Church of 'wheat and darnel'
Today the Church is much criticized. Sometimes it seems the criticism is justified and right. One priest left, another behaved dishonourably, far from the ideal of priestly life. Everybody looks into 'God's garden'. But many see only the darnel. They can see and hear what they want to see and hear. People speak and write badly of priests, films present a bad image of priests. A bad priest is sensational news for a journalist. And the truth is - these are sad exceptions among numerous hard working priests who are faithful to God and people.
We know that thousands of Polish priests have gone down in Poland's history. We can recall many heroes, saints, theologians, reformers, scholars, feature writes and charismatic men. However, each of them was an ordinary human being like us. A little holy and a little profane. And yet different. The difference is not because of the cassock but because of the way of his whole life. For some this otherness can be some support, for others it is irritating. No doubt, it is because of the choice of values as a way of life.
The Church is identified with priests: bishops, parish priests, and prefects. They are praised and reprimanded. But the Church is also us, Catholics, who live and behave in various ways. Can a human community be ideal?
The Primate of the Millennium wrote, 'We know that people's activities in the Church have not always been impressive. But not all people were impressed by Christ's activities, especially when he fell on the way to Calvary, struck by the burden of the cross, soiled with mud and despised. This is the Misterium, which no human tongue can explain. This is also a photography of the human fate. Although man can be soiled with mud, he does not have to be dirty just as the Church does not cease to be holy in spite of being soiled in the mud of history. One holy, catholic and apostolic Church where both wheat and darnel grow. The Church, consisting of sinners, tax collectors and adulterous women, does not cease to be holy because it has the power to change tax collectors into apostles, and adulterous women into holy women like Mary Magdalene. The Church always saves, revives and sanctifies with Christ's power, not ours. The presence of the Church in the world - examined objectively and without prejudice - speaks to people just the same like the words and deeds of Christ, who lived in Palestine and now he lives in the Church'.
Those who are away from the Church need this signpost. But it is Catholics themselves who need it at the most. We find priests and ourselves among the wheat and darnel. We all have our daily ups and downs. Perhaps we do not think about it a lot because we judge only priests. Not long ago a young woman spoke about similar problems and told me, 'Only now do I understand that life is not black and white and the way to perfection is not only bumpy'. I was moved deeply by a journalist's statement in the television programme called 'Between earth and heaven'. This journalist said he was a non-believer but at the same time he spoke with admiration about Polish missionaries. He also said that the help of secular institutions existed but it was rather poor and small. This is exactly what it means to 'be objective and without prejudice', which Primate Stefan Wyszynski stressed.
It is worth mentioning one more fragment of the Primate's pastoral letter, 'The Church, although it has a wonderful history of charity, although it condemned usury and bribery, modern capitalistic exploitation as well as old and new slavery of mechanization, did not win all hearts for social ideals. Whose fault was it? People too hastily blame the hierarchy of the Church. Today we need to ask all 'Catholic social dissenters' who all too easily accuse the Church: where were they when the clergy showed them tasks in the field of justice'? Not all of them wanted to plough with us and weed the darnel out of social life'.
It is easier to be a critic of reality than to be its creator!
Not long ago one of the known and pious priests said that during his traditional round of pastoral visits to parishioners only one or two in every ten families wanted to talk to him. And this happens in the city with great Christian traditions and where people boast of these traditions. Can we imagine how the priest felt when he was treated this way? Surely on the occasion of a wedding or more often a funeral some six or eight of these families come to the parish office asking for help or demanding a priestly service. The Church of 'wheat and darnel'! Are we to cross these names off the list of the parish book since they are like 'darnel' and not like 'wheat'? We may have such a desire. But should we do that?'