A disgraced superior of the most powerful of the "new movements" favored by John Paul II under the protection of the most powerful of the Secretaries of State. One of the superior's right-hand priests. The most prominent woman in the Church's higher administration and a distinguished legal mind in the most prestigious university of our age. Journalists in the most influential Catholic news agency.Roman intrigue. Family connections. Illegal relationships. Secret liaisons. Illegitimacy. Shadows in the highest echelons of the Vatican. Silence and mutual protection up to the last moment within a Catholic elite and media too enamored with close access and exclusive information.A lousy and poorly written novel? No, the truth.
I readily admit that it's sometimes difficult to square all of the high falutin' theological talk of virtue, holiness, and the salvation of souls with the shabby reality of the Church in all too many places. I myself am no great shakes, but the one of the reasons I became Catholic in the first place is because I hoped to find a Christian church that was serious about the pursuit of holiness and drew on the spiritual treasures of all Christianity's 2000 year history. And to be sure, there are isolated pockets of Catholics like that, here and there. But I figured out pretty quickly that if I was going to be serious about Catholicism, I'd have to go it alone in many cases.
No amount of sin by any individual or any group of human beings disproves the truth of the Catholic faith. But bad example by others can, nonetheless, make it subjectively more difficult for some people to continue their own pursuit of holiness. That's what we used to call "causing scandal." And any Catholic can tell you that the spiritual treasures of Christianity's 2000 year history seldom make appearances in the day-to-day life of a parish. Go to Mass on Sunday, maybe go to the parish hoe-down every few years, drop a few extra bucks in the collection plate when Father announces the roof has a leak. Keep your head down, don't make waves, don't make yourself stand out to your Protestant and heathen friends, it's no big deal if your kids marry outside the faith, you're a good Catholic. Heck, if you go to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day most people would call you a "devout Catholic." Everything's fine, nothing to see here.
It'd be much easier if we were being martyred again. The threat of death quickly sorts the wheat from the chaff. But this is the nature of the trials and punishments God has sent us. It's not fire or the sword we struggle against right now, but our own temptations to boredom and mediocrity.