It’s been weeks since we learned about (formerly Cardinal) McCarrick, and long enough since the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released that the initial shock has dissipated. But now we have letters and statements and accusations renewing our dismay. My response to big events is often clear and immediate. Other times I want to read and be clear on facts before addressing it. But in this case, things just keep coming. If we ever get full details on the corruption currently rotting in our clergy, it’s going to take a while.
I’m not waiting for that day to talk about it.
To be perfectly honest, I am not entirely surprised by what we are learning. The sexual abuse, rape, use of pornography, and homosexual activity that has occurred is disturbing and wrong. My heart goes out to victims of these crimes, and I believe it should be a major priority in our Church to heal these wounds. Victims deserve justice. And so do any perpetrators or enablers of these atrocities.
Learning of the horrific experiences of some seminarians, especially in the 70’s and 80’s, is disturbing. Is this part of why our number of priests declined? I wonder. If the testimonies are true, which I am inclined to believe, then whistleblowers were sometimes removed from seminaries. Good guys left out of disgust. This was not acceptable.
And the cover-up.
This is what makes my blood boil.
It remains to be seen exactly who’s right about what. Archbishop Vigano’s testimony is being attested to as accurate by a growing number of credible people who are calling for an investigation. At the same time, Pope Francis has been silent for the last few days. This part of the story has been the most personally disheartening to me so far because of this: if one is innocent, it should be easy to simply state that upfront and discredit false accusations. And if one is guilty but repentant, it should be the obvious course of action to admit wrongdoing, clarify details, and accept consequences.
I do not want Pope Francis to be guilty of covering up these things. I don’t want to know that there are wolves wearing shepherds clothing. But we know too much to let this breeze over. I want the whole truth and nothing but the truth put out into the light of day. Besides actually being found guilty, silence seems like one of the worst reactions by clergy at this present moment, and I struggle to interpret this in a positive way. I think the Church deserves answers to these serious allegations, and that a full investigation all the way up to the Vatican should have been publicly started days ago.
All these details are difficult to follow. My mind has been running like a hamster wheel and I’m not sleeping enough (not that I ever do). I can’t stop thinking about this and reading everything (yes, both “sides”). This is a stunning moment to be Catholic, but I am profoundly grateful for what’s going on. This evil needs to be exposed, and I hope that with how big this has become, it will have to be dealt with.
But Laura, you might say, these things are so heinous and despicable. How could you ever remain a Catholic?
I’m glad you asked.
You know how people talk about the fight or flight reaction we usually have in the face of danger? I think if this was new to me, I might be more likely to be stewing in and blinded by disgust and anger. But sadly, clerical corruption is not an unusual topic of my reading. Besides committing crimes, bishops, priests, and even the Pope are dead wrong sometimes about theological, practical, and pastoral things. And no – I’m not a “far right” Catholic who thinks Pope Francis is the AntiChrist. It’s not everyday they’re covering heinous crimes, but they sure are wrong about some things on the regular. I don’t talk about that often here because it’s depressing and feels prideful to talk about how I think they’re wrong.
But I’ve worked in a less than perfect diocese. I went to a Catholic college. I’ve gone through Safe Environment Training twice. I work for a Catholic organization now. I am a well-informed Catholic, and I know our history is rife with scandal. I know the gates of Hell will not prevail against the universal Catholic Church, but I also know there’s no one country where God said it would remain strong. Whatever happens, though – I’m here for it. I believe this is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic faith established by Jesus Christ, and I’m not leaving him because of modern day Judases.
I can look at Jesus on the cross and ask why people make atrocious decisions. But I cannot look him in the eye and walk away because of them.
Do you believe Jesus came to conquer sin and give us the Church and its sacraments? Do you believe he is holding us in the palm of his hand through this? Do you believe he is with us in the Eucharist and present among us? Do you believe in the beauty and necessity of the sacraments regardless of who’s ministering them?
Then join me. Stay and fight for the Church you believe in.
“Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of Christ risen.” Mother Teresa said.
And it’s true. I feel like I’m carrying a weight and just want to know the truth and get this over with. But I also want the Church to experience a deep purging and cleansing that will take time.
Some of the best words I’ve seen recently come from a German radio broadcast by then Fr. Ratzinger in 1969:
“From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members . . . And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”
With death always comes resurrection. May the extent of this rot be exposed and burned down to allow new life to flourish. May our faith in Jesus be stronger than any storm. And may new life come from this death.