Smart people have learned to be wary of the kind of reporting which goes on these days and so it would come as no surprise to me should we discover that untruth has prevailed in certain news reporting, especially regarding the abuse crisis and episcopal negligence of due diligence in their governance of their dioceses. It makes little difference if we are dealing with out-and-out lies or if contentiousness has at least slanted perception beyond recognition.
I am referring for example to reports of the case of the French bishop who seems to have expressed doubts about the sinfulness of pedophilia. It could very well be that he was misquoted or is getting a bad wrap for something he may never even have said. It's like the TAGESPOST trying to explain with a conspiracy theory why the rector of a German theological school wasn't given a nihil obstat from Rome for a third mandate. The rector's noted militating in favor of priests blessing same-sex unions couldn't be reason enough not to confirm his election or so it seems to the author of the article. As I say, smart people are rightly wary of such and certainly don't lose their equilibrium, abandoning themselves to chasing links to verify the story.
Moreover, everyone has a solution to offer or an analysis of what is at the heart of the tragic story. As priest candidates go, I see the whole business of psychological testing or screening coming up and being offered as a panacea again. I remember how my class in the early 1970's in Rome was spared the mess of screening interviews when it was discovered that graduate students at one of the pontifical universities were delving too deep and selling the information to the highest bidder... Let the one without sin cast the first stone!
In these and many more such cases, I keep coming up with the idea that much would be better if, hang psychology and sociology, we could recover a clear notion of what is sin and of the objective gravity of certain thoughts, words, acts or omissions. Smart people will tell you that a regular practice of the Sacrament of Penance, with individual confession of sins and specific absolution given by the priest, would go a long way to resuscitating our Catholic world, bringing joy and meaning into the lives of young and old, often now too calloused in their denial of responsibility for their own actions to be able to let go, return home to God, our forgiving Father (see the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15).
"Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Make me one of your hired hands!" In our world sadly, pride impedes the feast. No body comes home to the festive garment, the ring, the fattened calf, the music and the dancing... And why? For the simple failure to identify and call my sin by name.
This is a job for the kind of enlightenment, the kind of casting out of darkness which comes by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is only possible when we can say it out loud in the confessional and hear the confirmation that, yes, we have sinned, but through the tears of Penance come that second washing after Baptism, which has always been so central to the Church's mission for the salvation of the world.
Maybe googling the word "sin" for a definition might not be the best idea, unless of course it leads you to the catechism. Maybe letting down your defenses and trying to make a good confession would be the icebreaker to render that study of the catechism more fruitful. In any case, we need to expand our vocabulary as it applies to ourselves with that word "sin". I surely hope that French bishop is getting a bum wrap. Wouldn't it be awful to discover that we even have shepherds with such limited means of expression?
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI