Throw the bolts. Batten the hatches. Spike the battlements. The Pharisees shall not cross.
What might appear to passersby as hostile to the outside world could feel quite different to those inside the sacristy. We have not caged ourselves, they might say. We are defending our tabernacle. This is our realm of safety, and for this we are grateful. The shell may be unattractive, but the kernel of Truth is safe within.
Two Sundays ago in Santa Barbara a young Catholic priest from Peru, Father Juan Carlos Gavancho, delivered a homily at Our Lady of Sorrows:
“This is not an abusive church. This is a holy church that has fallen into the hands of abusive, evil men, who are trying to destroy the Church from within…”
He called upon the laity to speak out and demand accountability from the bishops.
“Christ is in charge of the church. He is in charge. Sometimes on days like this, we may not see him. We may not feel him. And we may cry out like we did at the beginning of the mass, “Please, Lord, help us! Have mercy on us!” But he’s in charge, and he will bring justice. These things I have told you are just the beginning. Many bad things are going to happen, and we need to be glad, because nothing is better than the truth.”
The parishioners applauded.
Two days later, Father Juan was summoned by his superior. He was to leave the rectory immediately. His name was removed from the church directory. The parish would pay to store his belongings for one week. After that, he was on his own.
He reported to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for a new assignment, only to be told he had been stripped of his authority to say mass. He is in a hotel now, somewhere in LA, a homeless priest.
This is quite different from how the bishops handled the sodomizers of altar boys. How quickly they lifted the drawbridge then, how indefatigably they manned the battlements against the encroachment of earthly justice.
How beautiful are Catholic Churches around the world, always with the open door, the stained glass, the flickering candle. How worldly its corruption, Hieronymus Bosch and Brueghel lurking underneath the cassock.
It’s a delicate balance, being In The World, but Not Of It. Defending centuries of tradition can pull you very far from the candle. Perhaps the soul is cradled in a form of hydrostatic equilibrium. If the sun were to burn out at this moment, it would take eight minutes for the darkness to reach us, even though the darkness was already present.
Maybe that’s where the Church is now. Eight minutes to go.