The Church of Change

I came across a story the other day of a French Priest who, having had relations with a grown woman at some point, and met with the accusations of “indecent behavior and sexual assault”, committed suicide in the church to which he was assigned. He was evidently a bright young man, if not troubled.

French priest commits suicide in church after sexual assault claim

A 38-year-old French priest in a northern French town committed suicide in his church after being accused of molesting a young woman, local prosecutors and police sources told AFP on Wednesday.

The abuse crises in the Church are forcing change, and frankly I’m thrilled to see everything being revealed. I’m horrified that these things happened and horrified to see revealed so fully how the Church developed, in effect, a criminal racketeering system which nurtured and propagated a culture wherein sexual predation became the norm.

Every Priest is a sinner, unworthy of such a high calling. But boundaries exist. They exist most clearly amongst vulnerable populations. Such as those whose brains aren’t fully developed, i.e. anyone under the age of 25 years; and amongst those under one’s spiritual care. Really, boundaries exist with everyone, even one’s self.

Change is good in this situation. A problem (beyond the obvious current problem) is that the Church has been changing almost every day for the last several decades.

But, as St. Francis de Sales put it, “Faith is like a bright ray of sun light. It enables us to see God in all things as well as all things in God.” Let the light shine on the darkness of the Church, on the darkness in the heart.

Change is one of the things we both enjoy most in life, and dread the most. It’s true we can get bored easily at times, and want a change of scenery. We’re constantly bombarded with advertisements for new and exciting destinations. We’re aggressively marketed to so as to create the desire for the new and shiny; the most recent and powerful; the most healthy. We deserve a break, after all.

We often want what we cannot have. Which is at the root of many of our problems today. Because if we cannot have it, it may be perfectly disordered for us to even consider it. And we often think of the will of God for ourselves, instead of considering the will of God in and of itself and how our lives fit into that – because we are all in God’s will, to be alive, here and now.

There is merit in desiring the good in life, and in wanting better. A life of virtue has its own rewards – eternal rewards at that. But a life of virtue bears fruit in this life also. Simple living, penance, prayer, fasting, all allow us time, space and a greater clarity of thought; the growth in wisdom which can only come with prayer, and reflection.

In the beginning:  “Faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem nostram: et præsit piscibus maris, et volatilibus cæli, et bestiis, universæque terræ, omnique reptili, quod movetur in terra. Et creavit Deus hominem ad imaginem suam: ad imaginem Dei creavit illum, masculum et feminam creavit eos.

“And God said, Let us make man, wearing our own image and likeness; let us put him in command of the fishes in the sea, and all that flies through the air, and the cattle, and the whole earth, and all the creeping things that move on earth. So God made man in his own image, made him in the image of God. Man and woman both, he created them.”

Man is created in the image and likeness of God and placed into a perfect world, perfectly charming, perfectly nourishing and nurturing.

The Latin ‘Hominem’, a form of ‘homo’, includes both male and female. Created in the image and likeness of God, hominem is created masculum et feminam. So, the human person is created, and is created male and female, in the image and likeness of God.

God, a unity of persons, revealed as Father Son and Holy Spirit, is complete, perfect and whole. So hominem is perfect as a unity of persons, musculam et feminam.

Moreover, hominem is (are) given dominion over all of creation. “And God pronounced his blessing on them, Increase and multiply and fill the earth, and make it yours; take command of the fishes in the sea, and all that flies through the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.”

So, it’s perfectly natural to want to take command over things of the earth. To take ownership, to live in creation fully and completely both enjoying and prospering. It’s natural to want and to desire.

This taking command over creation is what helps us to think creatively, to build larger buildings, new types of communication and travel, new forms of technology, innovative solutions. We can use (almost) all of the catchwords in modern advertising and justify many of them in our God-given desire to take command over the created realms.

But, we live in the fallen world. Man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God; they’re soon tempted to be like God, which of course they already are. How soon we forget when temptation strikes. When we give into temptation, it can lead to a small fall. It can lead to a fallen path of depravity without one even realizing it.

Evil always starts out seeming innocent and charming. There’s an allure, a glamour, a joy. It’s all fleeting, and in no time one is addicted to opiates, alcohol, heroine; promiscuous sexual activity; pornography. Maybe in debt up to one’s eyeballs. How many are in prison due to some simple thing they started or thought of doing under the impulse of what turns out to be a simple, and deceptive evil?

So, we have to fall back into humility and examination of our lives so that we can grow in virtue. The best, clearest, most perfect way of doing this is through Jesus Christ whom we meet both prophetically, in a personal sense, and ritualistically in the liturgical life of the Church and in our lives of prayer. It’s theonly way to know the will of God, and to do our best to conform ourselves to it, instead of either ignoring or manipulating it.

Which leads us back to the idea of change. While some things in life remain the same – human nature for one – God never changes. He doesn’t relate to us differently now in the sense that we’re evolving beyond Him. Because we’re not, and never will.

Throughout life we’re prone to temptations. Scripture tells us we’ll never be given a temptation without the means to escape it, and we’ll never be given a temptation so great we cannot endure it. That seems of little comfort given the fact that people often die resisting temptations. We can look at the lives of the martyrs and the great strength and courage they show while facing certain death.

It helps us to realize that we can wallow in self-pity amidst suffering. Allowing for grief and certain emotions, we nonetheless have to go on with life, which changes, but which never ends.

There’s no rest for the weary; there is only rest in the Lord.

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