This past week, Pope Francis created fourteen new Cardinals. It was a festive occasion of ecclesial red, sealed with a ring, and crowned with a biretta. The events were all surrounded in traditional customs and courtesies, symbols and meanings.

And yet, above all, the colorful vestry and universal privileges of the cardinalate are given and intended to be signs of a passionate love for Jesus Christ and the Church. Such a love, reflected by the ornate use of the color red, is always to be ready to suffer for the Gospel, even to the point of shedding blood.

And yet, do the financial dealings of an Indian cardinal reflect this call to service? Do the accusations against an Australian cardinal echo this role? Does the sexual abuse inflicted by the cardinal, archbishop-emeritus of Washington, DC, give any expression to this sacrificial love? No, no, and no.

Needless to say, therefore, there’s a dark cloud floating over the dignity of the cardinalate. It appears that the formerly bright red is now somewhat stained and subdued.

What are we to make of this transparent observation? Do we hide our heads and deny the darkness? Do we labor to minimize or rationalize evil?

When these approaches were attempted in the past, many people were hurt and, as a Church, we learned some harsh lessons. And so, perhaps some biblical wisdom can help us, namely: “The truth will set you free,” “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” and “Consecrate them in truth.”

In opposition to smoke and mirrors, excuses and empty reasons, we are called to recognize evil, denounce it, look for authentic goodness, and allow it to flourish, all the while humbly acknowledging that all of us hold God’s treasures “in earthen vessels.”

Yes, Saint Paul first wrote that realization, and yet – for two thousand years – every ordination, appointment, elevation, and creation of clergy is a further reminder of this stark reality of our human fallenness. Sin happens. It’s evil, and should be named. Goodness is stronger and can thrive. When goodness triumphs, darkness is lessened and light is able to shine more brightly.

And so, not in denial, but in spite of the sin and brokenness of our shepherds we hold onto the symbols which remind us of what our Christian leaders are supposed to be, what we are to pray for in these leaders, and the grand foundation upon which we are all able to have hope in them and in their ministry among us.

Such an approach allows us to see the evil, remove the churchmen who gravely succumbed to it (such a removal being for our good, and for theirs), support those who faithfully serve us, energetically work alongside them in serving the poor and those in need, and generously seek to spread God’s kingdom in our world today.

Rather than unjust anger, doubt, resentment, desolation, or other dark spirits, these sobering truths stir up in us a sense of righteous indignation, a hope that leads to salvation, and a mission that does not have to be weakened by sin and darkness.

During the festivities of this past week, Pope Francis reminded our fourteen new Cardinals (and each one of us): “When we forget the mission, when we lose sight of the real faces of our brothers and sisters, our life gets locked up in the pursuit of our own interests and securities. Resentment then begins to grow, together with sadness and revulsion. Gradually we have less and less room for others, for the Church community, for the poor, for hearing the Lord’s voice. Joy fades and the heart withers.”

Yes, with heavy hearts over the grave sin of chosen churchmen, we acknowledge the sin, seek healing for those hurt by it, and then re-focus on the mission. It is a mission of faith, hope, and love that will dismantle the kingdom of evil and shine overwhelming light on any darkness in any heart and in any place! Against all evil – even the deplorable sins among our shepherds – we fight on.

As Pope Francis reminded the new cardinals (and, again, each of us):  “This is the highest honor that we can receive, the greatest promotion that can be awarded us: to serve Christ in God’s faithful people. In those who are hungry, neglected, imprisoned, sick, suffering, addicted to drugs, cast aside. In real people, each with his or her own life story and experiences, hopes and disappointments, hurts and wounds.”

This is the mission of the Church. This is our mission. Sin hurts us and scandal shocks us, but these have no authority over our power for goodness. And it is precisely our commitment and our fight for goodness, enriched by love and guided by virtuous shepherds, that empowers us to acknowledge sin, dwell in hope, and accept the greater purpose of our lives and of our faith in Jesus Christ.