There is a point in the story of the Lord’s Passion when He stands before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and says: “I came into the world…to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.” And Pilate responds to him with the memorable words: “Truth? What is that?”
The Church and the world have been particularly vexed by this question in recent weeks. The accusations of a former Vatican envoy to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, against the Holy Father in the light of the scandal surrounding the former Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has stirred up a hornets’ nest which shows no signs of going away. And more recently the political circus surrounding the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, which also involves accusations of sexual abuse, has sharply divided not only political parties but public opinion both in the United States and much further afield. In both instances people desperately want to know the truth.
In an interview with Word On Fire Catholic Ministries upon his return to the US from the Papal visit to Ireland, Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was asked for his thoughts on the Vigano episode. He answered very powerfully:
“The question that matters is: What’s the truth? The truth will set us free. It’s so easy to get distracted from that question…What’s the truth? Should we be frightened or limited in that quest. I would say No”.
In the same interview he touched upon how he believed Christ Himself was at work in this unfortunate situation.
“What is the possible good that might come out of this situation?” Bishop Barron asked. “How is Christ cleansing His Church?” And he concluded with the definitive statement: “What is repugnant to the truth is repugnant to (Christ).”
The quest for truth is relevant to everyone. Truth is an essential ingredient in life. Falsehood and deceit have no place. They are corrosive and destructive. But truth has a special significance for those who have made a conversion journey and found their spiritual home within the Catholic Church. Most would see that journey as having been a quest for what is true, motivated by a desire to belong to the True Church as Christ founded it and ordained it to be and an adherence to the True Faith as handed down by Christ to His Apostles and through them to each succeeding generation. In his interview Bishop Barron speaks about faith as a friendship with God but it is a friendship which, of necessity, must be based upon truth. Our faith relationship reveals to us the truth - the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. Real faith can only be built upon absolute transparency. No secrets, no lies. Only a mutual openness which is rooted in love. As a former Anglican I can well remember the words of what was known as the Collect for Purity.
“Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love thee and worthily magnify thy Holy Name. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is a beautiful prayer and one we should use regularly. The truth sometimes hurts but the truth is also liberating.