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How Can I Tolerate Sinfulness in the Church?

The suffering brought about by the sins in the Church has, for many, become an immense suffering, which is often more oppressive than the suffering caused by the sins of the world.
How can we bring this suffering to an end? Faith in Jesus Christ permits us to look to the future with unshakable trust. Faith teaches us that the word of Christ must be regarded as a true prophecy, which states: “The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against [my church]” (Matthew 16:18).

Righteous anger can be an effective means of reacting against defects in the Church, provided important restrictions are observed. If it is not born out of painful interior suffering in and for the Church, it can easily turn into sin (see Ephesians 4:26—27). From anger there can arise rash behavior, malice, cynicism, underhanded criticism, and finally division.

Fraternal admonition is a service, a seeking help for someone who has failed and has transgressed against God and the Church. It differs from the current widespread practice of a destructive criticism. It desires to assist someone whom it sees in error, so as to recognize and do what is right.

Our problem today is that many people suffer in the Church, but only a few are prepared to suffer for the Church. The redemptive value of suffering is one of the greatest mysteries of Christianity. A person must be called by God to be an expiatory sacrifice.

All saints have experienced—through the Church—persecution, defamation, and humiliation. On the other hand, the Church is also the infrastructure, the means for holiness. Genuine, personal holiness only exists on the foundation of the Church. We will be holy in and through the Church or we will not be holy at all.

The internal disputes of the Church impede and distract us from what is essential. The Church has a mission outward, which the Lord gave to it as his testament: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Alongside this has already grown up a post-Christian generation for whom internal Church affairs are all equal, while they are ignorant of the more substantial subjects: God, Christ, love, sacrifice, prayer, adoration, eternal life, and other topics of substance.

Joy is my last and most appealing recommendation. We present our Christianity, our Church, as if it were not a source of joy but one of ill humor and frustration. People would find it attractive if we were to prove to them through our fire and radiance that to be a Catholic with all one’s heart brings happiness. In the midst of all the frustration it is, of course, not easy to preserve joy. However, a joyful disposition is not a moral duty but a grace and therefore a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Adapted from Finding Happiness through Faith: Reflections on Christian Spirituality by Karl Josef Wallner, copyright 2013 (Liguori Publications, 824128).
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Published inReflections