. . .whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
MATTHEW 18:6 NASB
On April 26, 1986, the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl became unlivable. A nuclear reactor had a meltdown, and the subsequent disaster left the site and the city covered in radioactive contamination. Chernobyl is now a ghost town. The area will not be safe for human habitation for 20,000 years. The picture above is the famous "elephant's foot" in the basement of the reactor. If you saw this in person, it would be the last thing you saw because it would kill you instantly. This blob is what is left of the nuclear fuel of the reactor.
This disaster is what comes to mind when I think of the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. This tragedy came to light during the waning years of the ponitificate of Pope St. John Paul II who was obviously too ill and too much in the dark about what amounts to a disaster for the Church. The reason I think of Chernobyl is because the scandal still continues to contaminate the Church in much the same way the elephant's foot of Chernobyl keeps sending out its radioactivity. Like Chernobyl, the disaster has been contained, but the damage lingers on in after effects on people's lives and perceptions of the Church.
I cannot evangelize or even mention that I am Catholic without someone throwing pedophile priests in my face. Becoming Catholic in the aftermath of this scandal is like electing to buy a home in Chernobyl and going there to live. Now, they write books and make movies about the scandal. This thing is never going to die. It has eclipsed the Spanish Inquisition and the Galileo Affair in terms of damage to the Church's image and reputation.
People may wonder why I would wish to join the Catholic Church in the wake of this mess, and I can only say that I truly believe it is the One True Faith. I can never leave the Roman Catholic Church. It is not an option for me. Conversely, I cannot remain silent about what I think of this scandal or the direction of the Church under the disaster of this current pope who lectures world governments about corruption while sitting on a Vatican Bank implicated in money laundering. Combined with the sex abuse scandal, Pope Francis is pulling specks out of the eyes of the world while trying to look around the log in the Church's eye.
This scandal undermines virtually all of the Church's moral authority in the world. The simple fact is that pedophilia is considered to be the most heinous crime in our time. Men would rather die than even be accused of such despicable acts. Even incarcerated criminals will batter and kill a pedophile in prison because they wish to not even be in the company of such evil. Yet, for decades, these crimes were committed and covered up within the Roman Catholic Church. When the morality of our priests and prelates has sunk below that of your average criminal, what authority does the Church have to speak about faith and morals?
If my faith rested on the sanctity of the priests and prelates, I would be an atheist again. But my fidelity to the Church rests on Christ's promises, and I look to Him. The simple fact is that we are all sinners, and the Church is comprised of sinners. I am disappointed in the scandals, but I am not surprised by the scandals. It is good to read about saints and martyrs who lived and died for the faith, but I think it is also helpful to read about the scoundrels who caused scandal. This practice creates defensive pessimism, so that when a leader stumbles and falls it does not make shipwreck of one's faith. Jesus had his reasons for picking Judas Iscariot, and I think it is to be a warning to us all to remain in the faith.
How do you go about cleaning up such a mess as the sex abuse scandal? You might as well ask what it would take to clean up Chernobyl or Fukushima. But what I can say about the matter is that the world is worse than the Church. The day is coming when this perverted society will embrace the crime of pedophilia as merely another lifestyle alternative. The secular society is already making moves in this direction. And if you doubt this, look no further than the present scandals of abortion and gay marriage and adoption and transgender restroom policies. Don't say it can't or won't happen. They said the same thing about the travesties we see today.
In a full scale global thermonuclear exchange, Chernobyl would look absolutely livable in comparison. Chernobyl was merely an accident in contrast to nuclear armageddon. Similarly, the sins of the Roman Catholic Church will look tame in comparison to a worldwide unleashing of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The reason for the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is because it became too much like the world around it. The Church does not corrupt the world. The world corrupts the Church. All people are sinners and fall short. The antidote remains the same as it has for two millennia. Flee to Christ. Avail yourself of the sacraments. Get into a state of grace and remain there. Do works of penance and mercy. Be a saint.
This advice to become a saint seems really stupid. What can one saint do? What is one candle against a world of darkness? But as John 1:5 puts it, " The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." Darkness cannot extinguish light. Similarly, evil cannot extinguish good. As much as people decry the sex abuse scandal of the Roman Catholic Church, the reason they can even care about such evil is because of the Church. Before Christ, such crimes against children were commonplace in the pagan world.
Be a candle in the darkness. That's all any of us can ever be. Night will not last forever. The daylight will return. Until then, we have to be the light of the world. And we will not be overcome.