Sex and the Church: A Case For ChangeMay 3, 2002 | Newsweek
THE ABUSE OF CHILDREN and teenagers and a clerical culture of cover-up had brought them to Rome, and clearly they thought they knew the cause of the trouble. “This is an ongoing struggle,” said Bishop Wilton Gregory, his eyes flashing with conviction. “It is most importantly a struggle to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men.”
On the same day across the Atlantic, in suburban New York, a celibate and chaste brother priest of Bishop Gregory’s was going about his work. One of untold thousands of good and faithful clergy who happen to be homosexual, this man had prayers to say, two masses to celebrate, people to counsel: there was a tough session with a husband in a troubled marriage. “I’m gay,” the priest said later. “But it’s not the only thing I am. So I’m gay and the next priest over is Polish—so what? What matters is, am I faithful, creative, godly?” He fears a witch hunt in the making in the words of clerics like Gregory. “The church is pretty much saying, ‘If you stop ordaining gays you’ll stop the sexual abuse’,” says the priest. “Isn’t that like saying, ‘Let’s stop ordaining blacks so there won’t be any more crime in the rectories’?”
There it is, from the center of Rome to a quiet corner of the church: two scenes in a painful drama that has broad implications for the future of Christianity in both Catholic and Protestant realms. Some Catholic traditionalists are trying to manage the scandal’s fallout by arguing that the sexual predation of children and teens by priests is largely a homosexual issue. Such a stance isolates the problem and, conservatives seem to hope, forecloses talk about the future of celibacy, married priests or, at the farthest edge, ordaining openly gay clergy and blessing same-sex unions. By pointing their fingers mainly at homosexuality, these church leaders are avoiding discussion of the questions that should be front and center: the roots and costs of a culture of sexual repression and secrecy.
After some confusion last week over whether the prelates had decided on a “one strike” policy, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia made it clear. “I speak for the cardinals,” he said. “All of the cardinals are agreed on zero tolerance, and by that I mean that we are all agreed that no priest guilty of even one act of sexual abuse of a minor will function in any ministry or any capacity in our dioceses.” An obvious answer, and long overdue.
To traditionalists, sexuality is a critical line of defense against modernity and what they see as moral confusion; to reformers, it could be the last frontier to cross in the battles over identity. That is why, for all its sordidness, the Catholic crisis should prompt a broader conversation about how far Christianity still has to go to resolve its complexes about the larger issue of sexuality. Churches have trouble handling cases of abuse because they often have trouble dealing with sex, period. There is a strong theme of hypocrisy running through all this. Bishops will ordain men they know to be gay in order to fill the pulpits, then uphold a code and culture that suggests homosexuality is what Cardinal Bevilacqua last week referred to as an “intrinsic evil.” Celibacy—not only in Catholic circles—is all too often honored in the breach; pastors can fall into sin with ladies of the parish. And in the Catholic Church, women are asked for time and treasure but cannot be priests.
Many believers, at least in America, sense the tension and seem open to change. In the latest NEWSWEEK Poll, 50 percent of Catholics feel at odds with church teachings on human sexuality, up from 40 percent in 1993. Fifty-nine percent do not think screening gays out of the priesthood would make much difference in reducing the problem of abuse. Fully half of Catholics (51 percent) say they would attend a church with an “openly gay” priest. Seventy-three percent would allow married priests; 65 percent favor ordaining women.
For many of us, faith, like history, is an unfinished story, a running argument. Though it is hard, Christians are called to bear the Gospels’ central message in mind when confronting the challenges of our time. Facing a decision, evangelicals like to ask: “What would Jesus do?” As a believing, middle-of-the-road, churchgoing Episcopalian, I am, in thinking and temperament, about as far from an evangelical as you can get. But they do have a point: it helps to be reminded that the Christian story is one of revolution, of rethinking assumptions, of overturning, as Jesus did the tables in the temple, the order of the world as we find it. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ says, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also... Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Theological arguments are often a wilderness of mirrors: appeals to Scripture and tradition can be made in the service of completely different points of view. Every generation assesses its own time by its own lights. Conservatives tend to resist this reality; liberals too often abuse it, calling for change for the sake of change. To move the conversation forward, it’s time to explore the surprising scriptural and historical nuances of the reforms being suggested in some quarters of Christianity—about the role of homosexuals in the ministry and in the community, the future of clerical celibacy and chastity, and the place of women. It’s a journey that could lead us to rethink the connection between sexuality and the sacraments.
