Readings: Acts 1:12-14; John 19:25-27
In mid-March, Pope Francis announced a new Memorial to be celebrated the Monday after Pentecost: Mary, the Mother of the Church. The Gospel tells us: Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
I was the principal celebrant of that Mass and offered this reflection:
Today’s Gospel reminds us that the Church is born in circumstances of injustice, pain, shame and tragedy…and love; deep, selfless love.
When Pope Francis first considered instituting today’s celebration, I imagine he didn’t anticipate that a few days before its first celebration he’d be receiving the resignation of thirty-four bishops over the mismanagement of sexual abuse committed against minors. By all accounts, he performed this with real humility and gentleness, as well as firmness and clarity.
But in such a milieu of injustice, pain, shame and tragedy, the Church is, indeed, born or perishes.
May Mary the Mother of God and of the Church bring forth that deep, healing love, who is her Son.
You don’t need me to point out the troubled journey of the Holy Father’s initiative to responsibly deal with sexual abuse allegations in the Church. It has been an uphill battle to confront the old approach of concealment meant to avoid “scandal” by tarnishing the reputation of the clergy. If society once operated on appearances, it certainly does so no longer. Pope Francis himself had to back-track on whose word and what evidence he’d depend to make his judgements. This bold act demonstrates a genuine “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse in the church and the capacity to act on factual data and not the spin of officialdom. Is there any other church, denomination, social institution or government currently operating at this level of transparency?
I would not expect the news media or institutions to note this event or comment upon it; on one hand, the Roman Catholic Church isn’t exactly a key player in world affairs, our culture does not exhibit a fine-tuned ethical sense and it would be much too inconvenient to the self-interests of many institutions to follow suit.
Of course, such tragedies should never have occurred in the Church–either the coercion of minors or the cover-ups by the hierarchy; but since they have occurred, this sort transparency is the only choice left before God. This is, I believe, the only hope of the Church being born anew in our day.