Last week I posted excerpts of Father Robert Beloin's homily on the sexual abuse crisis in hopes that the resources of Scripture could be a fruitful resource for reflecting on the church's problems today. This week, we offer another homily for your reflection, this one from Father Michael Ryan of the Archdiocese of Seattle (and author of the widley read America article, "What If We Said, 'Wait'?"). Here's an excerpt. The full text is available on the St. James Cathedral Web site.
It’s hard to be deaf to the growing number of voices (not just from the media but from loyal, faithful members of the Church, including some bishops) that are calling for the Church to turn this dreadful moment into a graced moment -- a moment of self-examination on a whole array of things: on the way it understands and carries out its sacred mission, the way it exercises power, the way it chooses leaders and holds them to account. These same voices also call for greater transparency in the Church; for a greater voice in Church governance and decision-making for lay people, including women; and for a greater willingness on the part of Church leadership to admit mistakes where they’ve been made and humbly beg forgiveness. These are voices we should heed.
These thoughts and concerns prompted by today’s first reading from Acts connect quite naturally for me with today’s gospel passage from John. The touching exchange between Jesus and Peter on the shores of the Lake of Galilee is not only a beautiful story but a present challenge. “Do you love me?” Jesus asks Peter, not one time but three, and each time Peter assures him that he does. But words are not enough. “Feed my lambs,” Jesus tells him. “Feed my sheep.” In other words, you will prove your love for me – not by what you say but by what you do. And that is as true now as it was then. Jesus is still asking that question and it is now the Church’s turn to answer. Again, not with words but with deeds. “Do you love me? Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep!”
Honesty compels us to admit that the Church has too often put its own perceived interests ahead of the clear and uncompromising command of Jesus to feed, care for, and nourish his flock. At times it has allowed selfish institutional issues and concerns to eclipse the most basic rights of the flock, especially of some of the weakest, most vulnerable members of the flock. This must never happen again.