This is not an easy time for Catholics. The unspeakable evil revealed in Pennsylvania that over 1,000 persons were sexually abused by 300 priests and even worse the systematic cover up by church hierarchy for seven decades is devastating. The details of the abuse are sickening but they should be read and understood by every practicing Catholic. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. It’s important to remember that pedophile priests aren’t just something that came out of Boston or Pennsylvania or Ireland. Many of my classmates will remember a priest in our Catholic grade school in the 1960’s that was “reassigned” as rumors whirled around about his behavior. I was spared but some of the boys in my class were abused (which is a polite way to say raped). It was an open secret. We all knew something, but we were too young (or ill-informed) to know what we knew. Twenty-five years later a popular young priest was removed from the school where our children attended because of abuse allegations. And on and on…
Many of my non-Catholic friends ask how I can remain in a Church so full of disgrace and sinfulness. How can I remain in a Church where the clergy attack the most vulnerable amongst us? Some of my Catholic friends ask that question, too. Truth be told, sometimes I ask myself.
I’m angry. I’m outraged. I’m sad. I’m broken-hearted. And still I remain a Catholic.
We must not ignore the crimes of those priests and bishops. We should ALL speak up and speak out. We must ferret out the monsters who would prey upon the most vulnerable. I’m angry that anyone would sexually exploit a child, especially someone in a position of trust. I’m outraged that Church hierarchy covered up the abuse for decades, maybe centuries. I’m sad because of the loss of innocence and the destruction of faith in those young souls and that these despicable acts have been repeated countless times and it doesn’t seem to stop! I’m broken-hearted because now some in our Church are using these latest revelations as an excuse to attack progressives in our midst. Some ultra-conservative bishops are using this latest crisis to instill hate and doubt in the hearts and minds of others to further their political agendas. And still, I remain a Catholic.
Our Church champions pro-life causes when it’s about abortion or euthanasia but remains largely silent regarding affordable health care for the young and the aged. We proclaim our belief in a catholic (universal) Church; one that welcomes all of God’s creation but in practice we don’t really welcome everyone and are often openly hostile when it comes to LGBTQ rights and gender equality. We fail as a faith community when we refuse to fight for the dignity of immigrants and those separated from their children by our government’s overreach. We pay lip service to racism in the Church but in the U.S., we remain predominantly male, white and insular in our worship and leadership. Where is the compassion for those marginalized in our society? Pro-life should mean supporting ALL life not just that with which we are comfortable. I often feel ashamed of the unloving attitudes of some of my church-mates and myself. And still I remain a Catholic.
Our Church (my Church) is like a family: loud, messy, demanding, imperfect, passive-aggressive, arrogant, and intolerant. We have our share of crazy uncles, angry spouses, spoiled brats, privileged teens, and old codgers. We fight. We’re selfish. We neglect one another. We refuse to lift a hand to help one another. We are at times ugly, hateful and mean-spirited.
But because our Church (my Church) is like a family we also love, protect and cherish one other. We nurture, advise, and counsel one another. We pray for one another. Like any family, we come together in times of celebration and heartache. Our family cheers us on when we feel down-trodden or overwhelmed by circumstances beyond our control. Our family carries us when we’ve lost all hope and strength. When there is a death or a job loss or some natural disaster, families can put aside their differences and be there for one another. It is also true for our Church – we need to accept one another as we are. We need to celebrate one another as we are. I’m reminded that we are the Church. Not the priests nor the bishops, but you and I. If you’re searching for God; if you need to see Jesus’ face, just look at the person next to you in the pew.
We Catholics are human – hopelessly flawed and sinful. Still in spite our failings we are given grace because God’s love is without fail. No matter how we muck things up; no matter how grave our sins; no matter how unforgivable our actions; we are forgiven. God’s love is greater than our sin.
And so, I’m going to keep the “family” that I have and remain a Catholic…