The Church as Field Hospital
Continuing in response to the question: Holy Father, can you tell us how the desire to proclaim a Holy Year of Mercy was born? Where did the inspiration come from? (pg. 5)
I believe that the decision came through prayer, through reflection on the teachings and declarations of the Popes who preceded me, and by thinking of the Church as a field hospital, where treatment is given above all to those who are most wounded. A Church that warms people’s hearts with its closeness and nearness. (8)
What would it look like for the church to serve as a field hospital that genuinely and immediately cares for the "most wounded"? Who would we look to serving and helping? And how would this affect and even reshape the church?
I have spent some time here speaking about one group of people: Victims of Child Sexual Abuse in Churches of Christ. (And in an ironic and infuriating turn of events, it was announced this morning that, as of now, the Vatican is not compelling its bishops to report sexual abuse to the governmental authorities.) I have also in a recent presentation offered an initial reflection about the nature and scope of trauma and human suffering.
But I want to return to this question: What would happen to the church if its life was oriented towards the most wounded in the world (and within their own communities of faith)?
I think the answer is three-fold:
(1) The church would be absolutely devastated. The consequences of decades and centuries of indifference, denial, and ignorance would usher in an unimaginable disorientation as we faced head-on the ferocity and ubiquity of suffering.
(2) The church would be forced to rearticulate the ways in which God responds to human suffering and what the life, death, and resurrection mean for this "new" reality. My hunch is that traditional constructions of sin and salvation would be found to be insufficient. (Forgiveness doesn't do anything for trauma and human suffering!) This would be an important, yet difficult and disorienting work.
(3) The church would be enabled to become the place where redemption in its fullest and truest sense was radically and publicly on display. This is the reason that despite the pain and disorientation that would inevitably result from the turn to the "most wounded", that it would be transformative for both the church and the world.
And how is this done? The last line from Francis says it all...