“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me.” “Peter, son of John, do you love me more than these?...Feed my lambs...Tend my sheep...Feed my sheep.” There's more to it than feeding and guiding/leading. There's also what the shepherd must do for the sheep that are attacked by a wolf. What good is a shepherd who abandons the wounded sheep? Or who ignores the wound; pretends it is not there; lets it fester and stink and in the end kill the sheep? We, the American Church, had such a wound. And it was ignored, and it did stink, and it was permitted to go on and become worse. (Please understand, I do not condemn across the board. And I do think that “good intentions” played a role. How large, though...I don't know. I just don't.) That sort of abuse does perpetuate itself beyond the first victim. I won't here go into the case I have in mind, but it does.
Benedict is not one to ignore the wound. He's faced it three times in DC alone: to the bishops, to the 46,000 in the stadium and all those watching on TV; to the group of victims he met with privately and with absolutely no advance fanfare. It is a deep shame; it is a betrayal that he has said he cannot comprehend; it is indeed scandal; but he will not hide from it and he does intend, in the name of Christ, to bring what healing he can. More, he knows what the wolf is that he must guard against – what good is it for us to try to protect our children from exploitation, if we bring them home safe and then flip on the R-movie of the week? As Shepherd, of the entire Church or just of a diocese or a single church, the job is to guard the flock – not just run around chasing after each and every wounded sheep. Once again - praise God for such a gentle – but strong – and holy Pope. Praise Him for the gift of his visit to our country – and praise Him for his courage in tending to the injuries inflicted by our priests and reminding our bishops in no uncertain terms of their own obligations.
(This is one area where I cannot understand John Paul. He was a great and holy man and deserves the title 'Magnus' – yet in this, he never did much. Not that we in America could see – and we needed to see, we needed to know that our Shepherd was attentive and would care for us in this as in all else.)
Lest I seem too much to ignore this – he came to renew we laypeople in our faith, in our obligations, as well. I don't mean to pin the problems in our parishes entirely on the priests, nor does he. Laity are failing badly as well. We too can do so very much better. “I believe and profess that you are truly Christ, the son of the living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first.” A Byzantine pre-Communion prayer that we could all stand to know, or at least remember the essence of. Renewal starts with ourselves first of all – than outward from us. Specks and beams.