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Merciful Discipline 4: Hopeful, We Rebuild Trust

This is the fourth post of six in the Merciful Discipline Series. A complete list of available posts will be at the end of each article as they are made available.

Merciful Discipline 4: Hopeful, We Rebuild Trust

We do not want you to grieve…as those who have no hope. (1Thes. 4:13)

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1Cor. 4:2)

Cursed is the man who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord…He will dwell in the parched places of the earth. (Jer. 17: 5, 6)

One struggles to consider a more profound violation of trust than priestly abuse of children. Based on the trust Catholic parents grant the Church, they have entrusted their children to a handful of priests who used that trust to abuse.

Diabolical—the disintegration of young lives and long after, the disintegration of trust in the Church itself. What greater victory could the enemy of our souls achieve than the scattering of the sheep through such a violent abuse of trust?

We overcome evil through good. And that good comes through acknowledging the mistrust that remains and choosing to begin a process of forgiveness. Our wounds united with Christ’s, we have access to the antidote: Mercy. We can apply that Mercy to both abusing priests and those who unwittingly sustained the abuse through its mishandling.

Forgiveness is neither weak nor a set up for ‘revictimization’. Forgiveness is power. In the Spirit of Jesus, we entrust all involved in the abuse, including our own damaged hearts, ‘to Him who judges justly.’ (1P2:23) We choose to place the hemorrhaging mess into the only Wounds that can heal it; we gratefully remove ourselves from the role of Redeemer and Judge. In forgiving our captors, we begin to be released from an unbearable weight. Little by little, we chip away at the burden of another’s sin until Jesus alone bears it. Forgiveness is the power by which we triumph over beloved enemies.

Forgiving spiritual leaders means that we are growing up. As the laity, we have authority to name a leader’s sin against us or loved ones and to do something about it. In that process, which includes forgiveness, we strike a death blow to clericalism. We refuse to grant Catholic leaders the magic of perfection. We cease to be children and become discerning, engaging colleagues with clergy.

We can disagree with them. And we can go directly to Christ ourselves—to trust more in Him than in the priest or bishop. Jesus always wanted it this way. God wants to use the sexual abuse crisis to free the laity from childish reliance upon mere men, and to mature into wise and helpful members of Jesus’ body.

Trust must be earned. We forgive our offenders in obedience to Christ and to free our own hearts. Yet reliance upon those we have forgiven is wise only when their trustworthiness is evident.

There is evidence that the Church is repenting of her lack of transparency in failing to protect her young. Pope Benedict has championed reform here. He has repeatedly acknowledged the Church’s scandalous track-record and has exerted enormous energy in insisting on strict measures of accountability, discipline, and prevention in the world-wide Church. (He would be wise to keep doing so!)

The US Bishops have established arguably the highest standards for transparency and accountability and victim-care for the US Church than any other branch of the RCC. For that to become a living reality, ‘all diocesan leaders must be committed to transparency about their actions, ensure that immediate and appropriate responses to abuse become routine, and ensure that all such actions are adopted by all church leaders.’ (John Jay Report, p.93)

Having stumbled recently, the Kansas City Diocese under Bishop Finn has set up a new and solid system of checks and balances that line up entirely with recommendations from the Graves Report. Instead of alleged abuses going to the Vicar-General, an Ombudsman receives them and reports them directly to the police and the DFS, while initiating an investigation, which includes a Victim’s Advocate. An Independent Review Board operates as well, investigating whether alleged perpetrators should continue in ministry.

Jennifer Valenti, the new and apparently dynamic Ombudsman, urges all of us to do our part as faithful, discerning members of the one Body. She implores us:

In order for the safety net to be effective, you must take a stand. You cannot stand in silence when you suspect abuse. It takes courage, but you must report it.

If we discern any possibility of abuse, we are to call DFS at (800) 392-3738.

Our hope is in God, the Author and Finisher of His Church. To love the Church and to be whole-hearted in our service of her, we must forgive her grievous failures even as we discern her repentance. In so doing, we destroy the will of the evil one with good. Evidence of change in the ‘system’ still requires that we keep growing, learning how to trust others with a new maturity. That maturity requires that we do our part to ensure that the Church is a safe place for children.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has now worries in a year of drought, and never fails to bear fruit. (Jer. 17: 7, 8 )

Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced secret and shameful ways. We do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, be setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2Cor 4: 1, 2)

O Blood and Water, that flows from the heart of the Savior as a fount of Mercy for us, we trust in You! – St. Faustina

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The Merciful Discipline Series of Posts (updated with each new post as they become available):

 

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Heritage 2011

Heritage 2011

A dear friend recently eulogized his mother with these words: ‘You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.’ (PS 61:5) The Psalmist refers to God as the giver; my friend added to that his acknowledgement of the faith he inherited from his good, god-fearing mother.

