Passion Sunday, the day when we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, is a defining moment in the Judeo-Christian story. Fulfilling in its own inimical fashion the prophecy of Isaiah, this is not another pageant in the Easter drama. Forget the palm fronds and forget the donkey. Passion Sunday begins the passio of Jesus – his suffering. Knowing his destiny, certainly his lauded entry into Jersualem after a three year absence must have been bittersweet. It was a moment of jubilation in a week that had no TGIF factor at all.
I’ve been following the Royal Commission into Child Abuse very closely, especially Case Study 8 which involved the Church’s response under Towards Healing. John Ellis was a child when he was groomed and abused well into adulthood by Fr Aidan Duggan who, when John Ellis brought his claims to Towards Healing, was elderly and suffering from dementia. The accused priest subsequently died without being able to be interviewed by the Archdiocese of Sydney or Towards Healing. However, it was the treatment of John Ellis and his family that defies belief. It is not excusable more than it is curious that I have had elderly priests say to me, “Well, we didn’t really understand child abuse in the 1950s,” but this was a matter that arose in the 2000s, in an era that had seriously recognised the criminality and affect of institutional abuse.
I suppose what upset me the most when I read the transcripts of this Case Study was the breathtaking arrogance of Archdiocesan personnel and also Towards Healing in their concerted efforts to extend this man’s suffering over years, retraumatising him, mounting a legal team against him to a cost of $1.5 million – more than ten times the amount he had asked for to compensate him for therapy and expenses. It places the Word of God in stark contrast to the reality of Church governance. “Who will save these people from themselves?” sprung to mind. The nasty and cold way the Monsignori and previous directors of Towards Healing presented themselves was shameful and embarrassing. It was like reading a really tragic and dark episode of “Bless Me Father”. Cardinal Pell even described one of his advisors as “a muddler” as if that makes everything okay.
Recently, I was assisting a student with an essay about the Catholic Church in modern society and the teacher changed (simplified to the level of lowest common denominator) our contention which was about the history of the Lateran Treaty to comparing Pope John Paul II (two Popes ago) to Barack Obama as a “statesman”. How ridiculous! Despite the fact that the pontificate is by no means a democratic process, there is no risk to the Pope for making policy decisions. The Pope is not worried about being elected out of office. The Pope is not – and can not afford to be – bothered by popularity polls. The Pope can easily slot other seventy-year olds into ancient dicasteries in order to give them something to do, or, in the case of Bernard Law, somewhere to hide from prosecution, and afford them time to grab a cappuccino in Trastevere at the same time. The Pope is not a statesman – he is a religious leader, the moral voice for the world. This makes the Royal Commission even harder to understand.
The Church in Australia is having its ride into Jerusalem. Smiling and waving, perhaps, but knowing that crucifixion is just a few moments away. Maybe crucified in the media, nailed to the cross of popular opinion – wouldn’t be the first time. We will have our Good Friday without the noble cause. However, redemption awaits us as either the ones who hung beside Jesus in his final moments – will we presume upon our monopoly of divinity to get us off the hook? Or we will simply say, “Forgive me, Lord, I am a sinner.”
And only then will we surely be with Christ in Paradise.
Reading from St Francis’ Sources:
A reading from ‘The Major Legend of St Francis’ by Bonaventure.
Who would be competent to describe the burning charity with which Francis, the Bridegroom’s friend, was aflame? Like a thoroughly burning coal, he seemed totally absorbed in the flame of divine love.
Jesus Christ crucified always rested like a bundle of myrrh in the bosom of his soul, into whom he longed to be totally transformed through an enkindling of ecstatic love. And as a special devotion to him, he found leisure from the feast of the Epiphany through forty successive days – that period when Christ was hidden in the desert – resting in a place of solitude, shut up in a cell, with as little food and drink as possible, fasting, praying, and praising God without interruption. Francis was born aloft in Christ.
Lord, transform our suffering into joy. May our Church rise with you in the resurrection that is promised to all of us. Amen.
FOLLOW US! Email Matt Hufer for feedback.
Please follow The Subconscious on Facebook! Click below!
and also don’t forget Twitter!