For a year since the Ciase report was made public, one question has kept bothering me. Why is it so difficult to recognize the evil in the violence that an adult inflicts on a child, especially when it is committed in the Church? Why don’t we see the evil happening around us? Of course, a huge step was taken last fall when the Conference of Bishops and the Conference of Religious accepted the conclusions of the report which had been publicly returned to them.
Various measures have been taken, and many are working to make the Church safer. But the question remains: why haven’t we recognized the evil in so much violence? To the impunity of the aggressors, which has long prevailed, is added our terrifying immunity to evil, a cruel capacity not to let ourselves be harmed by the evil that is happening before our eyes.
Relief and consolation
No doubt it is unbearable for believers, clergy and laity alike, to agree to see the harm done by the institution in which everyone places their highest expectations. This is indeed unbearable. If the Church is the bearer of salvation, if, at the very least, we expect her to offer help and consolation, it is impossible to understand that she harbors criminals.
And from this impossibility of understanding a contradiction, one slips, without realizing it, into claiming that it is impossible that these facts took place. What is unthinkable quickly becomes what is not possible in fact. This ordeal is a test of faith to which one must consent or risk taking refuge in a facade church in which only good would prevail.
Resistance to recognizing evil
So why this resistance to recognizing evil? It can already be heard in the euphemised expressions by which we designate in the Church the aggressions (inappropriate gesture, fault against the sixth commandment, to speak of assaults or crimes punishable by 15 to 20 years of imprisonment). The Christian faith, however, has the capacity to recognize evil and to name it. What power in denouncing evil in its various forms did the prophets demonstrate! Why mitigate the harm done to our loved ones?
I see two reasons. We, in the Church, have lost the orientation of the prophetic word, its destination. In the Scriptures, it is addressed less to the enemies of Israel than to the chosen people themselves and to their guides. However, we have taken up this discourse in the Church to address it to external enemies. This reversal has dulled our ability to recognize the evil of which we are guilty and fostered a sense of being a religion under siege. There is a fundamental spiritual challenge in rediscovering the ability to name precisely the evil of which we are capable (and not to denounce it in others, as reminded the parabola of the straw and the beam !).
Then comes a second reason in the form of a question. By what perversity have we (we, first of all the clerics responsible for transmitting the Scriptures) transformed the evangelical radicalism beatitudes in a leveling of consciousness? Declaring that “Anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28) is morality brought to its boiling point. Christ designates the horizon of God’s holiness to which every human being can reach, not by claiming to accomplish it but by setting out patiently in this direction. In no way can this morality signify an equal gravity of covetousness, adultery and rape.
This maximization of morality – which assures us that our humanity can be freed from the grip and the violence that threatens us all – has been turned into the minimization of crimes. Rape is no more than a leering look. The absence until a few months ago of the notion of sexual assault in canon law is the sign of the institutional foundation of this culture of blindness from which it will take time and a lot of work to get rid of it. Questioning the reasons for such a bias in our interpretations of Scripture is urgent.
A test of faith
The recognition of evil is a test of faith when we stop considering that evil always only takes place elsewhere, among others, among those who have been definitively ranked as the recognized actors of evil. Evil strikes at the hearts of believers, as it has crept into those closest to Christ. Dark news? No, it is good to recognize evil.
In the Scriptures, the denunciation of violence and falsehood goes hand in hand with the assurance that the evil that runs through our history and claims thousands of victims will only be overthrown by a “lamb”, a slaughtered lamb, which stands upright ( Rev 5, 6). He will be able to drag with him those who “have undergone the great trial”, leaving outside the holy city “the dogs, the sorcerers, the debauchees, the murderers, the idolaters, and all those who love and practice lies! (Rev 22:15).
To deny violence is to condemn oneself to it
Why such language uttered from within the faith against the culprits and their accomplices seems excessive to our ears today, too forgetful that we are the invectives of a Bernard of Clairvaux or from a Catherine of Siena to the clerics of their time? We have lost the sense of evil in which we are immersed and whose liberation comes for all by denouncing it. Not everything is drowned in a global and undifferentiated guilt. Let us learn to recognize evil: it is a test to run, one that faith allows us to win.
Where then is the good news? In the body of the Risen One marked by the Cross. That is to say: in the violence that it is given to be able to go through. To deny violence is to condemn oneself to it. Recognizing it is the first step of hope.
Ciase: “Why this resistance to recognizing the evil in the Church? »