I. THE GAY DILEMMA
Out in the pews, the faithful sense that the scandal is tied to fundamental issues, and not only of power and accountability. “There is some essential disconnect between the Roman Catholic patriarchy and the reality of sexuality,” says Peggie Thorp, a 53-year-old Catholic from Wellesley, Mass., who joined with others from her church to protest Cardinal Bernard Law’s handling of the crisis. “There’s a distance I have always kept and have had to keep,” a gay priest says. “I can’t share with people the struggle inside of me. In a way, I’m less than human.”
He has a lot of company. The best guess is that between 35 and 50 percent of Roman Catholic priests are homosexual. “Hypocrisy is almost too weak a word for what the hierarchy is doing,” says Mark D. Jordan, a professor of religion at Emory University and a gay Catholic. “If there were no homosexuals in the priesthood, we would soon cease to have a functioning church.” There is a gap in the church between reality and rhetoric, and in religion words matter. Though bishops ordain people they may know to be homosexual, the prevailing sense, as the cardinals made clear in Rome, is that the orientation is “unnatural.”
Would welcoming people to the Catholic and Protestant clerical ranks who wish to be open about their sexual orientation to their congregations lead to a healthier ecclesiastical culture? Would priests and believers be happier and more committed if their sexual orientation were accepted? And would acknowledging healthy orientations help reform a milieu of repression that may be a factor in clergy preying on minors? “I think what I’m interested in is a good priest, and I don’t think a good priest is determined in any way, shape or form by his or her sexuality,” says Louis P. Vitullo, 57, a Chicago lawyer educated in Catholic schools and a regular churchgoer. “Is the person well balanced? Can the person meet the needs of the people to whom they render their priestly services? And, most basically, are they people we can trust?”
The traditionalists’ take on homosexuality is roughly this: that God created us man and woman so that we might, within the sacrament of marriage, produce children in his image. “The classic Catholic view is that sexual love within the bond of marriage is intended to deepen the communion of the spouses—a communion which gives birth to new life,” says George Weigel, the distinguished biographer of John Paul II. “The two go together. Sexuality is not an end in itself; affections are always ordered to something.” William Merrell, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, says, “The Scripture clearly and unequivocally declares that homosexuality is a sin against God.”
The Scriptures are actually not quite so clear and unequivocal. Readers usually look to five or six passages for God’s word on homosexuality and engage in pitched fights over their precise meanings. Left-leaning critics dismiss each in turn, pointing out that the prohibitions can be explained away when read in context. The story of Sodom, they say, is really about a failure of hospitality. The Levitical sections are more concerned with keeping classes of things from being mixed (different seeds should not be planted in the same field; cloth may not be made of separate sorts of yarn).
In fact, the Biblical defense of slavery is stronger than the case against homosexuality, and no one appeals to Scripture in support of that anymore. (The Vatican was, by the way, a leading voice for abolition around the world.) “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ...” writes Saint Paul. Anti-Semitism was long justified by passages like this one from I Thessalonians: the Jews “... killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets...” And the subjugation of women had a foundation in I Timothy: “As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches... If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” And yet in each case, enlightened people have moved on from the world view such passages express.
Thoughtful conservatives like Weigel say these analogies aren’t quite apt, because homosexuality is something that should be managed. “Isn’t the more appropriate analogy than race or gender the inborn capacity for speech, or friendship?” asks Weigel. “At some point babble has to become language and raw emotion has to become love. From the Catholic point of view, it is clear that while the orientation, or disposition, is not sinful, it is disordered. We all have the inclination to anger or cruelty, and we must order those inclinations. We have to learn mastery and self-command. No reasonable person doubts that this is a tremendous challenge for homosexuals, as indeed mastery of passions is a great challenge for heterosexuals.” But, in this view, the mastering must be done.
The more we learn about the roots of homosexuality, though, the more it appears that an attraction to the same sex is something you are born with or develop so early that it is not what most of us would think of as a manageable “choice” any more than being born black, Jewish or female is a manageable “choice.” What traditionalists are asking, then, is for homosexuals to cut themselves off from an essential, natural part of who they are and from virtues—romantic love and the gift of sex in a monogamous relationship, among other things—most believers think are part of a life lived in a godly way. And if science now teaches us that being gay may be a “natural” state, how can a reading of the Bible, including Saint Paul’s condemnation of same-sex interaction in Romans, inarguably cast homosexuality in “unnatural” terms?
There is more than a little irony at work here, for the church has an ancient history with homosexuals and with homosexual clergy. John Boswell, the late historian, observed that the church and its religious orders long offered gay men and women a haven from married life. According to Donald B. Cozzens’s “The Changing Face of the Priesthood,” misconduct has always been with us, too. A second-century Gospel commentary says: “Thou shalt not seduce young boys.” In the middle of the 16th century, Pope Julius III plucked a 15-year-old boy off the streets and made him a cardinal and head of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
Nearly five centuries later, the real issue in the current scandal is one of linkage. The evidence is that homosexuals are no more likely to abuse children than heterosexuals. The great majority of cases now before the church involve not pedophilia but “ephebophilia,” an attraction to post-pubescent youths. Psychologists believe these instances do include abusers who are homosexual, but that sexual orientation is only one factor in their behavior. They most likely suffer from severe “psychosexual” problems, including emotional immaturity. If you look at people who are psychologically forced to deny their sexual natures, experts say, you will likely find a subset that will cross the line into abusive behavior—in these cases with the young, who are often the most available and malleable targets.
This is not to excuse the abusers. But blaming all homosexuals for the sins of a handful of pathological people is like holding every heterosexual accountable for any pastor who goes after a teenage girl. Being more open about sexual orientation might lead to less repression, and less repression—for heterosexuals and homosexuals—might well lead to a climate in which there is less destructive behavior. In the NEWSWEEK Poll, though more Catholics agree with the teaching that homosexual acts are “contrary to natural law” (48 percent to 38 percent), 61 percent do not believe homosexuals are less able to control their sexual impulses than heterosexuals are to live a chaste, priestly life.
Many branches of Christianity are now pondering these things in their hearts. “I don’t think most Catholics would care if their priest is straight or gay, to tell you the truth,” says William Donohue, president of the Catholic League. “I think the issue for them is whether he can live up to his vow of celibacy. I’d take a chaste gay priest any day over a promiscuous straight one.” But that raises a number of questions, too.
II. CELIBACY & MARRIAGE
True believers in clerical celibacy speak of it in moving terms. “It’s not the easiest road in today’s crazy world,” Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said in Rome, “but we... believe that if you practice celibacy and you practice it with all your heart, with all your love, that you can be free to serve God’s people and to serve God in such a beautiful way.” It is an ancient Catholic custom, and a noble one. But it is not as ancient as many people think, nor is it universal—either in practice or in doctrine. And it is costing the church. The ranks of Catholic priests in the United States are dwindling, down to 45,200 in 2001 from 58,600 in 1965.
To help explain the falloff, recall the heady reformist atmosphere of the Second Vatican Council, which began when John XXIII summoned his bishops to Rome in 1962. The results were radical. Suddenly the covenant of baptism had created a priesthood of the people and the mass was said in the vernacular, closing the mystical liturgical distance between pastor and parishioner. It was, in a way, a nod to democracy. Aspiring priests assumed that a married clergy was the next step. As they came to see how remote that change would be, many good priests left the church to marry. Others simply continued to find secretive ways to act on their sexual feelings. A. W. Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and former Catholic priest who conducted a 25-year study of celibacy, sexuality and the clergy, estimates that at any given time 50 percent of priests—no matter what their orientation—are sexually active in some way. Across all faiths, the most common story is of the clergy’s seducing female parishioners. There is at least one support group for such women.
