Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21:21-22)
"You follow me" - well, if you have been following me these past few weeks, you'll know that I've been writing about the difficulties of coming to terms with Reality, with things as they are.
And, in honesty, things as they are can be pretty bleak.
And I don't mean things in the world. I mean things in the Church. In my 14 years as a Catholic, the main lesson I've learned is that Catholics are just like everybody else - only worse. Somehow I got it into my head that I could find solace in the Church, when instead I've found frustration, duplicity, abuse, betrayal - in short, I've found the cross.
But that's not entirely true. My Chestertonian friends are solid friends, great blessings, and the Chesterton Conferences are what the true Church should be, are what the true Church is. Also, I know a number of people who are on their way to becoming saints. And the Church is still filled with the Presence of God in many ways.
But look at the downside.
What if the Synod on the Family cuts corners regarding divorced and remarried Catholics, allowing them to receive communion? The Church has no power to alter its doctrine, but it can alter its discipline, and there's no reason to think that worthy reception of the Eucharist will suddenly be protected, or that the integrity of marriage will suddenly be emphasized. Bishops are required by canon law to deny communion to unrepentant public sinners, such as Catholic politicians who support abortion, but bishops care more about pleasing men than pleasing Christ, so they refuse to follow canon law, in the same way that they refuse to protect the integrity of the liturgy, Catholic teaching or the safety of children.
What difference, then, will the Synod on the Family make? The Church teaches by the authority of the Holy Spirit, but its bishops govern by the strength of their character, and the laity live by the strength of theirs, and (though it stings to admit it) the vast majority of bishops and lay Catholics are just like everyone else, only worse. Solace does not come from the scoundrels in the Church - by which I mean our bishops, our cardinals, and our next door neighbors.
But there is only one answer to this horrible hurt. "What is that to you? You follow Me."
Everything we need for our salvation we have already, and God's Providence is not related to how great things are.
I see more of the ideal and Holy Church than most of you. I see it at EWTN when I'm down there. I see it every year at the American Chesterton Society annual conference. I see it in my actors, many of whom have converted and who are better Catholics than I am.
But even when I don't see it - even when Cardinal Dolan insults our intelligence and turns his back on Christ, even when my Devout Catholic friends show themselves to be cowardly and deceptive, even when my own greed and lust lay siege to the new heart God has given me, there is still solace, great solace - not merely in the many good Catholics who are among us, but in this stark truth: what other people do is beyond our control.
What can we control? "You follow Me."