The Church in Crisis

"... the failure of episcopal leadership."

"...many faithful priests ... are tainted by this failure."

"...trust in the bishops has been damaged ..."

Excerpts from the August 16, 2018 statement of Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops .

Why am I a Christian?

The current crisis in the Catholic Church is the opportunity that God has given us to take a fresh look at the question, 'Why am I a Christian?". Now that the rain is descending, and the floods are here, and the winds are blowing, the foundation on which we have built our Christianity becomes the focus of our attention . We wonder, 'Is the foundation strong enough to survive the storm?'. From time to time, it is a good thing to re-evaluate the substrate into which we have sunk the roots of our Christianity? Is it bedrock or is it sand ?

The current crisis in the Catholic Church demonstrates that Christians who have built the foundation of their Christianity on the clergy have built their Christianity on sand not bedrock. Sand is a very weak foundation on which to build one's Christianity.

Why am I a Christian? I am a Christian because my options are limited. I have no other choice . I am a rational creature and my rationality tells me that being a Christian advances my self-interest. Christianity puts me ahead in the "game". Christianity gives me a leg up - an advantage. What advantage do I derive from being a Christian? To answer the question, we must first, as realists, acknowledge our circumstances. We must not be ostriches who bury their heads in the sand in fear of their hostile reality. We must lift up our heads to perceive the world in which we live.

What are the circumstances in which we live?

Relentlessly pursuing the sheep from behind through the hostile truth of the Valley of Tears is the new Pharaoh, the serpent, and his minions, the army of the new Egyptians, a pack of angry wolves hell-bent on devouring us. They are the hammer. The hammer is driving us toward the anvil. The anvil in front of us is the Red Sea of death. Without a miracle that parts the Red Sea of death for us, our destiny in the Valley of Tears is to be crushed between the hammer and the anvil. To make matters worse, many and merciless are the crosses that nail themselves to us as we pass through the Valley of Tears . The Valley of Tears is the vessel that holds the hostile truth in which we are baptized. In it, we stew for a lifetime like pickles in a barrel of toxic brine. In the Valley of Tears, God lets us stick our fingers into the flames to learn for ourselves that the fire is hot. God's supreme confidence in the liberating power of the truth - both the hostile truth and the hospitable truth - enabled him to say to us: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" . The Valley of Tears is a classroom in which the pedagogy is cruel - brutally cruel but effective. The rod is not spared on the children of Adam and Eve in the Valley of Tears. Spare the rod and spoil the children . As we pass through the Valley of Tears, we eat the bread of adversity and drink the water of affliction . The Valley of Tears is hostile territory. In the Valley of Tears, we find ourselves behind enemy lines. We are in danger. Our predicament in the Valley of Tears is dire.

Escape follows recognition. After we recognize the direness of our predicament, it is only natural for us to look for the escape route out of the Valley of Tears. Rational creatures ask themselves, "What is the way out?" Many potential escape routes, however, are dead ends. We cannot drink our way out of our dire predicament in the Valley of Tears although many attempts at doing so have been made. We cannot fuck our way out of it or drug our way out of it or spend our way out of it or even think our way out of it. We ourselves are helpless to escape it by dint of our own efforts or resources. There is only one way out of it. "I am the way." He said . "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me" . The best escape route through the hostile truth of the Valley of Tears to the promised land is Christianity. Christianity offers the best solutions to our problems in the Valley of Tears. Christianity offers the best answers to life's most important and pressing questions.

What are life's most pressing questions?

There are three:

1) Regardless of our ages, we stand at the threshold of the Red Sea of death. Who will part the Red Sea of death for us?

2) The army of the new Egyptians is relentlessly pursuing the new Exodus through the Valley of Tears in an effort to return us to slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh. Who will keep us out of its clutches?

3) Many and merciless crosses are crushing us under their unbearable weight as we pass through the Valley of Tears. Who will teach us how to pick them up and carry them so we can continue to make progress to the promised land?

These are the three most pressing questions in life.

