1 Corinthians 10:14-22
Psalm 116:12-13, 17-18
John 19:25-27 or Luke 2:33-35
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
Standing by 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 there whom he loved
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 do not want you to become participants with demons.
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons.
You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons.
Or are we provoking the Lord to jealous anger?
Are we stronger than him?
(From Saturday’s first reading)
Reflection for Saturday: The Pope and the scandal – What can we do?
I’m sure you’ve been praying about the scandal of sex abuse, coverups, and the pope. And this is exactly the right thing to do. We simply don’t know enough to make judgments.
Yes, we can judge the sin and we must do whatever we can to stop it from happening again. But let’s also look at the bigger picture. The real enemy is Satan (Ephesians 6), and his strategy is much bigger and wider than the obvious (damaging children through sex abuse and allowing it through Church hierarchy). Our Enemy wants to destroy the Church. Our Enemy wants to render the Church untrustworthy, thereby keeping people away from Christ in the Eucharist. Our Enemy is trying to destroy us from within. He’s gaining ground right now as we vent our righteous anger against each other and against the Pope.
Praise the Lord, God has given us a way to win this battle!
I am not about to say that the Pope is doing a good or bad job of handling this crisis. I am not trusting my own thoughts and feelings about the Pope. How can we trust our limited knowledge? We do not know the mind and the motives of Pope Francis. We do not know what conversations are happening behind closed doors. And we certainly don’t know the mind of God. What is God doing about purging the Church of evil-doers? Does God want the Pope to resign? Is there a bigger plan that God is working? What good is God planning to bring from the evil, as he promised to do in Romans 8:28?
We’ve read the accusations made against the pope by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former nuncio to the United States, claiming that the pope knew of Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual misconduct yet allowed him to continue in active ministry. And we’re naturally very frustrated that he did not defend himself when asked about it. His silence seems to imply that he is guilty of the coverup that Vigano described.
In righteous anger about the evils of abuses and coverups, we seek an outlet for our passionate desire to put a stop to abuses. We know that purging needs to happen within the hierarchy of the Church. Most of us, however, are not in positions where we can affect change. Lacking an outlet for our passion, frustration gets added to anger, and boom! It becomes explosive.
People are finding something — anything — to do in an effort to make a difference. Some are walking out of Mass. Some are deciding to never return to church. Many more are signing “open letters” to the pope.
But let’s be honest, okay? We don’t have enough information on which to base any decisions. We do not know the mind and the motives of Pope Francis. We do not know what conversations are happening behind closed doors. And we certainly don’t know the mind of God and why he bringing to light now — not sooner, not later — the abuses and the coverups.
What really was in the pope’s heart when he spoke to reporters on August 26 after Vigano’s letter was published? What really did he mean when he said, “I will not say a single word on this. I think this statement speaks for itself, and you have the sufficient journalistic capacity to draw conclusions.” Some say it means he’s guilty. But might it mean that he is so innocent that he assumed that anyone who looks closely at Vigano’s statement would vindicate the pope? Christianity has a long history of Saints refusing to defend their own innocence, because self-defense has too much “self” in it.
What is Satan’s role in all of this? The Bible calls him “the Great Accuser”. We need to be on guard against all accusations, because false accusations and exaggerations of true sins are exactly what the devil uses to destroy from within. Last Tuesday, Pope Francis said in his homily, “In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins so they are visible in order to scandalize the people.” I do not believe that he’s saying that we who are demanding repentance and change are Satan. Remember what Ephesians 6 says about that.
Anyone who does the Lord’s work effectively, making a real difference by winning souls away from Satan, wears a bullseye target on their back — especially those in positions of leadership. The enemy of Christ always tries to destroy their credibility. This is something with which I am very familiar. The Great Accuser has tried to destroy my reputation, my family relationships, and Good News Ministries with false and exaggerated claims. The Lord has taught me that the best response is not self-defense but (1) repenting of any actual sins, (2) prayer, (3) trust in God, and (4) refusing to let the devil ruin my joy. Eventually, the Spirit of Truth (the Holy Spirit) wins this battle. Not me. Not the pope.
We truly and simply do not have enough information to draw any conclusions about Pope Francis. And we need to be okay with that. If we want to be holy — instead of drinking from the cup of demons — we need to trust that God cares (far more than we do!), and that God is the only one who understands the situation fully, and that God is not sitting idly by while his Bride suffers; he is working a plan.
In 2006, I wrote: “God is purging his Church. What he started with the child molestation scandal he will continue against all types of abuses. I’m expecting more scandals to hit the news, after God gives his Church (the beloved faithful) time to rest.”
I also said: “I have had the distinct feeling that the scandals of  were only Step One of the purging God desires for his beloved Church. All forms of abuse within the Church — whether by a priest or lay person or religious or deacon — is anti-evangelization, harmful to the mission of the Church, and an abomination which grieves the Lord and our Blessed Mother.”
What can you do with the passionate energy you have from your righteous anger? Pray the Rosary often for all priests, especially those tempted to abuse their vocations, and for the Pope and all decision-makers in the Vatican, and for the victims of abuse, and for the souls of the perpetrators (who are in danger of ending up in hell). That is your weapon, and through it you fight the battle for justice and truth and holiness.
Beyond prayer, there is something else we can do to make a difference. We can — and must — purge sin from our own lives. We, too, are the Church. Every compromise we make with worldly ideas of what’s right and wrong is a contribution to the demons who are working a concerted strategy to destroy the Church from within.
For more help dealing with the scandals in the Church, visit our WordBytes about Dealing with Victory over Terror and Evil. See the section entitled, “The Way of Christ in the Midst of Scandals” at http://wordbytes.org/victory/.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica