Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration ... He has begotten us by the Word of Truth...."1
I have always liked that phrase from Saint James' epistle. The imagery of the light and the shadow somehow evoke a mental picture of God coming down from heaven as He continually keeps the works of divine providence and truth in motion. Having grown up in the era of change that we have experienced since Vatican II, it has reminded me at least once a year of the futility and the danger inherent in man setting out to change everything -- particularly in setting out to change the things of God. But many of the things we read take on new meaning as we read other things or undergo new experiences after we have read them. And, this passage is no exception, with the events of the past few months confirming the folly of that we have been seeing for these past forty years or so.
I've not said much about the Church's latest scandal from the pulpit -- although you will find something in the Bulletin, this month and last. Understand, please that the Church will survive this latest folly, just as She has survived every stupid thing men have done to Her over the centuries. But more than survive, it is important that Her members profit from the tribulations through which their own mistakes and those of their leaders have put Holy Mother Church. It is not good enough for the Church to put in place a few procedures for investigating and acting on complaints against priests. Such procedures are like making sure that everyone in the building knows how to operate the fire hose and extinguishers, how to ring the fire alarm, and how to evacuate the building -- very necessary, very good things to know when they are needed -- but the occupants of the building are much better served if they all make sure that no fire has a chance to start to begin with -- that combustibles are properly stored, that cigarettes get extinguished, that the electrical wiring is proper, and that nobody lights a match under unsafe conditions. Prevention is far better than cure -- for the Catholic Church as well as for the occupants of our hypothetical building.
If anything is to be gained from the current scandal, it must be recognized by all Catholics and by our leaders that God, and His moral law, and His truth are unchanging -- just like it says in today's epistle. No one on earth can change the moral law that is given to us by God. No one can say that instead of following God's laws, were are going to establish a committee, or take a vote or a poll to determine what is appropriate for us to be doing. And that, of course, is exactly what we have seen in the past 40 years -- both in the Church and in civil society. We have seen the most sacred worship of Christendom turned into a circus that begins with a monologue like the Tonight Show -- we have seen them tell one and all that it no longer matters whether or not we believe the things God has revealed concerning Himself -- and we have been told that people have the right to do whatever they like as long as no one gets hurt. The only thing different now is that people are finally coming forth and recognizing that they have indeed been hurt, at least psychologically, by something which at the moment remains illegal. But legal or illegal -- whether we have recourse to the civil authorities or not -- the violation of God's law and God's truth is always wrong.
Now, I hope that I am preaching to the choir. I hope that you are here today because you already recognize the truth of what I just said. I say it to you in order to enlist your aid -- in order that you might make this insistence on God's law and God's truth a mission of your own -- that when you speak with other Catholics and other Christians and other Americans you will relate the same thing to them. If a friend tells you about "new procedures" or "oversight committees" or a "new attitude" or a "clean sweep" -- please tell that friend -- gently and politely of course -- that those things are not enough -- that only by returning to God's law and God's truth can things be put back on the right path. Friends, neighbors, pastors, and politicians all need to hear the message
Spread the word: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration ... He has begotten us by the Word of Truth...."
1. Epistle: James i: 17-21.