15 August 2012

The Church's Vices

Sub tuum. 

I  have never understood it when someone says they are leaving the Church because the Church on earth is not perfect and has vices. For what green pasture are they leaving? Whatever the problems of the Church, those of the rest of the world are worse. Certainly the Church's past involves cruelty, but the world was and continues to be far more cruel. If the Church has suffered from corruption, then that of the world is far worse. Consider the numerous financial scandals and ponzi schemes that seem to have reached epidemic proportion of late. Consider the political corruption that exists in every country around the world. The Roman Communion's sexual abuse scandal was horrible, but it was not isolated to the Church. Consider the Penn State scandal as but one example. The Church has suffered scandals, but the scandals of the world are much worse. The Inquisition is held up by many as an example of the Church's cruelty and corruption, yet it was far milder than the secular courts of the day. Though accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, it is easy to say with relative certainty that fewer people died from the Inquisition than from the modern Chinese government. America, for example, has executed more than 1300 people just since 1976.

Christ established the Church knowing that its institution on earth would be run by imperfect humans and hence would suffer from problems and vices. For all its problems as an institution, she remains the Bride of Christ. It is the imperfections of we frail humans that gives vices to the institution of the Church. It is very encouraging to think that the important work of the Church was entrusted to imperfect and frail human beings. Indeed God has already used humans to do His will, despite our many failings and vices, and He loves us all despite our imperfections just as He loves the Church. Few things give me as much hope for eternal salvation as the fact that the institution of the Church on earth, despite her vices stemming from imperfections of humanity, is still loved by God. Whatever the vices one may encounter in the Church or one may learn about from the Church's history, it is still a better place than the world at large.

+ Rutherford Cardinal Johnson