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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Comiskey

Dignify and Deploy 38: Blind Spots

‘Now we see through a glass darkly…’ (I Cor. 13:12)

Blame it on too much pressure. Too many important decisions that impact thousands of people. Blame it on aging--physical weakness. But ascribe blame. How else do we grow and learn from the failures of our fathers?

Do so humbly. But do it! Anything less enables clericalism—the black-robed tendency to circle wagons under fire and cover each other’s cover-ups. Why must we be so protective of our ‘holy family’? The Church is a resilient Mother who can endure exposure. She needs it! Jesus is coming back for a pure Bride; her members do our part by growing up to see and say shadows in our leaders.

Here goes. John Wimber and Karol Wojtyla possessed much virtue and little guile. That may have set them up for believing indiscriminately in some leaders. They couldn’t conceive that gifted people they loved could do diabolical things. Wimber and Wojtyla believed the best about some divided leaders to the detriment of all.

Young people surrounded Wimber, some of whom ambitiously wanted a place on his stage. According to John’s discerning daughter Stephanie, a handful were flat out arrogant. Dad didn’t see it and made way for them when he shouldn’t have. This blind spot stabbed him.

John Paul infamously advocated for Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Did rumors of Maciel fathering children, sexually abusing seminarians and embezzling money ever reach Wojtyla? Did the pope’s high regard for this man’s orthodox, effective ministry edit out the noise? John Paul believed the best about a man whose victims are still coming forward, long after his death. Maciel deceived Wojtyla who may have allowed himself to be deceived.

The Boston Diocese was racked with clerical sexual abuse scandals (see the movie Spotlight?) under Cardinal Bernard Law. He resigned shamefully in 2002, having been accused of covering up abuses for years. John Paul (near the end of his papacy) invited him to become archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (an important church in Rome), granting him sanctuary from American heat. Bleech.

John Paul undoubtedly liked Law and respected his distinguished service; it may well be that the pope didn’t wholly believe most of the allegations against Law. Might this be linked to a tendency in the Polish Church to believe such charges are fabricated (in Poland’s case, by the Soviets)? From this view, Church’s enemies trump up such abuses to weaken her.

That is clericalism: the Church defending herself before taking up the cause of those she oppressed. It mocks John Paul championing human dignity. When shepherds prey on sheep, the Church must own it and discipline the predator. Anything less gives our common enemy power to undermine the Church.

Law helped clergy dodge abuses. John Paul helped Law. Big blind spot. Friends of God expose friends as to defend weaker members.

John Paul appointed Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis) as Cardinal of Buenos Aires in 2001. A daring appointment—the Jesuits rebuffed Karol early on in his papacy when he sought to guide the order’s leadership transition. Wojtyla undoubtedly liked jocular Jorge. But he hadn’t much of John Paul’s theological heft. As Pope Francis, he has failed to steward and apply well John Paul’s TOB legacy. That is evident in the deconstruction of the John Paul ll Institute in Rome as well as in Francis’ confusing application of the Gospel to the LGBTQ+ community. John Paul didn’t see that coming.

Wimber started as a seasoned smart renewal leader and died governing a global denomination. He knew something died as soon as one ‘denomination-alized’; he said it himself, having seen it repeatedly as leader of Fuller’s Church Growth Institute. Organizing the Fire douses it. Did John do the right thing investing in a new ‘brand’? Might John’s energies have best gone into ‘doing the stuff’ with Baptists, Catholics, Orthodox, Nazarenes, etc.? I wonder if Vineyard values could have been disseminated without adding another entry to the free-church buffet.

“Jesus, we are humbled by what we don’t see. Have mercy on us and our fathers’ blind spots. Teach us from the ‘misses’ as much as from their obvious ‘hits.’

Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”


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