift that it is. On the cross, Christ triumphed by His trust in the Father. The victims who told their stories to the grand jury triumphed over the evil they had suffered, with the same trust.
Nothing about any of this is truly “scandalous”—at least not to anyone prepared to endure the scandal of the Cross.
The scandal is this: Our bishops have strayed far away from this cross of Christ. The refused to look at this crucifix, and for the most part they continue to refuse.
Donald Cardinal Wuerl took to the airwaves two nights ago and submitted to an interview, in an attempt to save his reputation. He proceeded to show the world that he never could look squarely at this crucifix and still has no interest whatsoever in looking at it.
But we can look at it. A lot of people thought Mel Gibson had lost his mind when he made The Passion of the Christ. But what he did was give us the Stations of the Cross in the form of a movie. It brought us back to the truth. The PA grand jury has given us a similar gift.
One additional note about the above interview…
The Cardinal insists that things changed in 2002.
On the one hand, the data supports that. (History shows, however, that it takes years for victims of sexual abuse to summon the courage to accuse their abusers. So low numbers in the past decade don’t really prove anything.)
But: Even if it is true that the Dallas Charter of 2002 has improved the situation, that does not address the fundamental point. The grand-jury report itself takes cognizance of the Charter. They point out correctly that it came as a reaction to the work of the journalists of The Boston Globe.
The interviewer, Mr. Fizgerald, confronted Cardinal Wuerl with this observation: What could have changed about abusing a child? In other words, how could it become more wrong in 2002 than it was in 1960?
…It’s not the public’s job to understand the history of ecclesiastical regulations. It is a shepherd’s job to love Jesus in those who suffer. And to love his people enough, and trust them enough, to live in the truth with them.