This is a heartbreaking time to be a Catholic. The brokenness of the institutional Church is broken open. I am thankful it is that the truth may be known. When this happened before in 2002, I was too young to be plugged into the news cycle. We did not have social media. We have it now. My online peers and mentors are speaking out. There must be change and not just talking points.
What are we to do when we discover and rediscover the brokenness of our families, our community or the world around us?
We left behind the old life to commit to the new. For some, this represented a significant break from their history and making considerable sacrifices in a new way of living. When we first fall in love, we see only the good. This is the romance or colloquially called the honeymoon stage. One might say we see only what matters. Alice von Hildebrand, in her book titled “Letters to a Young Bride” writes that this vision of the person (which can be applied to the communities and organizations we love) is a vision to help sustain us when this next phase kicks in.
Disillusionment is the loss of the illusion, the honeymoon period of which we saw only the virtues. It is celebrating National Night Out before reading the griping on Nextdoor.com. It is knowing the beliefs of a Church or the mission of a non-profit before encountering the mess of a bureaucracy. It is realizing how long the man goes before clipping his toenails. All of this comes to light gradually. In the eye of the beholder, the flaws grow and grow. One may resist seeing them, fight them, but ultimately, to continue the relationship, one must learn to separate the flaws that are normal human imperfections and the sins that must be left behind.
Because I love you, I accept that you are more forgetful than me.
Because I care about this mission, I will jump through these hoops to get approval for my project.
But I will never, ever let you lay a hand on me.
I will not tolerate being spoken to in that way.
If I am employed, I expect to be paid for my work.
You must follow the law.
And if I really loved the thing or person I thought I did in the first stage, if I can remember how this commitment first came to be, then it is possible for me to decide, now, with eye wide open, if this person or organization is worth fighting for.
Vices plague communities in ways similar to how they plague people. The person I loved is more than that vice and if I love him then I will want to see him restored to the person I know him to be.
But if I am in danger I will get out and go somewhere safe. We cannot help a person or an organization continue maltreatment and call that being faithful to it.
Creating safe boundaries is another way of helping a person move through the stages of change to sobriety from these grave faults. Staying in a situation when you are in danger does nothing to help that person. Separation does not have to mean divorce from the first commitment. You are better than the way you are hurting me. By not allowing you to hurt me, I am helping you return to the person I know you to be. By creating safe boundaries, I am reminding you of the accountability to which you are called.
There are many paths through the disillusionment stage. We accept our personality differences, we accept that weaknesses exist, we exhort without nagging the need for growth. When both parties are willing to grow and acknowledge their faults, the relationship can move into the third stage of a mature, stable love and commitment. Or it will dissolve, either internally or externally.
What did we know in that first stage? There will be clues along the way to know if this thing is worth fighting for. Then I will spend my life loving you enough to call and help you to become what you have always been meant to be.
While this is not the place for deep dive into the news surrounding the Catholic Church, I encourage those who want to learn more to go to www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog.