Easter has always brought renewed hope and an opportunity to carry out changes to people and even within institutions. By now, after attending retreats, stations of the cross, and several masses, we Christians have a list of resolutions starting today. For government, institutions, and hopefully candidates for the May 2010 elections, we also hope that this Easter is a fresh new start for them too.
Of course, Easter gives the Church an opportunity to bring positive changes as well. And the celebration gives the faithful the opportunity to reaffirm their faith.
It has been challenging for the Catholic Church in the past several weeks because of the reports of scandals and abuses in Europe. As expected, the international media have been covering this issue comprehensively. And if one were to agree with the description of some media outfits, there has been a dark cloud over the Vatican as it celebrated Holy Week precisely because of the scandals.
What struck me in the past week was a story television story. The reporter asked people if this latest scandal has affected their faith and their being Catholic. As for me, while I never had any doubts about my faith, I found myself processing certain questions in the past few days. Should I be affected? Should the scandals affect my faith? And a question that the report did not answer: should one stop believing because of these scandals?
Certainly, the scandals are a cause of concern. I am concerned that it has happened. I am also concerned that some sectors are taking advantage of the situation.
As for my faith, my realization this Easter is that like many, the scandals should not affect my faith or being a Catholic. While it is sad that these scandals are happening, I go back to the question, why am I in this faith to begin with? Am I Catholic merely because of the people in it? Am I in it because the people in it say that they are holier than the rest? Or is it because of reasons that are more important?
For me, the reason to keep the faith is simple. Despite the scandals, I know what the Church is teaching. I continue to be convinced with the truths the Church has been sharing with the faithful over the past 2,000 years. While many scandals and heresies have happened, I realize, these should not keep me from believing in Jesus Christ. My lesson this past week is that we need to focus on the teachings of the Church more than its problems. Without being too simplistic, I believe it’s similar to the problems of a husband and wife. A couple may have their share of problems, but they continue to be faithful to each other because their relationship has a solid foundation. The solid foundation of a Catholic? His faith — as outlined in the bible, catechism, and other teachings of the Church.
Of course, this is not to say that the scandals should be condoned and ignored. And the leadership at the Vatican needs to realize all the more that the Church loses many of its faithful because of scandals like these latest ones.
I am glad that the Vatican has started addressing the issue. Pope Benedict XVI has issued a pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland. I am glad that the direction of the Pope is very clear. For starters, he has urged bishops to “establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected, and above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes.” In the past, Pope John Paul II had also asked forgiveness for the sins of some of its people.
There have been clamors for more reforms in the Church, and I trust that the Church will implement reforms that are consistent with its teachings.
In the end, I realize too that the clergy cannot do it alone without the help of its faithful. And the challenge now is for each ordinary individual to pray for the clergy, just as we pray for the leaders of this nation. This Easter, may we not lose hope. May we keep the faith because beyond the scandals, there are also greater truths to consider.