THAT is the Church
Those people who regard the Catholic Church as a body in ruins after all the scandals and betrayals don’t know the Church.
Of course, the institution has been devastated by failures of its own makings — but the Church is not the priest, the bishop, the cardinal, or even the pope.
These men are part of the Church and are entrusted with leading it, but they are no more “the Church” than Donald Trump is the United States. The Church is the People of God.
By imprecise analogy, we may imagine the clergy and the hierarchy as the leaders of the Pharisees, the group whom Jesus so often confronts in the Gospels that their name has become a byword for hypocrisy. Among them there were incompetent people, misguided people, corrupt people — but mostly they were good people. So it is in the Church. Among Catholics there are incompetent people, misguided people, corrupt people — and mostly good people.
So it is in the Church. Among Catholics there are incompetent people, misguided people, corrupt people — and mostly good people.
Catholics have every right to be angry at the priests and the hierarchs who have betrayed us. But in holding those who have failed and offended accountable, we must not reject the many priests and bishops who serve the Church and her people selflessly and to the best of their ability in spreading the Gospel.
That service must be honoured. Most of our priests celebrate four or more Masses a weekend and the daily Eucharist, work on their weekly homilies, administer the sacraments, conduct weddings and funerals, rush to the bedsides of the dying at all hours, and so on. And they do so while also managing their parish. That is the Church! The scandals have cast a shadow over the many charitable programmes run on all levels of the Church — in the Vatican, bishops’ conferences, dioceses, parishes. We must shine a light on these.
The scandals have cast a shadow over the many charitable programmes run on all levels of the Church — in the Vatican, bishops’ conferences, dioceses, parishes. We must shine a light on these.
This week we report on how staff of the now-defunct Catholic Welfare & Development agency insisted on seeing through their annual Buckets of Love campaign for Cape Town’s poor, despite just having been made redundant.
Their loving service was rewarded by the faithful who donated twice as much as had been anticipated. That is the Church! SACBC Aids Office or community-based such as HOPE Cape Town — were at the forefront of saving lives when government ministers were still prescribing beetroot
In the area of HIV/Aids, South Africa’s Catholic organisations — institutional such as the SACBC Aids Office or community-based such as HOPE Cape Town — were at the forefront of saving lives when government ministers were still prescribing beetroot.
They have adapted their programmes to the needs of the times, still serving those affected by the pandemic in different innovative ways. That is the Church!
In almost every parish, there is a charitable organisation or sodality that goes to the peripheries to serve the poor, the vulnerable, the neglected. They deliver food to the hungry, give impoverished children a chance, visit prisoners, and so on. Their service is selfless. That is the Church!
In many countries, the Church’s social engagement and political advocacy brings hope and relief to the powerless. The efforts by the SACBC’s Justice & Peace Commission on behalf of sick miners, as we reported last week, is an example of that.
At its best, the Catholic Church is a voice for the poor; and sometimes its members pay for their witness with their lives. That is the Church!
Even the much-maligned Vatican sometimes does good. Those who claim to see nothing holy in the Vatican might have missed the shower and laundry facility set up for the homeless, or the pope’s own efforts at sponsoring refugees in their pursuit of safety. That is the Church! These are only a few examples of how the Catholic Church — the People of God — is a force for good in the communities it serves and in the world, even when the institutional structure fails dismally.
These are only a few examples of how the Catholic Church — the People of God — is a force for good in the communities it serves and in the world, even when the institutional structure fails dismally.
The people who do so much good in the world are motivated by God. And it is God — not the pope, not the cardinals, not the bishops, not the clergy, not the laity — who is at the core of the Church.
We may criticise the human institution and judge the actions of its leaders as harshly as is justified. But no matter how angry we may be with the institutional Church, we must also honour the good that is being done in the Church, which is the Body of Christ.