I contemplated the reference to fearing God. What does that mean? Uncomfortable with fear in our therapeutic age, certain that all shame is bad and that honoring anything greater than ourselves is a set up for abuse, we refuse to link fear with faith in God.

What a loss. To me the fear of God takes our faith and trust in His goodness and anchors it in His holy power. Fearing Him means a healthy reckoning that He is God and we are not, that He alone holds the keys to life and death, and that we do well to take His ways seriously and make them our own. Or else.

Or else what? I don’t know for sure, but I don’t want to find out the hard way. Nor do I want my kids to meander in misty notions of grace without the hard truth of sin’s consequences. Annette and I have made it our absolute priority that our kids know that their main inheritance is the fear of the Lord. It’s not education or good humor or well-intentioned acts—it’s about knowing God as revealed in Christ Jesus, full of grace and truth.

This year, Annette and we are grateful that each of our kids is centered in God. After many detours, they love Him and possess a healthy fear of Him. They respect His power as well as the power of sin; they try to steer clear of those strongholds most familiar to them.

This year, Sam fought to remain free from friends he could not handle and free for fellowship. He has also worked really hard this year to become financially responsible. He intends to become a middle-school teacher.  We witness the success of his efforts to grow in godliness. He has a deep heart for God and for weak humanity.

Katie is excelling at Beeson Seminary in Alabama. She has found her niche as a budding theologian and a woman who loves the Church. Both are rooted in humble reliance on God. She re-upped to serve on one of our healing teams before she left. She told me she did so because she felt weak in some relational areas, and to serve others was a good way to stay clean and strong. What a daughter, a Christian after my own heart!

Nick married beautiful Meg last May. He was already busy in his Pittsburg-based seminary, running marathons—as focused as one dares to be. The day before the two wed, he received an offer to come on staff at a turned-on Anglican parish in Kansas City. He took the job, and life changed fast. Nick amazed me in how he cared for Meg in this process of rapid change. She chose to leave a good job back east and Nick took seriously her loss and needs. Much competes for his attention, but Meg wins first place. God has trained him in the way of love.

Greg and Christina celebrated their first year anniversary last September after landing his first job in a law firm in Colombia MO. The year preceding, Greg fought hard to secure a job. Caught in the undertow of the recession, his high-standing as a graduate meant little to nothing. The way that he endured multiple, exhaustive interviews to no avail amazed me. He struggled to not fear his law-school debt or to doubt his own adequacy. He feared the Lord, and fought hard to stay centered in what was true. He lives out his heritage well.

Annette and I have sought one true thing: that our kids would receive the heritage of ‘those who fear His Name.’ We are deeply grateful for those of you who prayed and fought for our godly fear. Thank you.

In 2012, may the Lord bless and build you up in your inheritance as children of a holy, loving God.

‘His Mercy extends to those who fear Him from generation to generation.’ – (Luke 1:50)

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Mercy for the Truthful Church

Day 36 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Mercy for the Truthful Church

‘I will allow convents and churches to be destroyed…Souls without love and devotion, souls full of egoism and self-love, souls full of pride and arrogance, souls full of deceit and hypocrisy, lukewarm souls with just enough warmth to keep them alive. My Heart cannot bear this…I cannot stand them because they are neither good or bad…If they do not repent and become enkindled by their first love, I will deliver them over to the fate of this world.’ (1702)

If there is one thing worse than the worldly Church, it’s the truthful Church without Mercy.

Appalled at the sin around her, this Church strengthens her defenses and uses the truth for self-protection. She loses sight of lost and broken ones who need a way into the Church. In her defensiveness, she may also contribute to the divided hearts of clergy.

The Catholic Church and many fine Bible churches have a common commitment to marriage as the sole basis for sexual conduct. Alleluia! I rejoice in many eloquent and thoughtful nuances on this theme. Presented as God’s truth, it lays a narrow, inspired track for all humanity to weigh.

