Praying through the headlines in the year of prayer

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In discussing the removal or transfer of a pastor, Canon 1752 reads, ” … prae oculis habita salute animarum, quae in Ecclesia suprema semper lex esse debet” — in English, ” … keeping in mind the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law of the Church.”

The phrase resonates so deeply with me that I lately bring it to every matter of the Church and faith I spend time thinking about. I consider the reminder so fundamental to everything that touches the practice of Catholicism that part of me wishes the line concluded every pronouncement in the code.

Father Marko Rupnik case: Balancing justice and mercy

For instance, pondering the ongoing priesthood of Father Marko Rupnik amid scores of claims of sexual and spiritual abuse, the weird, foot-draggingly slow investigation surrounding said abuse, and the continued use of the priest’s artwork in prominent places and publications, I read Canon 1401, on “Processes” and “Trials in General,” which states that the Church “has its own and exclusive right to judge” cases that “refer to matters which are spiritual or linked with the spiritual” and “the violation of ecclesiastical laws and whatever contains an element of sin, to determine guilt and impose ecclesiastical penalties.”

My own broken instincts to despise Father Rupnik became tempered a bit when I applied “… keeping in mind the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church,” to both the code and the whole frustrating story.

On one hand, the words are an excellent reminder to Church leadership to finally move on the case and either laicize Rupnik or produce the findings that might absolve him of all of those credible accusations — “for the salvation of souls” who are increasingly fed up, distrustful and wary.

On the other hand, they are an excellent reminder to me, too — that despite my own impatience and endless judgment, and “for the sake of the salvation of souls” (including my own), I must permit the traditionally slow-moving processes of the Church to in fact proceed slowly — if only for the sake of thoroughness, so that when the denouement of this dreadful drama descends and the headlines blare, there may be no room for doubt, no sense that justice has not been rightly applied or that other considerations have superseded what is just.

Because doubt eats away at belief, and “the salvation of souls must always be the supreme law of the Church,” the integrity of the Rupnik process must be above reproach. If that needs a bit more time, so be it.

Year of Prayer

Headlines are often sensationalistic and even when not, they are still jarring; they can quickly move us to gasping fury or fearful wondering.

In our current Year of Prayer, perhaps they should also be moving us to engage with heaven as we read.

It is an important and, yes, powerful thing to invite our guardian angels to guide us, as we peruse the news, toward stories most worthy of our attention; to guard us against rash judgment or bitter cynicism.

Interceding for victims and perpetrators

It is good to ask our sainted friends to intercede for the people we read about — for instance to beg Sts. Basil and Gregory Nazianzen to intercede on behalf of an Orthodox bishop who was attacked and stabbed during a liturgy in Australia.

It is good, also, to pray for his assailant, a 15-year-old boy who might yet benefit from the intercession of the recently beatified and similarly aged Carlo Acutis or the gentle Solanus Casey.

Here in New York, an Orthodox woman climbing the stairs of her church was shoved back down to the cement sidewalk and severely injured, her pockets rifled through and car stolen by a 16-year-old who had already been arrested five times for robbery. In my prayers I asked our Blessed Mother, the Theotokos, to pray for the woman — and for the young man, too, who is clearly in trouble and needs real help, which prison is quite unlikely to provide. Into those prayers I also invited St. Dymphna, patron of the mentally ill, and St. Therese of Lisieux, who prayed for criminals with great efficacy.

Seeking solutions

I also turned to Jesus Christ, offering to him the increasingly disordered, chaotic and dark world and begging that we might grow in wisdom and creativity; that in order to better address the mayhem before us in our city streets, we may imagine and explore new solutions — policies and programs that can produce real healing by wedding justice to mercy.

Such solutions will likely be complicated or controversial or both. Because that is so, perhaps the Church — which practically invented social services and has pondered the phrase, “justice and mercy shall kiss” (Ps 85:10) for 2,000 years — is precisely the place from whence such urgently needed ideas should arise … always keeping in mind the salvation of souls.

Elizabeth Scalia

Elizabeth Scalia is editor-at-large for OSV. Follow her on X (formerly known as Twitter) @theanchoress.