I am participating in the new Exodus that is making its escape through the Valley of Tears because I want my God to save me from being crushed between the hammer and the anvil. I am participating in the new Exodus because I need the miracle of salvation. By having close encounters with the living God at the holy places that define the escape route, God strengthens my faith The promise of the miracle of salvation is why I am a Christian. Moreover, I am confident that my God will save me. I have faith.

What is the basis for my confidence that God will save me? Why am I so sure. What is the source of my faith?

I am privy to the conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. In the conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, the Son of God revealed the identity of God to us. In the Crucifixion we shouted our sharp question at him with lash, nails, thorns and spear. '"Who are you, Jesus? Identify yourself! Friend or foe?" Thankfully, He did not answer us in kind. He changed the tone of the conversation. He whispered his gentle answer back to us in the Resurrection. His asymmetric reaction to the evil we did to him was the answer to our question. ' "I am your friend not your foe. I want to help you, not hurt you, as you pass through the hostile truth of the Valley of Tears. I am the love note that our Father composed for you in heaven and sent to you at Bethlehem to console you in your misery here in the Valley of Tears. Who is God? Jesus himself answered the question in his response to the evil we did to him. We tortured and killed him. He suffered and died. Yet, he did not stay dead and he did not stop loving us. He emerged from the dead still alive and still in love with us. That he emerged from the dead still alive revealed to us the power of Jesus. Nobody emerges from the dead. He did. That he emerged from the dead still in love with us, however, revealed to us something more significant about divinity than power. Our conception of divinity as power is incomplete. Divinity is also love. God is still head over heels in love with us despite the evil we did to him. God's power built paradise for us. God's love for us, however, makes paradise sweet. Power begets respect; but, love begets love. The conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is the proof handed to us by God himself that God is a philanthropist not a misanthrope. My confidence that God will save the participants of the new Exodus is based on the incandescent truths that God revealed to us in the conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The conversation gives me great confidence in my Savior, Jesus the Christ, and in my salvation. The conversation between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is the rock on which I rest my confidence that God will save me.

Besides, the script has already been written. Have you not read the script? Our immutable God will not rewrite the script. God rescued the Jews in the first Exodus. He will rescue those who participate in the new Exodus. He will not let us down. He will not disappoint.

Furthermore, as a bonus above and beyond rescue from being crushed between the hammer and anvil, Jesus bestowed upon us a gift that mitigates the damage done by the teeth and tongues of our crosses in the Valley of Tears. Jesus shared with us the "secret" to picking up and carrying my crosses. Jesus hung from his Cross to teach us how to hang from our crosses. When you hang as Jesus hung, cling as Jesus clung, love as Jesus loved. Hold tight and refuse to let go of love, sufferings invincible foe. Love kicks suffering's ass. Jesus transported from heaven to earth the technology of filling our hearts to the brim with love to enable us to pick up and carry our crosses. Furthermore, the Son of God demonstrated for us that the technology works by using it himself. He donned the jet pack and flew to show us that we, too, can fly. What a crazy daredevil this Jesus was.

I am a Christian because of Jesus not his clergy. The roots of my Christianity are planted in Jesus not his clergy. I and mine are participating in the new Exodus through the Valley of Tears because participating in it is the smart thing to do. The new Exodus is marching through the Valley of Tears hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm together as one family to the rhythmic beat of the loving heart of our living God!

The debauched clerical fraternity is held in opprobrium because, while they did evil, they flamboyantly wrapped themselves in the symbolism of Christianity as a patriot wraps himself in the flag .

The product and its sales force are inextricably intertwined. When the sales force is rotten, it is not unreasonable for existing and potential customers to conclude that the product being offered for sale is rotten as well. This is so regardless of the unassailable virtue of the manufacturer of the product and especially when the competition has cleaner hands.

Their collar and cassock, their very ordination itself, turns out to be nothing more than lipstick on a pig . Ontological change, my ass . Bring forth fruits of your ontological change .

Our shepherds bind us with heavy burdens yet they behave as though the same laws have no applicability to them . Celibacy is for others not for them and their vows of celibacy they despise . They have shown their true nature to us. They are untrustworthy hirelings - unreliable - not to be trusted .