In an era where most grow up harassed on every side by vulgar, needy expressions of sex outside of marriage, the Church is wise to uphold its truth. But the truthful Church must beware of its tendency to merely raise a standard. Without acknowledging the devastation of lives in their midst, and providing a way forward for them to discover the Redeemer of their broken sexuality, the Church actually does a disservice to her own.

Truth without Mercy is not the face of Jesus. It is only another reason as to why sinners believe they have no real place in Church. Where is the Jesus who first defended the adulteress from the religious, the prostitute from the Pharisee? Where is the witness in the Church of Mary Magdalene, freed of demons and shame, now bearing witness of the Merciful Fount that raised her from the dead of sexual sin?

Instead the Church hands out another eloquent set of ethics. And what must this do to her leaders? These ones may buy into the system of ‘postcard’ saints who are only holy, not dimensional flesh and blood people who by Mercy alone have been freed to live out the truth. These truthful ones may well perpetuate the very ethic that shames and derides them for failing to live by it.

Those leaders who have not undergone a process of genuine sexual integration through Mercy and much engaging with His Merciful Church will fail; they go underground on the Internet, to gay bars in other cities, to vulnerable ones they serve then devour with their lusts. These are conservatives, imprisoned by the very truths they hold dear.

The priest in the Kansas City Diocese who abused little girls is a conservative, as is the bishop who allegedly failed to act promptly to stop his violence. And here we see the worst crime committed by the truthful Church: defending the ‘truth’ of the institution over the well-being of innocent ones. Threatened by the world and its judgment, smug in its authority, the Church uses the very truth God entrusted to her as a cover for secrets and lies.

Nothing has discredited the Church more in the last 50 years than its use of ‘truth’ to save face for fractured priests who provoked untold damage in little ones.

Those lost on that evil day will be vindicated by the God of Mercy and Justice. In the meantime, ‘let judgment begin in the house of God.’ (1P. 4:17)

“Because you are lukewarm, neither hot or cold, I am about to spit you out of My Mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (Rev. 3: 16-18)

‘Jesus, test our truth with the power of Your Mercy. Cause us to repent if we who know and honor the truth dishonor it with our lives. Wash us clean. We are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. We repent unto Your Mercy. Let the truth of our failure to live by the truth shatter us; raise what pleases You.’

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

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Urgency and Mercy

Day 31 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Urgency and Mercy

‘I have eternity for punishing sinners, and so I am prolonging the time of Mercy for the sake of sinners. But woe to them who do not recognize this time of My visitation! (1160)

‘A strange power has been pushing me into action, not giving me a moment’s peace. A strange ardor has been lit in my heart, urging me to action and I cannot stop it.’ (569)

How can we not experience the disquiet of St. Faustina?

We live between the ‘now’ of Mercy and the ‘not yet’ of God’s judgment.

‘Mercy is a sign of the end times; after it will come the day of justice.’ (848) Souls hang in the balance. Our lives are prophetic, a testament to Mercy and the hard truth that those who refuse it have hell to pay. If that does not inspire a holy urgency on our part, what will?

We must allow the Spirit of Mercy who is also the Spirit of judgment to rouse us on behalf of souls—to teach us to pray in unexpected hours, and to follow His lead in connecting with the wayward.

He also teaches us to bear His grief on behalf of wickedness and to cry out for Mercy. We are Mercy’s advocates, imploring Him to have Mercy on perpetrators of evil before their judgment is sure. Each of us can do so according to His lead and our limited capacity to bear such grief.

Here we must be alert to our own defenses, the self-protection that cries peace when there is none. If we seek to bear grief over evil with Him, our lives will be disrupted. We will taste the urgency of the hour that will inspire a deeper cry for Mercy in us. For me that urgency applies to sexual brokenness in both the Church and in the world.

In His Mercy, Jesus called me out of homosexuality many years ago. It was at the onset of the ‘gay rights’ era and I could discern even then the powerful drive to include practicing homosexuals on all fronts, including ‘marriage’ and church office.

Taking a step back, one can see ‘the gay agenda’ as a symptom of a greater evil: the devastation of God’s image in humanity. Friends with ‘benefits’, ‘no-fault’ divorce, Internet porn as foreplay to the sexual abuse of children, contraception and abortion—all the ways in which we made sex our little game to manipulate at the cost of human life and dignity—that is the fault-line of ‘personal rights’ on which gays aspire to be equal opportunity offenders.

