The Sunday Obligation

tabernacle

The Lord Jesus appeared to the Apostles on Easter Sunday. Then He appeared to them again on the following Sunday. We can read something into this.

If believers are not to be overwhelmed, they must be able to count on the support of the Christian community. This is why they must be convinced that it is crucially important for the life of faith that they should come together with others on Sundays to celebrate the Passover of the Lord in the sacrament of the New Covenant. (Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini 48)

I think we can all feel the page turning on the coronavirus. Praise God. Which means that all of us Catholics must now consider again the duty of attending Mass on Sundays.

last-supper

On the one hand…

The Last Supper did in fact happen. The God-man Jesus Christ did in fact establish the Most Holy Eucharist and the sacred priesthood. He did offer His Body and Blood for us on the cross; He did die; He did rise again, and then ascend into heaven. He does abide with His people in the Holy Mass celebrated by ordained priests on our Catholic altars.

None of this involves a conspiracy of disinformation. These are all solid facts that anyone can take to the bank. The Holy Mass is–at its invisible, burning core–Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ living, loving, gathering, sustaining, carrying us to heaven.

Christians need each other. Christians need the grace of the sacraments. Sunday Mass gives us hope, support, and the chance to love our brothers and sisters, and to be loved. We need it.

On the other hand…

How can self-respecting, conscientious people participate in the rituals of an institution that so manifestly lacks integrity? Doesn’t that make me an accessory to the crime?

Theodore McCarrick stood in front of the cameras on behalf of the American bishops, precisely when the credibility of the institution hung completely in the balance, in AD 2002. He lied through his teeth.

McCarrick NBC screen shot

Popes and fellow Cardinals knew it. For decades they did what they always try to do: sweep the criminal case under the rug. Sixteen years later, the truth came to light, no thanks to the Church mafiosi who knew about it before then.

The Vatican then produced a “report” that exonerates every living Catholic official of any responsibility. The worst betrayal of trust by Church leaders since the sixteenth century occurred right before our eyes. But according to the Vatican, no one is really responsible for it.

McCarrick’s victims still have pending cases. The victims of thousands of other priest pederasts still have pending cases. Dioceses routinely conduct “reconciliation programs,” then declare bankruptcy–all for one reason: to keep the criminal cases safely under the rug. All this continues apace.

The Boston Globe did its Spotlight investigation–which itself came over a decade after an earlier investigation in Louisiana. Then, over a decade after the Globe reports, they made a movie about it, which won the Best-Picture Oscar. Now, a half a decade after that–well over a generation since this problem emerged–nothing in our lost and clueless Church has really changed.

Yes, we have criminal background checks for everyone who works or volunteers at our parishes. Yes, we have on-going “safe environment” education. But where the rubber actually meets the road, in the adjudication of actual individual criminal cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, things have not gotten better. If anything, they have gotten worse.

Sacrificed Chris O'LearyIn the “old days,” the bishop would deal with you personally to orchestrate the cover-up of crimes committed against you. Now, the lawyers run the whole show, and the bishop treats you as if you don’t exist.

Meanwhile, the pope sends carefully crafted communiques to conferences and symposiums. He makes promise after promise. And criminal cases by the hundred languish, under the rug–where the pope himself clearly believes they belong.

Seminarians say, “We want to be part of the solution.” Brothers: that’s what we said. Twenty years ago. The mitered mafia was living a lie then, and they are living a lie now, too. Don’t comfort yourselves with the idea that things will be better in twenty years. I comforted myself with that idea, too.

…How can a decent person be a party to all this? Isn’t it actually more religious, more genuinely honest, to disassociate oneself from this perpetually benighted Catholic mess?

I find myself in an unusual situation, when it comes to confronting this question of conscience. Because of the bishop’s decree, the only way I can participate in Mass is to celebrate by myself.

I’m like a husband whose wife has been taken away from him by some cruel twist of fate. I keep living our married life, but alone. I come to the table, but my companion is no longer there.

I don’t say, “The Lord be with you,” when I celebrate the Eucharist. Because there’s no one there to say, “And with your spirit.”

I don’t pretend to have the answer to the “being Catholic now” dilemma. But I think we can eliminate these two possible solutions:

1. “Screw the Catholic Church. It’s just an empty cult, fit only for sex-abuse enablers.”

No. It’s the religion of Jesus.

2. “The institutional problems in the Church are above my pay-grade. I’ll just live my little Catholic life, in my personal spiritual cocoon.”

No. The Church belongs, above all, to Christians of conscience who live in solidarity with the desperate. The Church doesn’t belong to chancery bureaucrats, or Vatican bureaucrats, either. It belongs to the brokenhearted souls who cling to Christ for dear life, and love Him in the wounded neighbor.

We have to act. We have to lead. We have to own this screwed-up situation and do our best to improve it.