St. Peter’s Advice
I freely admit that spiritual reading works best when we concentrate our attention on our own relationship with God, not somebody else’s. Still, it is difficult to avoid thinking of modern bishops, not just in America but throughout the West generally, when reading the third chapter of St. Peter’s first letter:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong. (1 Pet 3:13-17, RSV-CE)
This text contains the classic passage justifying the study and practice of apologetics: “Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (15). Several other translations urge us always to have an answer ready when we are asked our “reason for hope”, and this is why I gave the title Reasons for Hope to the apologetics text I edited and published at Christendom College back in 1978. Surely one would expect that bishops would take the lead in explaining these reasons for hope but, alas, it is not that part of the passage which caught my attention while rereading St. Peter in 2009.
Instead, I thought of the whole sorry mess of the sex abuse scandal, and not only of that scandal but of the failure to defend the rights of the laity to sound doctrine and reverent liturgy, galling problems which reached their apex during the same period of the 1970’s and 1980’s, when it seems that the majority of bishops ignored St. Peter’s advice and failed to keep their consciences clear. This is very sad, and for precisely the reason St. Peter gives: “For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong” (17).
There’s something depressingly obvious here, though it is too often overlooked. Perhaps it is something we should all think about just a little bit more.
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Dec. 29, 2009 4:15 PM ET USA
There are many instances when spiritual reading and reflection should be directed to those whom the Spirit shows us to consider, for most of the time such inspiration is the Way of the Spirit to make us all part of the Body of the Church. And it is in those moments of reading, reflection and prayer that God acts towards those whom we are thinking of. This is not a company of wolves we are in as sometimes it seems, but the assembly of saints marching towards God.