Spiritual guide Josette Vassallo discusses the abuses in Catholic Church and how we can deal with them -“acknowledge the bad behaviour, forgive and work on your own self-transformation.”
Bad examples from Church people “robbed my peace”
I empathise with you as I felt the same way years ago. I was criticised and laughed at by my colleagues and friends when I said that I’m a Catholic. They would bombard me with the bad examples given by church goers and priests alike. This attitude robbed me of all peace making me feel very disturbed. During this time my life as a Catholic was more based on morality, and sometimes I struggled hard to live up to good moral standards prescribed by the church and the gospel, not to say that there were times when I failed.
From correctness to a entering a loving relationship with God
However, my faith took a turning point when I attended a talk by a Catholic speaker who said that our Catholic Faith is first and foremost a loving personal relationship with a merciful God. He insisted on the importance of daily prayer and explained that prayer is not just asking things from God but an opening of our heart to Him to allow Him to reveal Himself to us and to be the Lord of our lives. He explained that one way of doing this is by meditating the Scriptures. Scripture is the living word of God through which God speaks to us individually (also as a church but individually as well) in our particular circumstances. The God of Jesus Christ, besides being the head of the Catholic Church, is also a personal God who desires to reveal Himself to us individually. This talk had a great impact on me and so I decided to spend time in daily prayer. At the beginning this was quite a struggle but as I persevered I started to look forward to my prayer time. The reason is that what I had learnt about God in my past now became an experience. It was like having a best friend, the more you spend time together the more you get to know him/her. The result is that the more you spend time with God, and meditate on His word, the more He starts to transform you and create you afresh in His own image and likeness. So your mentality, the way you speak and react, your attitudes in general will be more in tune with those of Jesus. You will become more Christ-like and besides personal prayer, participating in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, will give you the grace to be a witness of the faith that you proclaim.
“Your indignation for the wrongdoing will remain, but your merciful love for the wrongdoer will grow”
In this way you will start to have peace and be at ease in the Catholic Church as your heart starts being transformed in the Heart of Christ which is an overflowing well of unconditional love and mercy. Those who walk closely to Him will experience this love and mercy for their fellowmen, no matter what scandals the latter perform within the church. Not only so but the greater the sinner, the greater the scandals he performs, the greater will your love and mercy for him be. The more will you beg Our Lord to save him, the more you will try, if it is in your power, to do good to him. Your indignation for the wrongdoing will remain, but your merciful love for the wrongdoer will grow even more and you will try to defend him even from the condemnation that others throw on him. It is similar to the episode of the adulterous woman who was brought before Jesus. Her accusers told Jesus that according to the Jewish law that woman had to be stoned. But Jesus told them “the one without sin will throw the first stone at her and one by one they left and only Jesus remained with the woman. Actually He was the only sinless one who could have thrown the first stone. Instead His merciful love healed her and saved her.
The evil of abuse and the hope of forgiveness
Don’t take me wrong. Abuses by priests or Church people are wrong, detestable and tarnish the image of the Church as the Body of Christ. Victims and all those prone to become victims should be protected and supported. But I cry out with Jesus crucified “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do’.
Let us do likewise.
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