And the Church, which upholds the truth of God’s will for our sexual humanity, has failed to live out that truth. As never before, the glare of worldwide scrutiny is on the Church for its mishandling of sexually and spiritually abusive priests.

Shepherds eat the sheep and bishops cry peace. The Church fails to discipline her own, so the state steps in to protect kids from creepy priests. The bishop of Kansas City just became the first to be indicted by a Grand Jury for failing to remove a charming pedophile priest. Devastating. Is it any wonder that the percentage of American priests who have abused children corresponds with the 3% of citizens who claim to be gay? The sins of the fathers are passed down…

‘What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the Church? Are you not to judge those inside? ‘(1 Cor. 5:12)

‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak anymore in His Name”, His Word is like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.’ (Jer. 20:9)

‘Have Mercy, Jesus. We have all contributed to the devastation of human dignity through sexual brokenness. Have Mercy on us all; do not pay us back as our sins deserve. Reclaim lives from the fire of ‘lust and greed, which is idolatry.’ (Eph. 5:5)

Mercy also on Your Church, as You allow her to be judged in this hour. Let Your severe Mercy have its perfect way in her, that she might be restored as a bright and pure fount of Your Mercy. Receive our repentance in this hour, merciful King, that You would be unashamed to dwell in Your house.’

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

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Mercy and Judgment

Day 6 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘Do not fear anything, I am with you. These matters are in My hands and I will bring them to fruition according to My mercy, for nothing can oppose My will.’ (573)

God was merciful to me in my ‘waterless pit’; He drew me out of the hell of homosexuality through Heavenly Mercy. Without mercy, I would have died young, never to have known or created real life.

Mercy matters; without it, sin and death prevail. We eat poisoned fruit and suffer either an immediate or a slow and agonizing death.

The two young men with whom I first ventured into the gay world both suffered terrible deaths from AIDS. Unable to stave off the smallest of infections, their bodies bore witness to the moral boundaries we had broken in sexual immorality.

I cannot claim virtue as the reason I survived, any more than they died because they were worse sinners than me. Mercy spared me from the judgment of an early death. Period.

The unrepentant are already under the judgment of sin and death. It lays claim to them unless and until we intercede and ask Mercy to intervene on their behalf.

Abraham pleaded for Sodom, a city rife with wickedness—arrogant, overfed, unconcerned for the poor, and devoted to homosexual lust. (Ez. 16: 49, 50) And God heard his cry for Mercy on behalf of the few righteous in Sodom. The Father sent two angels to warn righteous Lot and family to flee the city before He destroyed it as an act of judgment.

The men of Sodom tried to rape the masculine angelic messengers. Unsuccessful, the angels warned Lot of the impending doom of the city. Still, Lot lingered, as if he had lost his bearing in the sensual wickedness of Sodom.

As John Wimber said, ‘Sin makes us stupid’. This applies not only to our personal iniquities, but also to the impact of corporate sins around us, as was the case for the increasingly confused Lot.

According to Dale Anderson in his fine book Mercy Wins (Kansas City: Oasis Pub., 2010), mercy appears in Scripture for the first time in Gen. 19: 16:

‘When Lot hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and led them out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.’

God first employs his Mercy to enable faltering Lot to turn away from the wickedness of Sodom and toward a city of refuge. Mercy—in the form of the angels–liberated his turning. His wife was not so fortunate. She turned back toward Sodom, and died instantly. (Gen. 19: 26)

That can say three things for us: sin is mighty in its power to destroy lives, intercessory prayer is essential in asking God to mercifully save lives from judgment, and God acts on behalf of these prayers by offering sinners a way out through His Mercy.

Human will and effort has a place: we must respond to Mercy to be saved, and we the saved must pray for those who hang in the balance. Sodom warns us of the perilous state of the unrepentant.

‘Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.’ (Joel 3: 14)

‘Father, we cry out for loved ones in ‘the valley of decision.’ Would you act in Mercy on their behalf? Would You send Your angelic messengers to those who are faltering in sin, doomed for judgment? We do not know how to reach them; You do, so we cry out for Your Mercy on their behalf. We live only because of Your Mercy. Would you please have Mercy on our beloved ones, liberating their flight from judgment?’

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