I was reading the familiar account of Jesus’ denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 23) and I was intrigued that his command is so relevant today.

Speaking to the crowds about the two Jewish sects, Jesus said to his followers that the people should "do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice."  (The Catholic Study Bible)

Jesus understood the hearts of men and he knew that in our humanity there remains temptation to sin and that there will be some, even those in leadership positions, who are capable of speaking the truth, while not practicing it as they ought.

For instance, even in light of the sexual abuse cases that have surfaced in the last few years, we can remain strong in our faith, because sinfulness should not automatically be equated with the absence of truth.   Those who seek the truth can still be confident in finding it within the Catholic Church.

Following his denunciation, Jesus continues with the section of woes, highlighting the errors in practice carried out by the Scribes and Pharisees.  Covering a whole range of topics, from self-exaltation to hypocrisy, the list is a chilling warning that our practices should line up with our faith.

People are people, whether in leadership or not.  Of course we expect better behavior from those who guide us, and we may continue to expect it.  Since the majority of our priests and bishops lead with integrity and do, indeed, practice what they preach, you will find no excuses here for those who see the sinful actions of some and choose to leave the Church.

As ugly as sexual sins are, they are no reason to walk away from a Church that has taught the teachings of Christ for over two thousand years, continuously passing down from generation to generation the wisdom of God through the beauty of revelation.

Stay tuned to see what God has planned, for as it says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (¶ 395) "Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries—of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature—to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history.  It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.’"

Man, in his weakness, must cooperate with evil for it to take hold.  Let us continue to pray that each of us can resist the pull that leads to such sinfulness and continue to pray that God will pour out his love and mercy, offering healing and hope to all.

Copyright 2010 Janet Cassidy