“For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.” Jesus warned us. We’re seeing a dramatic example of it these days. A lot of secrets have come to light with the revelations about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the Pennsylvania grand jury report. No doubt we haven’t heard the last such revelations.
On the one hand, it’s devastating. At the same time, it’s purifying. There’s no other path forward for the Church than such a purification.
But as the drama unfolds with respect to the institutional Church, we have to remember: Jesus gave this warning to each of us individually as well.
Each of our own sins will be brought to light sooner or later. The question is: Will we bring them to Jesus willingly now, or will we wait until He exposes them — to our shame — at our judgment?
I write that not to deflect criticism from the institutional Church. Those who have committed these sins and crimes are getting no more (and very often less) than what they deserve. As a result, we bishops need to do the hard work of overseeing the change that’s necessary to address the problems that have come to light, and we’ll need the help of many lay people to do that.
But as we watch others reap what they have sown, we have to apply the lesson to our lives. We have work to do, too.
Scripture tells us that there’s a time for everything — including a time to tear down, and a time to build (Ecclesiastes 3:3). We face a monumental rebuilding task in the Church. But people who have had disasters strike their homes can tell you: You can’t just patch over the damage. Before you rebuild, you have to tear out everything that’s gone bad. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert, and 50 years in Exile, for just such a purification.
I welcome that purification; that’s why I invited the attorney general of Missouri to inspect our files and procedures involving sexual abuse cases.
But just as the institutional Church has to go through a process of purification and rebuilding, so does each of us. St. Paul mentioned this process to the Corinthians when he wrote:
“The work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3: 13-15).
It happened to Israel in ancient times. It’s happened throughout Church history. As these terrible secrets come to light and purification from these sins play out in our own day, let’s be sure to apply the lesson to our lives. May the heart of Jesus be a healing fire for each of us individually, and for the whole Church together.