In many traditions, marriage is viewed as a central part of a good religious life. “We view the state of marriage as being a very holy state of affairs,” says Rabbi Steven M. Dworken, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America. “Therefore, someone who is not married—I’m not saying they’re missing something, that’s too strong—but he is lacking in a completeness. Even from a sociological or psychological point of view, one would feel more comfortable discussing marital problems or familial issues with someone you assume has shared some of those same experiences.” Many American Catholics are coming to the same conclusion. Mary Louise Hartman, a lifelong Catholic from Princeton, N.J., was devastated when her associate pastor fell in love and left the church to get married. “One day we came to the church and the pastor read a letter and that was it,” says Hartman, 60. “I wish he could have stayed as a married priest.”
Historically, there is no lack of precedent. Priests were married for Christianity’s first thousand years. Jesus’ Apostles had wives and families; Peter, whom Rome claims as the founding pope, probably did, too. The forces that pushed the church toward its 12th-century stand on celibacy were political as well as spiritual, including the worry that sons of clergy would inherit church titles and property. As many as three popes may have had sons succeed them to the Holy See. “Those were bad times,” says the Rev. Richard McBrien, who wrote a history of the papacy, “and there needed to be a reform.”
So the clergy became celibate, but over the centuries the idea did not spread very widely. (And there were interludes like the pontificate of the lascivious Pope Alexander VI, who had several children.) Now, save for bishops in the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches, no other major branch of Christianity (or Judaism) prohibits clergy from marrying. And Roman hierarchs have on occasion chosen to make exceptions. There are thousands of Eastern Rite priests with wives and a tiny number of converted Episcopalian clergy who can bring their spouses along as they cross the Tiber.
John Paul II apparently refused to talk about a more broadly married clergy with the Americans in Rome. Here again, the suggestion of hypocrisy is hard to avoid. Some Vatican insiders think there is already a quasi-married clergy in some parts of the world—they mention Africa, Latin America and Italy—where priests conduct long-term affairs. “Someday,” a Catholic sociologist privately says, “the church will wake up and realize that half of its priests are married.” Hyperbolic, yes, but some priests are clearly choosing to interpret celibacy in a way that allows them to remain unmarried but not chaste.
Some Catholics object to openly married priests on the grounds that a family would prove a distraction, or an expensive burden, or that the celebrant of the mass should be ritually pure, wed only to God and his church. And, as Protestant experience shows, divorce can be a problem, though most denominations seem to muddle through.
Gay marriage—of laity and of clergy—is another difficult front. More than 30 states refuse to recognize same-sex unions, and most branches of Christianity are wrestling with whether churches should sanction committed homosexual relationships. (One Protestant minister I know says: “I don’t have a problem with it, but I sure hope some other denomination jumps off that cliff first.”) Interestingly, in the NEWSWEEK Poll, Catholics narrowly oppose legally sanctioned gay marriages, 47 percent to 44 percent, but they are more liberal than non-Catholics, 61 percent of whom don’t think such marriages are a good idea. The arguments against it run from adherence to the conservative reading of Scripture to an abiding sense that the purpose of marriage from the Garden forward is procreation. This is a heartfelt position for many, but you could argue it another way. Isn’t the role of the church to encourage people to enter into stable relationships? The purpose of marriage, or “unions,” or whatever we want to call them, should be the establishment of a committed, loving family. Heterosexuals who do not produce children are no less “married.” Meanwhile, Catholics in the United States are more likely than non-Catholics to accept a homosexual priest in a committed relationship with someone of the same sex, 39 percent to 29 percent.
More than a decade ago, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., was expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention when it voted to support a pastor who wanted to bless the union of two men. “It seemed to me that our society makes it so difficult for gays and lesbians to be responsible with their sexuality by not supporting those who want covenant relationships,” says the Rev. Mahan Siler, the 67-year-old retired pastor who asked Pullen for permission to perform the service. He has a good point. We’ve changed the definition of marriage before, both to liberate women from being legal property and to allow people of different races to marry. Such an approach should encourage monogamy and bring homosexuals into the fuller life of the community.
Many people would probably agree with a remark attributed to Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the English actress, who once said: “It doesn’t matter what you do in the bedroom as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.” No one should have things forced on them by reformers for showy or confrontational reasons. Discipline and dignity are important. Removing barriers tied to sexuality, either for celibate heterosexuals or celibate homosexuals, is not an invitation to turn a community of faith into a singles scene. Here is a possible covenant: if some of the more obvious doors are opened, the minister owes it to the congregation (and, not to be too grand about it, to God) to conduct himself (or herself, in the faiths that ordain women) with grace and discretion.
