The meeting of the United States Conference of Bishops in Baltimore failed to produce even gestures of communication or expressions of affection for us, the suffering flock. I left the November meeting numbed by the realization that the bureaucratic language, structures, and processes of the men we call bishops to fence them in a world where broken, shocked hearts of ordinary men and women do not make the agenda. We, the laity, factor more as a body to be cajoled and managed than a people to be cared for and loved.
I entered Advent heavy in heart.
As I turned to the Magnificat readings, anxious to feel the joy, anticipation, and hope of Advent preparation, the words of Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of the diocese of Jefferson City refused to leave me.
“At the time of this writing, there has not been one bishop, archbishop or cardinal in either the Holy See or the United States who has come forward on his own to repent publicly of his sins of omission or commission with regard to Archbishop McCarrick’s series of promotions over decades. Please, be men, not cowards, and come clean on your own!”
Day after day passes. Episcopal silence persists. The McCarrick Mess hovers over Advent, like a Devil’s winged serpent, maneuvering to block the light and drive hope of healing and unity from the season. No bishop “comes clean.” No bishop tears with remorse in pain with his laity. None cry out for formerly Cardinal McCarrick to break his cold-hearted silence.
Busy at work, Attorneys Generals across the United States take aim at the Episcopal enclosure. Ironically, just days before Advent, Cardinal DiNardo became the media face of the U.S. Catholic Church around the world when prosecutors executed an early morning surprise raid of his Galveston-Houston offices.
I entered Advent with images of civil authorities hauling away boxes of documents from a Catholic Church Cardinal, the very figurehead who has promised to the laity disclosure, transparency, and accountability.
Silence, so integral to Advent and its time of waiting and mystery, engulfs me. My soul seems lost – “dumb, inarticulate, blind, seeing only darkness, unable to give things that it longs to give.” Houselander, Reed of God.
I know I am not alone.
Over a slice of panettone, a longtime friend teared up and bemoaned the Episcopal silence as she wondered how the Church would ever recover from such betrayal. Lighted candles, an endearing figure of Christ-baby in his manger, and background carols of joy dangerously darkened as the winged serpent circled our heart-broken discussion.
Perhaps it was this moment, against the backdrop of the many painful comments I’ve read at the Catherine Commission Facebook page, that resulted in my decision to end my Advent silence with a plea. I decided to join my voice to Bishop McKnight who observed, “There doesn’t have to be a formal and long, drawn-out investigation for a bishop to exercise a little compunction and concern for the well-being of the whole Church.”
I have sent a Christmas card to formerly Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. I have expressed my hope and prayer that Advent has been a fruitful season of silence and reflection for him. I wrote,
“I beg you from and for the Body of Christ, to be brave and true and initiate repair to the scandal you have brought upon us. I beg you to affirm that you do love the Body of Christ and to issue an apology for this scandal you have brought upon us all. If you hold the baby Jesus in your heart, you will do this simply from love.”
If you would like to join me, here is formerly Cardinal McCarrick’s address:
Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, St Fidelis Friary, 900 Cathedral Avenue, Victoria, KS 67671
Silence in Advent is reverent, patient and humble. It is not silence used to repress, cover-up and conceal. It’s been a painful Advent for many, many Catholics in the United States. This is not a bad thing.
“This simply means that the Holy Spirit of Love, by which Christ was conceived in that heart, is compelling it to suffer the period of growth” (Carol Houselander, Reed of God).
I am praying through the Christmas celebration now for all of you, the laity, that we may continue to grow in our new role in the Church.