Well as Stan Lee says, ” Greetings, True Believers!” I’ve just returned from my Florida Vacation, and though I’ve come down with some kind of virus (not the H1N1), I was all revved up to start a series of new posts.
And then, last night I read about Fr. Bob Timchak.
As so many of you were, I was simply thunderstruck. It is now 3:15 AM and whether it was the fever or the news;I was having nightmares about it and I honestly can’t sleep. I ask your indulgence as I set some of my thoughts down in an attempt to work out my feelings, I apologise for any disjointedness or rambling — it’s late.
I had followed his saga with a lot of interest a few years ago and was really rooting for him to come back. I even sent him an encouraging letter. Even though I didn’t know him personally, I had a few encounters with him over the years (even attempted to send my daughter to his Transfiguration when it was still his parish), and of course like so many, had read his columns fairly regularly. Through the medium of his newspaper column he is the only Catholic Priest a lot of people have ever heard, and takes on the role of an emissary for the church.
I would be an outright liar if I said this didn’t hit me pretty hard. It really took the wind out of my sails and robbed me of all the enthusiasm I had been feeling for the faith. At first, I thought I wasn’t going to post on the subject, figuring that so many blogs, and newspapers would talk the story to death. I would ignore the story. Then I read some of them. Though not unexpected, the comments in the online newspaper accounts really brought me down. A somewhat popular local traditional Catholic Blogger is simply spitting venom. Where is our charity? Where is mine? Don’t misunderstand me, Fr. Bob needs to face justice. I think that I might be able to find it within me to ‘love the sinner, and hate the sin’ — but it simply isn’t there yet.
So it seems Fr. Timchak has a form of an addiction that a lot of men have: Porn. Granted, he seems to allegedly be addicted to a form of it that is horrifying to most men who have porn problems. But nevertheless, it boils down to porn. A few weeks back I posted on a great Catholic site designed to help men fight porn addictions, called Who does it Hurt? For so many people, the anonymity of the computer leads them to ask that very question about their own porn addiction. Here is a classic example of how the subterfuge we put into play to hide our addictions and sins simply pulls apart our spouses, families, friends, and even churches. Although I am truly trying to find it in my heart to pray for Fr. Bob’s soul, I am really upset over the damage this causes to the souls of the rest of the community. Fury, resentment, depression, grudges, taking pleasure in the justice coming– I don’t think these are fruits of the Spirit.
My father walked away from the church in 2002 during the height of the last sex scandal. I had always seen him to be an example, a rock of faith and a real soldier for Christ. He was (and is, though in different ways now) a superhero to me. His fury and anger somehow took root and lent a logical justification to him for the shoddy arguments he now poses against the faith. I pray and hope that someday he will see the Church more clearly, but until then it hurts me a lot. Just as it hurts me a lot to see all of these other Christians giving reign to their emotions and letting it change their perspectives on faith. Just as I have let it change my own perspective and really makes me want to crawl under a rock and not be proud of the fact that I am Catholic — and share that joy with others. It has robbed me of the joy, and set a fear in my heart.
Fr. Bob’s sin was undoubtedly committed with the idea that the privacy and anonymity the situation afforded allowed it to only hurt himself. How many of us have sinned with the same justification, only to find that like a pebble dropped in a pond, the ripples travel out to the edges, touching everything. Whether it is porn, lying, theft, abortion, whatever — each sin damages everyone we touch and those who learn of our sins. I may not be the victim of Fr. Bob’s sin, but the scandal of seeing a person whose very life is meant to be upheld as an inspiration, has caused me to sin in turn. I am now guilty of a lack of charity in my thoughts, a certain amount of despair, seeking pleasure through the justice coming to others, and unbridled anger with some of my fellow Christians for their own visceral responses.
I highly reccommend those of you struggling with the news today to read this article on Catholic.com about scandal in the church. I think it strikes just the right tone.
Somewhere on the internet, I read about how Satan hates priests with such a mighty fury that he throws his strongest assaults against them. They are, after all, only men with the same sinful nature as the rest of us, and if he could just pick off one of them, Oh the damage it would do… We somehow think that Holy Orders creates Saints, and infuses them with an ability to be superhuman. Is it any wonder a priest falls? We live in an age where they have fewer of each other for company, support, and cameraderie; a society where it is a wonder if even the best of us can truly live out our Christianity, a media which is intent on desensitizing ALL of us to the basest impulses, a culture which is rapidly destroying the very basic supports we rely on in times of personal trouble. The enemy attacks our foundations with the most subtle of arguments. Religion as a concept is openly questioned as though scientific principles could reveal it. The Church as a force for good is questioned by joining vice to virtue in wondering why so many evils have been done by men and women of the Church ? Sex as a covenantal sign of marriage is torn apart by calling it merely a sign of love. Marriage is undermined as really only just ‘a union born of love.’ Children are seen as glorified puppies, fulfilling the needs of the parents — If I ‘want’ a child I will go so far as to create one from a test tube and a stranger. If ‘I’m not ready for one’ I’ll kill it; it’s just a collection of cells. The idea of the self is undermined by the constant message of the culture,’ I can be whoever I want to be, I can have whatever I want to have — I am my own’. “Who does it hurt,” we ask. I’ll bet you could take the seven deadly sins and find ways how the culture is desentisizing and glorifying all of them.
To my priest friends and readers — I apologize if writing about this causes you further pain. I apologize for sometimes thinking you to be superhuman, and taking greater umbrage when you have injured my feelings in ways small or large. Although you are not superhuman, you have willingly volunteered for what seems to be a superhuman job in this culture today. And to me, that makes you superheroes. But when your hero’s fall , super or otherwise, it behooves us all to remember that we are all but men, and there is only one Hero we can truly lean on without fear. I will pray for all of you my brothers, will you pray for me?
I believe Lord, help my unbelief.