Special Report: Devil in Rome premieres Monday, Aug. 22 at 8 PM ET
It's bad enough that name-calling has become the bane of rational political discourse. But it is now bidding to become staple fare in the discourse of Catholic clerics. This has more than a little bit to do with Pope Francis' religiously incongruous response to the spiritually mortal crisis brought on by revelations of clerical misconduct, mostly involving the practice of homosexuality.
As I noted recently, Pope Francis has been using the first Chapter of the Book of Job to identify Satan as "the Great Accuser." He then applies the label to suggest that whistleblowers, like Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, act as Satan's minions.
It is, by contrast, a scriptural fact that God Himself plays the role of the Great Accuser, He does so from the first, when He confronts Adam with evidence that he has transgressed by eating the forbidden fruit:
But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said: I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." He [the LORD] said "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"
God accuses His chosen people when they respond to His proofs of love with abandonment and betrayal. Thus, in the Psalm (95:7-11), He says:
Harden not our hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I was wearied of that generation and said, "They are a people who err in heart, and they do not regard my ways." Therefore I swore in my anger that they should not enter my rest.
Accusation is thus a godly vocation. In the Garden, Satan doesn't accuse Eve of eating the fruit, he encourages her to do it. So today, some are encouraging people to prune the fruit of pleasure from the meaning of knowledge that is meant to sow the seed for human procreation.
But who is accurately following the example of Satan? Is it they who deceitfully comfort the licentious inclination to abuse, for barren pleasure, what God meant for transmitting His gift of life? Or is it those others, who accuse these comforters of corrupting the Church's allegiance to God's loving provisions, prescribed to assure the perpetuation of humanity?
Without accusation, can there be repentance? The word implies turning again to God. But will turn thither if neither we nor anyone else is willing to confront us with the fact that we have set our faces against Him? Speaking of God's instruction, St. Paul writes:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)
Can one reprove without question of wrongdoing? Can one correct without reproaching error, in word or deed? Isn't the need to do these things the reason why God tells those charged with sharing His Word:
If I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to wan the wicked man from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your life. ... I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. (Ezekiel 33:8–9, 11)
Thus, God sees the willingness to accuse, and by accusing warn, those who depart from His way of truth, as an act of mercy. If and when it bears fruit in repentance, those who greatly accuse may greatly save. Tasking the soul with the guilt of sin, they may help the Lord remove from their lives the burden of death that comes of sin.
Pope Francis speaks again and again of the need for prayer and repentance. But what is the likelihood people will repent except by first coming to the knowledge of their sins, by themselves or with the help of those who are willing to love them, as God does, truthfully?
What God does in Scripture, Scripture tells us Christ did with His gaze. For after Peter thrice denied his being in Christ, the Gospel tells us:
And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him "you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.
Christ's word accused Peter even before he sinned, knowing full well the anguish that would come of it. Was this a failure of Christian compassion? How can that be said of the example of Christ Himself? To the contrary, isn't his example proof that timely accusation may be the work of Christian love?
Christ's love is ready to break another's heart with truth, so that love may bring penitence and transformation the grace of God in Jesus Christ, which alone gives true hope to all who may thus be opened by repentance to receive the true way of life that abides only in Him.
To you, Dear Lord, let us make a sacrifice of prayer, in thanks for those willing to reproach great sin with great accusation. Comfort them to bear, as need be, untrue reproaches— so that truth may be brought to all who need repentance; opening our eyes to the knowledge, you intend for us and breaking our hearts to the love of God in Christ. Thus broken and again made whole, help us, Dear Lord, to pass it on.