I haven't been blogging about scandals in the Church, since there has been so much commentary, what more could I add? But I found myself thinking a lot since yesterday about this story concerning a nun, Barbara Markey, who embezzled over 300,000 from the diocese of Omaha. She pleaded guilty, will be sentenced in July, and could get up to 20 years in prison.
First, I have to think, "There but for the grace of God go I," so I'm not writing this in any kind of self-righteous way. But I have to wonder how it happened that someone who at an earlier point in her life wanted to give up all worldly goods and follow the poor Christ, and made a vow of poverty, could have gotten to this point.
Whatever happened--and I presume she has a gambling addiction because most of the money was spent in casinos--it must have happened little by little. Someone doesn't start out stealing 300,000. It must have happened with little concessions here and there, perhaps thinking "No one will notice this little bit of money is gone" etc., etc., But once a person is on that slippery slope, she can plunge downhill pretty fast.
The three vows--poverty, chastity, and obedience--are the opposite of three of the capital sins: avarice, lust and pride. Money and sex seem to be the two biggest trouble spots in human life.
Thankfully, stories like this about nuns are rare; the vast majority of sisters are quietly living out heroic lives of dedication. But it's easy to go astray, and religious life is no exception. Perhaps the take-home lesson here is that we religious have to make choices that are consistent with the vows we have made. Over time, routine and the tediousness of everyday life can cause us to forget our reasons for wanting to follow Jesus and how we fell in love with him. It can happen in marriage too, which is why divorces are unfortunately common. But it all starts with little things. Prayer is the indispensable means to keep on going day in and day out, like St Paul says, "Do not grow weary of doing good."