A Troubling Year in Review

One aspect of getting older, and wiser, is the shedding of once comforting, but in fact naïve illusions about individuals or groups. We normally trust that certain people and groups who profess to carry out a particular and demanding mission in society are in fact going to do just that. Past performance, as far as we know, was good and the future promises more of the same.

But reality is more complicated than that. Illusions give way to a more realistic understanding. High expectations about people and groups are often shown to be illusions based on incomplete knowledge of their past performance. The reputation for competence and integrity may exist largely because contradictory evidence of failure was carefully hidden from public view, or downplayed when made public.

The overcoming of the false impressions that once buttressed our appreciation of persons and groups is a good and necessary step in facing the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be. I remember being told that growth into maturity consists in the ever-increasing ability to deal effectively with complexity. Simplistic judgments are often attractive but are not usually sufficient.

Knowing the complexity of things, however, should not mean losing our sense of awe for God’s providence in guiding the course of the world and His Church. Discovering facts and casting aside illusions is unsettling, especially when it comes to the way the Church manages her affairs, which means how the leaders of the Church carry out their duties, which should be in absolute fidelity to the teaching of Christ.

These year-end reflections on illusion and reality are of course prompted by what has been happening in our Church during the past twelve months. The reality is that the once common high regard for bishops as a group, and for many individual bishops, has been shattered by the revelation of sexual abuse and episcopal patterns of covering up immorality and malfeasance.

Read more at The Catholic Thing