Sunday, March 28, 2010

In Dublin -- and Beyond -- "The Church Will Not Be Reformed From Outside"

With the Irish church still reeling from November's Murphy Report on sex-abuse and cover-up in its capital see -- a damaging chronicle that led Pope Benedict to convene an unprecedented summit of the country's bishops and release a first-ever full document on the crisis -- and with the Isle's top prelate, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, currently considering his position, another resounding call for both the church's renewal and all hands on deck to aid in it came on this Palm Sunday from the lone Irish hierarch widely praised for his forthright response to the scandals' immense toll: Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Here, a snip of Martin's post-Passion homily:
At the final moment on the cross Jesus is tempted once again: “If you are the Son of God, save yourself”, they cry. But Jesus had not come to save himself. He had come to give his life out of love for us, so that we could have life. Jesus who is just – and is recognised as such by Pilate – is unjustly condemned, yet he forgives those who orchestrate his death.

This Gospel account teaches us something about the Church from its very beginning and it tells us something about the Church today and how we are called to live as members of the Church of Christ.

The Church in Dublin is still stung by the horrible abuse which innocent children endured through people who were Christ’s ministers and who were called to act in Christ’s name. How was it that the innocence of children was not embraced; how did it happen that in our Church the temptation to protect institution was given priority over healing the most innocent and the vulnerable.

Many ask me: “How could such harm have been done within the Church of Christ; How can I remain in such a church?"

The only answer is for us to remember that the Church is the Church of Jesus Christ and it is his self-giving alone that brings hope for renewal and give the strength to remain faithful to his message and his mission. Reform and renewal in the Church, sorely needed, can never be a task which we as humans can undertake on our own. It will only come when we convert, that is when we change direction in our lives, and allow Christ’s example of fidelity to be the driving force in our lives. Reform in the Church will come when we all reform.

You may reply: "I have no responsibility for what happened. Why ask me to repent and convert?” Jesus though innocent, gave himself so that others might live. Reform of the Church must come from within us. It must come from a change within each of us. It is not a question of us asking how I can remain in such a Church, but rather that as the disciples of Jesus we all take responsibly for the Church, but within the Church, within a community of men and women who believe and who live out the love of God in their lives.

The Church will not be reformed as the Church of Christ by cries from outside, of those who do not believe. Renewal is a matter of faith and of understanding what it means that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is not of this world but it must be realised day by day within this world, by those who understand the meaning of Christ’s self-giving love, which aimed not to save himself but to bring life to others.

So many things damage the face of Christ in his Church. So many things damage the body of Christ. If we really understand how we all belong to the one body then we cannot feel that the answer to renewal in the Church can come about by leaving the Church or by leaving it to others. I as Archbishop of Dublin am committed to working with all of you who wish to renew our Church, to purify our Church from all that has damaged the face of Christ. These have not been easy days for me personally. But with the many believers who wish to journey together on the path of renewal, I know that that path will inevitably be a way of the Cross.

When we journey along the way of the Cross we do not know what that way will entail and how long our journey will take. The challenge is not to follow the short-cuts of the disciples who found that fleeing was the quick and easy answer; the challenge is not to follow the hypocrisy of Pilate who places his own position ahead of his responsibility towards an innocent man; our challenge is not to get trapped in irrelevant questions of prestige and status as did some disciples at the Last Supper. Our challenge is to be like Jesus who, with all the anguish and fear it entails, does not flinch or waver in remaining faithful to the will of his Father, even at the price of enduring the ignominious death on a criminal’s cross.
PHOTO: Getty