Thinking Anew – The blind leading the blind

 “Pope Francis seems to be a wise and good man who is anything but blind. Pray God that he can lead so that we will all have the trust and confidence to believe that the Holy Spirit is being allowed to flourish in the leadership of our church.” Photograph: Giuseppe Lami/AP

“Pope Francis seems to be a wise and good man who is anything but blind. Pray God that he can lead so that we will all have the trust and confidence to believe that the Holy Spirit is being allowed to flourish in the leadership of our church.” Photograph: Giuseppe Lami/AP

 

In tomorrow’s Gospel from St Luke, Jesus says to his disciples: “Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit.” (Luke 6:39)

“The blind leading the blind” is an everyday expression we use when something is seriously amiss and it’s not just a matter of one person getting something wrong. Someone is on the wrong road because of getting bad advice from someone else. Perhaps the person concerned has learned to do something the wrong way, someone may have given the wrong information, or it may be that a previous encounter has left a wound which gets in the way of clear thinking.

Good example is hard to beat. Just last week I was chatting to a jeweller. Our conversation started out on watch-fixing and, like any two people who know one another, we wandered off on to other subjects. Brexit and politics are in in the air. He recalled how as a young man he had great respect for authority, for the government of the day, irrespective of who was in power. But today he has lost that enthusiasm and feels many in authority simply do not deserve his respect.

As soon as he said that to me, I quoted the first sentence in tomorrow’s Gospel to him. Maybe it has something to do with growing older and maybe wiser that makes us less inclined to show respect, especially to institutions. Many years ago the philosopher Plato was saddened by observing how little respect the generation coming up after him had for people and organisations.

Is it really the era of the blind leading the blind?

Last week Catholic Church leaders from around the world met with Pope Francis to discuss matters arising from clerical child sex abuse and the abuse of vulnerable adults.

An institution whose leaders see themselves as a link between God and humankind find themselves in the court of public opinion. They have been forced by that public opinion to take account of their behaviour. This is a shocking situation and for me it poses great difficulties. The church in which I serve claims to know exactly what God is thinking on all matters sexual. This institution tells young candidates for priesthood that celibacy is a special calling to a higher form of life and hides in semantics when inevitable difficulties arise. And this institution has been devious and dishonest in how it has covered up so much perversion and evil among its own priests and bishops.

The church uses a disjointed and unfeeling vocabulary that so often amounts to long words and pious humbug cloaking an attempt at saying, “We know best and you, the common people, do not and could not understand”.

If four out of every five priests working in the Vatican are homosexual as French journalist Frédéric Martel in his book Inside the Closet, published last week, claims, might it be time for the church to speak more honestly and openly? To be more real too? Even if Martel is only half-right? Doesn’t this possibility have implications to be faced? The last line in tomorrow’s Gospel reads: “For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.”

I am saddened by so much that I see and hear and feel about the Catholic Church right now. Indeed, 30 years ago at a meeting of the religious order to which I belong I suggested that in areas of sexuality we were sweeping too much under the carpet. The response I received then is more or less the same as those I’m hearing and seeing today.

A blind man can’t and should never be allowed guide another.

Pope Francis seems to be a wise and good man who is anything but blind. Pray God that he can lead so that we will all have the trust and confidence to believe that the Holy Spirit is being allowed to flourish in the leadership of our church.

We must never underestimate the power of God. I hope and pray that each one of us acts in a way that reflects our duty to love God and love our neighbour, and that we place our trust in God to guide our steps away from these shameful errors which trouble us so much now.

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