As I continue to ponder the situations of Father Mark Gruber and Father Gordon MacRae, which I touched on yesterday here, which also contains links to other posts on them both, what I mostly realise is that God's ways are greater than ours, and though we are to pray and to act upon what we believe God is calling us to do in both of their cases, we do not for one second know the true mind of God, and the wonderful plans he has for both of them.
This morning in the Lauds - Liturgy of the Hours, there is the profound reading from 2 Corinthians Chapter 12, about the thorn in the flesh, that was given to St. Paul. The verses from V7-10 are from the New American Bible Version:
As to the extraordinary revelations, in order that I might not become conceited I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and keep me from getting proud. Three times I begged the Lord that this might leave me. He said to me, "My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection." And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.Both Father Gruber and Father MacRae have been imprisoned either officially in Father MacRae's case, and by his abbot within the walls of the abbey in the case of Father Gruber. The shame of the false accusations against them and the excessive mistreatment that is unwarranted from their own behaviours is for them a thorn in the flesh.
Therefor I am content with weaknesses, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.
To be treated as a child molester when guilty would be difficult. To be treated this way and be innocent of the charges would be much harder. God never promised us that we would be treated fairly, but the Church has swung the pendulum so far from the days when sexual abuse was buried, in the interest of transparency.
The Dallas Charter produced and revised by the USCCB in the last decade provides protection for children, but does so at the expense of our priests. Gone is innocent until proven guilty, which many years ago, was "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," but now is "guilty, guilty, guilty." The Catholic Church has become the safest place in the world for children, but the most dangerous place in the world for our priests.
It is my hope that some balance may be restored in the dealings with sexual abuse, so that the rights of priests will be protected, as appropriate, while honouring the rights of the laity, especially our young.
In the mean time, both of these priests, Father MacRae who has been stripped of all his dignity through the trial process and over 16 years in the New Hampshire state prison, and Father Gruber, who has been shamed in front of his students, and his community, are dealing with a thorn in their flesh.
I have witnessed how My Dear Wife, who has undergone over 8 years of illness, has been softened and had her faith increased by the thorns in her flesh, and so I am certain that God will bring good out of both of these sets of circumstance, because "all things turn to good for those who trust in the Lord."
Father MacRae, though he would not wish to take credit, had been instrumental in bringing others to the Lord, which is really what he was ordained for, and if he cannot do it in a New Hampshire parish, then he will do it in prison. He has had over 16 years to hope for exoneration and release, but has adapted to the situation he is in, and has chosen to make good of it, including with the help of others, preaching the Good News through his blog "These Stone Walls".
Father Gruber is in a period of isolation, and ostracism, and so his situation is more specifically like Padre Pio, who was similarly put aside for a period, because there was such skepticism about the stigmata on his body. The situation he is in will shape his life of faith for all years to come. Father Gruber though also has a community of former students and friends who have rallied to his aid, and who are being touched by him, who have formed a FaceBook group on his behalf.
May God in his infinite wisdom draw these two priests, and all those who are touched by their lives into deeper communion with Himself, to deeper prayer and trust that He is on His Throne, and that "All will be well."