…but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your wickedness. Daniel 13:57
The sex scandal in the Catholic Church has captured headlines for many years. When news of it first broke in 2002 (as depicted in the movie Spotlight), it caused great shock and awe in both Catholic congregations and across the globe. Even today, details of the horrific crimes of abuse and cover-up are still being revealed as dioceses across the country are bringing to light the names of those priests and clergy members who were responsible in any way for causing pain and harm to its many victims. And as dioceses around the world continue to find scandal and cover-ups of their own.
This is the Church. The one place where we should be able to go as a “safe space” for all.
But how can we when there is so much evidence to the contrary?
Today’s story in Daniel exists in the Catholic biblical canon, but may also be found in the Apocrypha of many Protestant bibles. In this story, we find, Susanna, a pure and pious spouse of a church patriarch, Joakim, being threatened by two corrupt elders who insist that Susanna succumb to their lustful desires or they will accuse her (falsely) of adultery with a young man and she will be sentenced to death. She seemingly only has two options: do as they wish and sleep with the two men, or die.
Daniel sees through the two elders to the underlying truth. He sees that their stories don’t add up, and he demands the two elders be separated to give their testimony. And when they do, they each describe its events differently, which proves their guilt and Susanna’s innocence, and they are then put to death and Susanna escapes abuse and is free.
I can’t help but see some parallels in the story of the religious elders of ancient Israel and the hierarchy of the Church today. Then, like now, corruption existed in religious settings. Then, like now, it wasn’t in everybody and everywhere, but it was in some…and even one victim is one too many.
But there is hope.
Then, like now, more and more often details of the scandal are being brought to the light. Then, like now, victims advocate groups and counselors rise to help those who have suffered. Then, like now, people’s eyes were opened. And while it stinks to feel as though we have to scrutinize the leaders of our churches (or our corporation or our country, etc. ), it’s a good reminder to me that the reason for that is because there is only one True Authority, one Truth we can trust in this world, or any world…and that is Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).
Though Susanna walked the earth many years before Jesus, like Jesus her heart was aligned with God, the Father. This daughter of Judah, remains faithful to God in the midst of this little -known scandal, just as many years later a little babe who is born in the “hill country” of Judah, called Bethlehem, remains faithful to God the Father to the point of death on a Cross. Then He rises into New Life, breathing that Life into the very Church of today.
My footnotes tell me Susanna is a “type” of the Church. (In biblical talk, a “type” is a foreshadowing of sorts–someone or some thing that parallels someone or some other thing that happens later in history). Like Susanna, we the Church, should not tolerate wickedness, neither outside her “walls,” nor within them. Like Susanna, we the Church can overcome scandal. We owe it to the thousands of victims who have suffered at the hands of it, and we owe it to Jesus who died because of it. We need not fear it. And we need not despair over it. We need simply let the Light shine upon it, until the last stone is overturned.
Until then, we put our hope in the day when we, like Susanna’s husband and parents, can say with every confidence “praise God…because nothing shameful was found in her.”
Reflect: Have I lost faith in God because of the wrongdoings of men? What can I do to be like Daniel, and help victims of abuse (either in or outside the Church) in my area? How can I deepen my faith in Jesus, so that when uncertain times fall upon me, I can still trust in his goodness and love?
Pray: Lord, today we pray for all those who have suffered abuse at the hands of those they trusted, or through random violent attacks. Help us to love one another, to understand one another and to have compassion and provide counsel for all those who suffer, but especially for those who suffer from abuse by church and religious leaders whom they trusted. We will not tolerate that wickedness. Empower us to continue shining your Light until the last stone is overturned. Amen.