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The storm of scandal over the past two years has shaken the religious foundations of many Boston Catholics. Still, for those close enough to the Church to know that Christianity is about recognizing one’s own weaknesses and receiving God’s forgiveness, it may have been a time to understand and forgive the sins and mistakes of others.
As the archdiocese considers the need to redistribute some of its increasingly scarce resources, a different type of storm may be looming. Much as the clergy abuse scandal presented us with an opportunity to reflect on the mercy of God, the coming storm will present us with an opportunity to embrace another teaching of our faith.
Planning efforts by the archdiocese are not new. Since at least 1994, the archdiocese has been undergoing a process to determine how best to serve the needs of Catholics in a changing environment.
Parishes are more than buildings of worship, they are the communities of faith that those structures shelter. Still, landmark events in many lives have taken place in those buildings: marriages, weddings, baptisms, first communions, funerals of beloved friends and members of our families.
Attachment to an emotionally significant edifice is human and understandable. However, in the face of this upcoming challenge we must remember that we are a pilgrim people, not anchored to a particular place. We are instead, like the Israelites, a community that walks in the desert toward the Promised Land, a community that walks through life towards heaven. In that sense, buildings are useful for our faith, but they are not the foundations of our faith.
As we move forward, we should all reflect on how we came to this situation and learn from it. When this process began in 1994, it was said that its ultimate goal was to help “more effectively fulfill the Church’s mission of evangelization.”
If evangelizing was urgent then, it is vital now.