Everyone knows that some things are loved unconditionally. Ask anyone who loves his fatherland why he does it in the face of all the bad decisions, bad wars, scandals, and assorted miseries of his country’s history and he will tell you – as if it were the most natural thing on Earth, and rather wondering how you can be so obtuse as to even ask – that his love for his Fatherland is valid and justified independently of any mistake that some people might have done here and there, even if they committed those mistakes or outright atrocities in the Fatherland’s name.
But then the same people may start talking about the Church, and then you’ll discover that the undying and unquestioning loyalty they give to a purely human construct, they are not ready to give to the Church founded by Christ. If it’s about a country defined by Washington, or Cavour, or Bismarck they forgive everything; to the Church founded by Christ, they forgive nothing.
This blatant contradiction and summit of illogical thinking is so well-spread, that many people will subscribe to it not only without realising the absurdity of what they say, but even feeling good in the process; sometimes the same people, mind, who would despise those who are not ready to stand up whenever the national anthem plays.
Still, everyone of us should remember – and, on occasion, remember to his friends and/or Saturday afternoon Church critics – that there is no other organisation in our life that is so important – not only from a collective point of view but, more to the point, for one’s own individual salvation – than the Church.
Not even the Fatherland, not even – take this – the football club…
I was reminded of this simple truth by reading the world of Archbishop Chaput by his first homily as the new Archbishop of Philadelphia:
There’s no quick fix to problems that are so difficult, and none of us here today, except the Lord Himself, is a miracle worker. But the Church is not defined by her failures. And you and I are not defined by critics or by those who dislike us.
The Church is not run by miracle workers, she is run by fallible men; these fallible men make mistake, and are sometimes outright evil, within the Church as in every other organisation, including the Fatherland. But in the same way as you don’t define the Fatherland by the mistakes made by those who were entrusted with positions of power and influence, you must not define the Church by the mistake made by clergy entrusted with a power they have abused. At the same time, you must never allowed yourself to be defined by the same metre of either perfection or hypocrisy so much en vogue nowadays: it is not that is one is a believer he must be either a saint or a hypocrite. You don’t ask a patriot to be a perfect soldier, you ask him to try to be the best soldier he can; if he is afraid or short of perfect heroism, you don;t question his patriotism for that. Common sense, you will say, but it is surprising how often this simple logic doesn’t apply to one only because he believes that Christ founded the only Church and tries to live in accordance with this simple belief.
This is a very simple concept, that I dish to the Church critics every time – and it is more often than you think – someone wants to feel a paladin of justice at the expense of the Church, acting like those armchair generals brown-nosing their boss all day long but perfectly able to say how brave and uncompromising they would have been in front of Hitler threatening a holocaust of Polish and French Catholics.
Every regular reader of this blog knows that on these pages criticism in front of scandal given by Churchmen is not spared. This is, I think, right so, as the damage made by those entrusted with position of particular prestige and influence and care for the souls is particularly dangerous. But by all critics, the loyalty to the Institution that you will find on these pages is total.
Right or wrong, the only Church.