The next natural question is adoption, or surrogate parenting, which is also fraught. Still, research suggests homosexuals are just as good at raising kids as heterosexuals. (In the NEWSWEEK Poll, 46 percent of the public and 56 percent of Catholics support allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children.) The Christian answer to the changing nature of the American family may be a willingness to accept different kinds of households as long as children are protected and nurtured—not a bad goal for any of us.
III. FACTORING IN FEMALES
Garry Wills, an observant liberal Catholic, thinks the gay question will produce reform—just not for homosexuals. “The higher salience of gays in seminaries has led some homophobic men to avoid entering seminaries or to withdraw from them,” Wills wrote in his book “Papal Sin.”
“In fact, the admission of married men and women to the priesthood—which is bound to come anyway—may well come for the wrong reason, not because women and the community deserve this, but because of panic at the perception the priesthood is becoming predominantly gay.”
In all the conversations about the future of the faith, women’s ordination has gotten surprisingly little attention. The pope does not want to talk about it; the cardinal archbishop of Los Angeles said he would raise the issue in Rome but appears to have backed down. John Paul II has more company on this than on a celibate priesthood. The Orthodox do not ordain women; Southern Baptist churches rarely do, either. Traditionalists argue that Jesus was a man and did not include any women among the Apostles. This is a familiar but not especially convincing point. Rome, for example, does not apply the Apostle test to clerical marriage, and, as Wills wryly asks, does faithful adherence to the literal original band mean all priests have to be Jews?
The case for an all-male priesthood is deeper and more complex. “Maleness and femaleness are not accidents of biology; they are icons and windows into God’s purposes in the world,” says George Weigel. “In the Catholic understanding, the priest makes present in his person the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ, who, according to Saint Paul in Ephesians, gives himself completely to his bride, the church. But the idea that this is a debasement of women is just wrong—the highest, unsurpassable figure in the communion of saints, the first Christian, is Mary, who is not a priest and who has higher powers. This is a lot more complicated and interesting than contemporary gender politics would have you believe.”
Yet many modern Catholics do not think Jesus’ incarnation as a man means that those who are alteri Christi—”other Christs,” or ordained priests—must also be men. They hold that the priesthood is a logical extension of the principle that through the gift of baptism both men and women have a place at the Lord’s table as priests.
Opening the door to female priests could provide a fresh stream of talent at a time when the church is having trouble keeping its candles burning. And a clerical class that included women might help male priests, celibate or not, married or not, gay or not, live in a world more like the one the rest of us inhabit. The abuse scandal has underscored the priesthood’s susceptibility to insularity and arrogance. A more diverse pool could let a bit more light into the sacristy, and having women as colleagues would psychologically benefit the men of the cloth. Right now many of their relationships with women are either those of dependence (strong mothers or the powerful ladies of the parish who “adopt” them) or, in darker moments, of furtive sexual contacts. Female peers might teach them things about themselves and others they would not have thought of, making them fuller people and probably better pastors.
The Protestant experience has been mixed, but the apocalypse many predicted in the beginning has yet to materialize. “It took some getting used to, and I think it continues to take some getting used to,” says the Rev. Marion Jackson, who works at the United Methodists’ board of ministry, which officially began ordaining women in 1956. “Whenever a church receives its first woman pastor, they are concerned about whether or not a woman can do the job. And it takes their living together for a while for congregations to accept the woman after she’s been there and done a good job. It’s like, ‘What were we so concerned about?’ ” (For what it’s worth, the vast majority of cases of sexual abuse, with either children or teens, are committed by adult men—not adult women.)
There are some churchgoers who remain uncomfortable about the change, and there probably always will be. I know a number of such conservatives, both in the South and in the Northeast, and they have honest reservations about breaking with tradition. Often the only thing that leads them to make peace with a woman at the altar is getting to know one good female priest. Believers are frequently against things in principle that they find congenial in practice. My wife comes from a county in the Mississippi Delta, the heart of the formerly segregated South, where, happily for both priest and parish, one Episcopal church is presided over by a woman and the other by a man from Uganda—an unthinkable situation only a generation ago. Some people might call that a cave, or a compromise. Others call it the Holy Ghost.
