h. The Church is Holy
- In Holy Scripture, the Lord God refers to himself as the Holy One: “For I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos11:9). This God calls humankind to become like him in holiness: “For I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44). God’s holiness is the source of holiness for the Church.Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:25-27).The Church affirms this holiness liturgically, inviting the faithful to approach Communion with the words: “The holy Things for the holy.”
- The Church is where we are to grow in the holiness that is granted by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us on the path of holiness, offering the grace of repentance and divinization in the Holy Mysteries of the Church. The Holy Spirit reveals to us the truth that “the Church, embracing in her bosom sinners, [is] at the same time holy and always in need of being purified.”(Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium [Light of the Nations], 8) Those who enter the Church through the doors of repentance, pass through the doors of Paradise into God’s sanctification and blessing. The greatest miracle that takes place in the Holy Church is the transfiguration of a sinner into a saint. As members of the Church grow in holiness, the Lord transforms all creation, liberating it from the dominion of “this world” and its forces, and directing it towards the fullness of the “new earth” (see Rev 21:1).
Even if the worst allegations against Pope Francis are true, the Church's holiness remains untouched. Why? We must remember that, yes, although the Church is the Body of Christ, it is still made up of individuals.
- Does the Church teach sexual abuse of minors? Of course not!
- Does the Church teach excusing those guilty of such abuse? Of course not!
What has happened is horrendous, and guilty parties should be held accountable - ecclesiastically and civilly. But, even though they were in positions of authority over those whom they abused, or over those whose sins were covered up, none of it was done with the authority of the Church. All of it was done by individuals abusing their position within the Church.
The Church is holy, and will remain holy. If it is not holy, then it's a fraud - and Christianity is a fraud. But history shows that it cannot be a fraud. Let us consider this past Sunday's Gospel reading in the Byzantine Rite:
The Lord told this parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matt 22:2-14In this Epistle to the Colossians, St. Paul tells us to "put on love". Not only love, we are to clothe ourselves in holiness. Those who don't do so are like the man who comes to the banquet without a wedding garment. Now, I'm not sitting in judgment over those priests and bishops who've sinned, or covered up. I'm merely pointing out that their sins are not those of one who wears that garment, who is clothed in holiness. And, so, their actions are not those of Christ's Holy Church. So, what are we to do? Consider the Latins' Gospel reading from this past Sunday:
Many of Jesus' disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:60-69Our Church is the Church of the Holy One of God.
Through Him, it has the words of eternal life. Where would we go?