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Power Made Perfect

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December 2018

Back then, a kid could get away with it. Our moms probably would have shrieked if they knew. As new houses were built, we’d walk right onto active construction sites. We’d stand next to the bricklayers as they constructed walls. When the workers left, we’d search the house floors for slugs—those round punch-outs from electrical boxes. In the evenings, we’d climb down the workers’ makeshift ladders to explore basements.

And if a dirt pile remained from the foundation work, we’d play “king of the hill.” It was a pretty simple game: climb to the top, push off all comers, and then try to stay there as they keep coming back. There was something about holding power that we desired, even if it only amounted to bragging rights on a summer’s day.

As we grow older, power starts to mean a whole lot more. It means the ability to do what and how we want, when and where we want. That desire to hold the reins of power can be intense, which is why candidates and political parties literally spent billions to win elections. Holding power can be good or bad; we see both on a regular basis. Some people act for the common good. Others just want to remain king of the hill.

Power corrupts, and not only in the field of civil government. Sadly, it has caused corruption within our Church. The recent grand jury report concerning 70 years of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania was another explosion right next to our ears. We thought we had that problem fixed. Then came the revelations about Cardinals McCarrick and Weurl. And now speculation grows that the horrible abuse of power—and the unwillingness to control it—reaches into the Vatican. Why does this continue?

As priest after priest, bishop after bishop, has apologized for the scandal, I heard a priest suggest that the problem seemed to be connected to “white male power.” His unspoken assertion seemed to be that if women held power, child abuse wouldn’t exist, at least not to the extent it does. In our politically correct country, comments about white male power have become fashionable. Unquestionably, white men do hold a vast amount of power. Still, the comment was a head scratcher. Is there a “white” gene in our chromosomes that causes child abuse?  Can’t be, because people of color have also been child abusers.

So is it a male thing? The recent confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh proved that women abuse power, too. And the abuse is not limited to politics. The court dockets are filled with cases involving women abusing children, whether their own children or foster children. We hear stories of female teachers involved sexual relationships with their students, relationships that could not have started outside a school environment.

The continuing problem of child abuse, and the continuing failure to get it under control, isn’t rooted in our DNA. It’s rooted in the hearts of individuals who have put sinful self-interest above the dignity of others. The desire to dominate turns some people into predators hunting for prey they can take to places where no one can see or hear. The problem only grows worse when those who can correct it turn a blind eye and deaf ear for fear of losing their own power or prestige. By not trying to end the injustice, they become as unjust.

We claim to be repulsed by child abuse, yet in our country we have legalized its most repulsive form. Abortion is the ultimate child abuse. Every abortion is about power, or more precisely, the abuse of power. In every abortion, the goal is to kill the unborn baby. In every abortion, a decision has been made to put self ahead of an utterly voiceless and defenseless unborn. However tragic the circumstance surrounding the pregnancy, the baby always loses in the end, literally torn into pieces. All the while, we who have the power to correct this legalized abuse of power do nothing. What does that say about us?

As the priest spoke of white male power, I couldn’t help noticing that nearby stood a statue of a woman—our Blessed Mother. For centuries, Mary has been a highly revered figure in the Catholic Church, second only to Jesus. But these days she has been gently pushed aside, remembered in December and tucked away with the decorations in January. It’s such a shame, because her life can teach us so much about power.

For Mary, power came not from seeking her own interests but from embracing and humbly doing God’s Will, wherever it would lead her. She said “yes” to life because she could serve God’s plan by doing so. Life was never about herself. While dealing with her own pregnancy, Mary went to help her older cousin Elizabeth deal with hers. She taught Jesus, then followed Him all the way to the Cross. For that, she was given a seat at His right hand. She has Jesus’ ear. That’s real power. It’s why so many people have prayed to Mary for whatever they need from her Son.

Authentic power is a gift of God, one we exercise through His gift of free will. But it remains authentic only as long as we use it to serve God’s Will. That we can do. His Will is that we embrace His gift of life. Like Mary, we can say “yes” to life even when the road forward is uncertain and even scary. Mary trusted; we can, too. Mary taught; so can we. Just think of the incredible power a parent holds in being able to teach a child about God’s ways. A parent can change the world, one child at a time. That’s exactly what Mary did with her boy. Mary’s life was about serving God and others. Not about self-interest or self-fulfillment, or self-gratification. Not about dominating those weaker than us. In its weak and humble way, Mary’s life was about power made perfect. So can ours. Merry Christmas!

 

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2018. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/ and on Facebook.

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