The ongoing sexual abuse crisis has damaged the Catholic Church’s credibility as a witness to the Gospel, but the church should not abandon its social witness. Rather, it must re-think its approach.
That Thomas’ absence when Jesus first appeared to the Twelve after his resurrection was due to his withdrawing from the other disciples following Christ’s crucifixion is an intriguing exegetical possibility. It also frames the events that follow in a manner that may be instructive for the Church in its witness to those who are doubting and agnostic.
Jesus knows full well, after all (cf. Jn. 13:36-38) that Peter is denying him. And yet he does not deny Peter. Even while his disciples are scattering and hiding, Jesus confidently declares that they will bear witness to him, as indeed they would after his resurrection.
Within many criminal justice systems, deterrence is a significant element of the rationale of imprisonment. However, Paul’s letter to the Philippians reveals the emboldening power of imprisonment for faithful witness. The example set by courageous leaders who will risk imprisonment for the sake of truth and justice continues to have great power, even within our contemporary situation.
As the social dominance that Christianity once enjoyed wanes, we may find ourselves in a position similar to that of Peter in the High Priest’s courtyard. Will we answer Christ’s call to witness to the truth, or will we deny him in order to be included within our culture’s political conversations?