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The Catholic Church is holy, despite its members' sins
We proclaim the Creed every Sunday and profess that we believe that the Catholic Church is holy.
In the light of all the allegations directed against the Church, do we really believe that the Catholic Church is truly holy?
Many good people are indignant, resentful, or just sad when they hear the news or read the paper. Doubt, uncertainty, troubles; some find their faith is shaken.
Those of us who love the Church are hurt when we hear accusations made against the Church or against her personnel: priests, religious or lay people who profess to be Catholic and who do not live in accordance with their belief.
How can the ordinary Catholic deal with the situation? How can we respond to criticism of sexual abuse, of the response by the hierarchy, of corruption in the Vatican?
We cannot pretend that all is well and that any criticism is invalid. However, it may be appropriate to quote Pope Francis who said that Christians "must not judge anyone" because the Lord is the only judge. They should "keep quiet", but if they must say something they must speak only to the person who could remedy the situation – "not the whole neighbourhood."
Pope Francis says we should recover the virtue of meekness which has been "a bit forgotten". Meekness, he said, has "many enemies" and the first is gossip. "When one prefers gossiping, gossiping about another, it's like clobbering another. This is normal, it happens to everyone, including me – it is a temptation of the Evil One."
The struggle against such harmful chatter, he said, is something that continually sows tensions in parishes, families, neighbourhoods and among friends.
"But this is not the new life" promised by baptism, because when the Holy Spirit descends, "it gives birth to a new life within us, it makes us meek, charitable," the pope said.
"If, with the grace of the Spirit, we were able to stop gossiping, it would be a huge step forward," Pope Francis said, and "it would do everyone good."
It is also essential to reaffirm our faith in the holiness of the Church .
What is holiness? Holiness is being perfect, having all perfections to the highest degree of perfection, without any imperfection whatsoever.
Only God is holy. Christ, the Head of the Church, his mystical Body, is holy; he is the holiest good.
Christ called us to be holy as the heavenly Father is holy. We are made to know, love and serve God and attain heaven, that is, become saints. We are all, without exception, called to holiness.
The Church itself is holy but it is filled with sinners, sinners who must work towards perfection. The whole Body suffers when a member sins; the whole Body is made stronger by the holiness of its members.
It is precisely because the Church is meant to be holy that we all suffer when there is evidence of sin in those who represent the Church. We can make reparation through prayer and make a greater effort to offer our sacrifices for the good of the Church.
The Catholic Church is holy because Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, is holy. The Catholic Church is holy because its teaching is holy, because it has been chosen by Christ to bring people to holiness.
We believe that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ established to continue his work. The Catholic Church goes back to the Apostles and continues with the bishops ordained by them and their successors. No other church can claim continuity with the apostolic teaching and with the apostolic Tradition.
The Catholic Church is holy because it gave us the Bible, the holiest book revered by all Christians. It is the Catholic Church who declared which books were inspired by God, that is, the Gospels and the other books of the New and of the Old Testament. It is the Church which interprets the Bible correctly and gives us unfailing guidance in matters of doctrine.
If it were not for the Church we could be led astray in matters of morals. We might tend to equate what is legal with what is moral. We could be tempted to accept self-contradictory ideas such as " safe abortion", "same-sex marriage", " mercy killing".
As it is, we have little choice and have to fill in forms which devalue our Christian heritage by having to answer to a "given name", forms which reduce our husband or wife to a "partner".
The Church gives us the sacraments which are channels of holiness, signs and instruments which give us sanctifying grace, that is, a share in the life of God. Through the Church, we have the gift of reconciliation with God whenever we confess our sins. The Church teaches us that marriage is an exclusive union between a man and a woman, that babies should be baptised, that we must pray for the souls of those who have died.
Christ gave us the sacrament of Holy Orders at the Last Supper. Without the priesthood we would not have the Mass, the moment of Calvary made present for us here and now.
Without the Church we would not have the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ which nourishes us and sustains us. We would not have the intimacy of union with Jesus in Holy Communion.
The Church is holy. It is filled with numerous martyrs who gave their lives rather than deny Christ or any of the sacred teachings of the Church. The Church gave us saints, priests, religious and laypeople who inspire us with their lives, teach us with their wisdom and help us with their prayers.
Throughout history the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of humanitarian services and continues to be so. For centuries, priests and religious have dedicated their lives to Christ and to serve human beings.
We need to express our gratitude to our priests, brothers and nuns who have served and who continue to serve the community faithfully, often heroically.
Yes, we believe in the holy Catholic Church and thank God for the privilege of belonging to her.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 26 No 9 (October 2013), p. 8
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