Sunday, March 28, 2010

And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. (Luke 22: 31-32)

There are very few places of privacy when one does not live alone. Sharing my flat with two other co-workers, amicable people though they are, I find it necessary to keep myself guarded for fear of either disturbing them or embarrassing myself. The refuge of the cemetery then serves not only as an ever available place to work an act of charity—prayer for the dead—but also an acceptable location for emotional catharses.

So I wound my way to Cmentarz Powązkowski. The sky was as startlingly blue as a robin’s egg, puffed with velvet clouds of pearl, grey, and white, and the samite sun shone warm against the cool breeze of early spring. I hastily padded through paths of poured asphalt, rippled with the triumphant impression of cypress roots. Finally, I came to the humble grave of the soul dearest to me in that consecrated earth and lit my votive. Lost amidst the trees, the wind, and the lofty, ornate monuments of this necropolis, I began my rosary, and at least I could weep undisturbed.

I returned home without the pain clenching in my bosom, feeling the deadened sense that comes after a storm of tears. But I had been familiar with this ache since the feeling of thirteen and knew that it would not necessarily prefigure relief. This morning held the promise that it might have.

The air was chill, but the sun was working heatedly through my jacket with his intense light. I felt myself actually dew with sweat as I panted towards church, balancing the safety of my cakes baked for the post-Mass reception with the necessity of arriving on time for my catechism class. Though five minutes late, my students were later, and after class, I snatched my palm and went outside in a state of giddy expectation.

Waiting without the church for the procession to begin, I tilted my ornate palm to breathe its fragrance. Whereas in the United States, I had only carried one blade of a palm branch on this day, and in South Korea, a sprig of juniper, the Poles craft magnificent works of dried flowers twisted with palms and bound about with dyed sprays of tall grasses.

Wiesław emerged from the church in his crimson vestments, and proceeded to heartily bless the garlands. Then came the Gospel reading of Christ’s triumphant procession into Jerusalem, the only scene in His narrative where His glory was acknowledged after the fashion of this Earth. With jubilation we sang:

All glory, laud, and honour,
To Thee Redeemer King!
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring!

Inside we went, and as we entered the church, I felt my euphoria evaporate and the clench in my bosom returned. It intensified throughout the second Gospel reading, and finally erupted with Peter’s thrice repeated denial of his Messiah. A very different verse then sprang to mind: ‘Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation.’ (Psalm 145: 3)

This includes princes of the Church, who can disenchant far more ruinously than earthly princes. And if it was true of the first Pope, human reason must accept that later popes can generate the same disappointment. Yet, even as the personal acts of a system’s proponent have nothing to do with the system’s goodness, it always gives rise to the most ruthless cut of all: scandal.

Yes, Holy Mother Church has been smeared with filth, though she herself is clean from within. Members of her body, worse still the priests charged with the care of ‘least of these,’ have abused their position, exploited the trust of those around them, and made a blasphemous mockery of the paternity they ought to feel towards every body possessed of a soul on this Earth. It is vile enough that such men should exist, that they should perpetrate such heinous acts, but that is not the only cause of indignation from those of the world or of sorrow amongst the faithful.

A woman would experience shock and dismay at the maltreatment of perverse men, but surely the thing that would drive her soul to desperate, outraged, frenzy would be the indifference of a man who has professed to love her in such a situation. To be the target of a lewd comment is one thing; to receive such a comment and observe nonchalance in the aspect of one’s protector is another.

Doctors are pledged to heal the sick. However, when one of their own commits malpractice, what is most often the protocol of the medical community? I don’t think I can personally imagine the fortitude of a doctor who would expose the wrongdoing of a colleague. More often than not, doctors close ranks one with another, regardless of the innocence of the accused. Churchmen, however, ought not to behave like doctors, nor should they put up paltry defences at such a time as this.

That most of the charges concern euphebophilia and not pedophilia is but a bitter relief. That the facts have been misconstrued by an anti-Catholic media is hardly soothing and to some is even debatable. I do not care to hear arguments concerning the small percentage of pedophile clergy to normal priests. I do not wish to hear that other religious ministers or officials of the secular order are guilty of the same crimes, or even that most abuses of children take place within the home.

And, good GOD! Do not bring up the argument that the secular authorities were available to report to, and the exposure of these crimes need not have rested entirely on the Church’s hierarchy. Since when has the Church been more tolerant of evil and less compassionate to the victim than the secular order? Where is the institution that would unfrock a priest who dared to proposition a woman in the confessional? What happened to the severe consequences the Church held out to her sons that dared to violate the trust of the innocent?

Why, why, why did not the ears of bishops, cardinals, and popes prick up at the merest hint of such accusations and then dispatch their inquisitor?

‘But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ (Matthew 18: 6)

I would like to see anyone find a verse in the Bible that speaks so explicitly concerning the protection of man’s privacy, to which a priest has a lesser right than any other soul on Earth. Almost in vain, have I looked amongst the priests of my acquaintance for the outrage and indignation I feel myself. There is often more of that self-conscious dumbness of professional loyalty than the righteous anger of an incensed father.

It is impossible to say how strong or weak my faith is, until my childish punt has weathered greater storms. The wave of this scandal may not have submerged my vessel, but without the assistance of one man I would still be cringing and fetal on the floor of the deck, prey to the prevailing tempest about me.


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Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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