The current crisis with the Catholic clergy has reduced the importance of their role in Christianity. Is the time ripe to discuss the proposition that a clergyless Christianity works better than a Christianity with clergy? Is such a situation possible? Is such a situation desirable?

The Star of the Show

The clergy are the ushers who shows us to our seats. God, however, is the star of the show. The Church goes off the rails when the clergy start to think that they are the stars of the show.

The testimony of the debauched clerical fraternity no longer has any credibility. It is defunct. Their treachery proves them dangerous and unreliable - not to be trusted. We suspect that all of them are fifth columnists. We have lost confidence in them. By consorting with wolves - by betraying the sheep -, our shepherds have squandered their trustworthiness. They have shredded their own reputations. Their value as witnesses to the truth has disintegrated. Their testimony is worth nothing.

The job of the clergy is to facilitate our escape from our dire predicament in the Valley of Tears not to frustrate it, filter it or foul it up . The job of the clergy is supposed to be that of servant of the escape not its saboteurs. Their sabotage makes my escape more difficult. Yet, the fact of the matter is that I still need to make my escape so I shall continue to do so despite them. I have lost confidence in my treacherous shepherds but I have not lost confidence in Jesus.

My allegiance is not to the clergy. My allegiance is to Christ Jesus. I can separate the clergy from Christianity. Like Solomon, I can divide the baby in half .

Our alleged shepherds reek of wolf stink and the sheep are repelled by the smell of the reek.

The sheep are no longer sure whether their clergy are 1) shepherds , 2) hirelings or 3) wolves . Ambiguity now muddies the status of the clergy. Their claim to the title of shepherd is no longer accepted by the sheep at face value. There is a strong likelihood that the claim may be spurious. Now such a claim must be accompanied by proof. If the clam is made, it now must be verified - no exceptions. The relationship between shepherd and sheep was blown up as a bridge is blown up by sappers in war. Puff, it's gone. The shepherds themselves did the demolition . They shattered their own reputations. Our shepherds did not just betray the sheep to the wolves . Oh, no. It is much worse than betrayal. Our shepherds became the wolves. They stripped themselves of their sheep's clothing to reveal the orgiastic wolf inside . Many rotten apples have spoiled the whole barrel - and all it takes is just one . A bad sales force ruins a good product. A bad sales force destroys a brand. The Catholic brand is in tatters due to a bad sales force. The meaning of the collar and cassock have changed for the worse. They have become a warning label, like the warning label on cigarettes, that the symbolism of Catholicism may be nothing more than lipstick on a pig . A well founded skepticism has arisen in the sheep vis-a-vis their alleged shepherds together with the presumption that all members of the clerical fraternity are guilty until proven innocent. The membership of the clerical fraternity is presumed to know about the debauchery that is happening within their own wildly obscene frat house - all protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. We put the sheep in danger if we presume the innocence of their shepherds. The reek of wolf stink is upon our alleged shepherds. The sheep are repelled by the smell of the reek. First rectify this ambiguity before doing business as usual . Business as usual cannot proceed until the ambiguity is rectified. Words of apology do not rid the shepherds of the reek of wolf stink - unless the words are a guilty plea, if not for individual guilt, then for corporate guilt. To rid our shepherds of the reek of wolf stink, - to renew the Catholic brand -, we need saints who use fewer words and show us more sacrificial love. We need silent saints who do not tell us about Christianity but show us Christianity - who put on a demonstration of sacrificial love as Jesus did from the platform of the cross. The only way to distinguish amongst the shepherds , the hirelings and the wolves is by sacrificial love . Nothing else. The shepherd lays down his life for his sheep . Only sacrificial love will wash our clerics of their wolf stink. The proof that must accompany a claim to the title of shepherd is for the claimant to lay down his life for his sheep - nothing less. Words only beget words. Only love begets love.

The edifice of Christianity was hijacked from its foundation on the LOVE NOTE and transplanted onto a sterile spreadsheet where the bureaucrats of the Church keep track of the debits of sin and credits of grace. Without its roots sunk into the LOVE NOTE, the edifice of Christianity withers and die. To rescue the edifice of Christianity, we must replant it on its true foundation.