Churches are not really democracies—Rome especially—and the Vatican won’t hear of factoring in females. Donald Cozzens quotes this gloomy prognosis from a retired vicar-general: “The shortage of priests is not going to be solved by praying for more vocations. Women are the ones who identify and nurture vocations, and they are not doing it anymore, and they are not going to do it, and all the preaching in the world is not going to change their minds. If you don’t believe me, talk to them. I’ve interviewed them. They say, ‘A church that won’t accept my daughters isn’t going to get my son’.”
IV. THE NEXT MISSION
How can we start a calm, intelligent conversation that treats normal sexuality—of any kind—not as something apart but as a piece of the tapestry of our lives, no more or less important, really, than other essential elements of who we are—our sense of right and wrong, our capacity to reason? Inevitably it will happen only from faith to faith, parish to parish, even nation to nation.
On the traditional side there is the Munich analogy: that to relax one standard or erase one line means ultimately there will be no standards and no lines. But serious people and serious institutions can make distinctions and judgments. And it may be necessary to broaden some lines of tolerance in order to draw other lines as to what is and what is not acceptable behavior.
There is no question but that any attempt to seduce minors, of any age, should be forbidden and punished with force. There can be no room for predators—a lesson that seems to have taken an insular Catholic elite too long to recognize. “I want someone as a priest who’s honest with us and with himself,” says Anne Barrett Doyle, an editor and Catholic mother of four from a Boston suburb. “Someone who doesn’t get swept up in the power of being a priest...” A lot of American Catholics—true, only 6 percent of the global faith’s flock but an important source of financial support—share her wish about the nature of a priest. So do a lot of Protestants.
The more radical energy is, to be sure, coming from America. In other parts of the world, some Christian faiths worry their richer, more liberal American fellow believers may go too far. “If you look at churches around the world,” says the historian Philip Jenkins, “there is no correlation between democratized theological stands and numerical success. In fact, the ones that are booming can be downright reactionary.” In Africa, Asia and Latin America, clear-cut doctrine is appealing. “Of course the leadership of the Catholic Church is conservative,” says Jenkins. “They can count.”
An excellent point. It’s not a time for anything goes; the occasion for the discussion, the scandal, shows that. But it is a time to end hypocrisy. The result may be a little change, or radical change, or none at all. Some branches of the family may not be able to ordain an open homosexual, or tolerate a woman at the altar.
History, though, suggests that the more “sorts and conditions of men”—an old Anglican phrase—we allow into the mainstream, the truer we are to the commandment to love one another as Christ loved us. (In secular American terms, it’s also the way we live up to the promise of the Founding, that all men are created equal.) To take issues off the table runs awfully close to the sin of pride. A reassuring Biblical refrain seems appropriate: “Be not afraid.” Let’s have the debate.
Churches can, after all, change their minds about things that once seemed sure and certain. In the 17th century, Pope Paul V condemned Galileo for arguing in favor of the Copernican notion that the Earth was not the center of the universe. The vision of the planet’s circling the sun was contrary to the church’s teaching, which was in turn based partly on an interpretation of Scripture. Nearly 350 years later, John Paul II commissioned a serious, searching study of the case and determined the church had made a mistake. It was a brave and intellectually honest thing to do, and indicates that with leadership there is always room for discussion.
Asking the hard questions, even about our most basic assumptions, is to be true to our origins. Christianity was never supposed to be easy. The contradictions in Jesus’ legacy are thick, and epic. In defeat there is victory; in humility, strength; in surrender, gain; in darkness, light. All counterintuitive ideas, and all promise reward later, not now—beyond time and space. It is not a creed of comfort.
And yet countless men and women, of every color and nationality, in huts and cathedrals, kneel before the cross every day, believing they are part of a divine drama, linked, in the words of the mass, to “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.”
As the faithful struggle to do right, to make the sacraments available to all, we will make mistakes, come up short, throw out things we should keep and keep things we should throw out. But the price of the journey, however steep, is worth paying, for in the Christian imagination the ultimate sacrifice has already been made. “Be of good cheer,” Jesus says, “for I have overcome the world.” Amid the storm we may at least take comfort in that.