Clerical sex, abuse, scandal and outrage are the words on the tip of every practicing Catholic’s tongue lately.
The sickening revelations that a highly influential American Cardinal is also a serial homosexual predator, that sexual crimes have been perpetrated, even cultivated, in various American dioceses for decades and that the hierarchies of both America and Rome have been supposedly “in the know” for quite some time, have detonated a seismic eruption felt across the Catholic world.
From all angles the Church appears to be comping apart at the seams. A barrage of anger from the pews, fueled by social media platforms, is applying unprecedented pressure on the clergy at every level, from your local parish up to the Vatican.
Battle lines are forming between priests, bishops and cardinals in what is shaping up to be the great Church war of our lifetime. Small arms fire in the form of tweets, videos and blog posts are popping off in every direction, while radioactive internal testimonies and external grand jury reports are strafing Vatican City.
Pope Francis is not helping matters any by intentionally refusing to directly comment on the allegations.
Suddenly there is enough disunity, distrust and chaos to impress the devil himself.
I’m one of the angry mob in the pews for a few reasons. First and foremost, I stand with the victims of clergy abuse, in any form or fashion. I want the guilty punished so their victims can experience some sense of justice and closure, and feel as though their cries have not gone unheard by God.
I’m also angry because I feel duped by the American bishops. In 2002 when the first wave of clergy abuse stories broke in the media, the bishops promised swift and thorough action. We were told guilty priests were removed, and that new protocols were put in place to protect the innocent.
One of those protocols was to have volunteering lay people like myself, become a part of a national platform of training and registry called Virtus.
What bishops didn’t share was that they too were a part of the original problem, and that they chose to police themselves. It seems the bishops did not hold themselves to the same standards that they set for their priests and parishioners. So the weeds among the wheat in their ranks were left to hang around. Big problem. They’ve had another 16 years to commit crimes, subvert some seminaries and scandalize the faithful.
Now here we are again. Those sins and crimes are tainting everything that the rest of us in the Catholic Church are trying to accomplish.
Lastly, I’m angry that we the faithful have to play defense for what could be a long time. While many people are still coming to terms with the graphic PA grand jury report, several other states are making moves to conduct their own investigations.
So what can we do about it? Here are concrete actions each of us can take, today, to contribute to the ultimate solution. Look over and pray about these options for yourself and your family. Ask for God’s guidance with it all.
1) Contact Your Parish:
Call or email your pastor, priests and deacons. If they’ve already spoken from the pulpit on the scandal (as many have), thank them and ask for a transcript of their remarks. Let them know you support them but that you are also paying close attention to their public statements and actions (or lack thereof) regarding this mess.
Personally I feel lucky to be in Texas. Cardinal Dinardo is our archbishop in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and the current leader of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). So far, he is saying all the right things regarding our desires for justice and transparency.
However, my heart goes out to others I’ve heard of in dioceses where the bishops seem to be taking a more defensive stance, increasing both frustration and suspicion among their flock.
If this describes you, then don’t hesitate to put your clergy on notice. Do it respectfully, but be clear. Catholic radio host Al Kresta recently remarked to his audience that, “we (the laity) are the Church. They (the clergy) have been called and gifted to serve us.”
“We are the Church. They have been called and gifted to serve us.” – Al Kresta, CEO Ave Maria radio
2) Get Strategic with Your Contributions
Online there are some who have let their anger get the better of them. They have been tweeting, posting and snapping to anyone who will listen to them, to stop all contributions to the Church. Hit the bishops where it hurts.
Here’s why this is not the answer. Here’s why this is crazy-talk.
Matthew Kelly, bestselling author and Catholic evangelist likes to remind people that despite all her failings, the Church every day, “feeds more people, houses more people, clothes more people, visits more imprisoned people, takes care of more sick people and educates more people than any other institution on the planet!”
This can only be accomplished through generosity. It is our faith and generosity that make this possible, that puts our Church in motion each day – despite the weeds among us.
Yes we need to choke the weeds. Yes the world deserves a better Church, but what the world does not need is a smaller Church. We are that Church and we should not allow our hearts to become cold to the needs of others because of a few weeds in the garden.
If you don’t want to drop that envelope in the collection basket – make payments directly to a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, crisis pregnancy center or an independent Catholic group like the Knights of Columbus, just to name a few options.
“Every day the Catholic Church feeds more people, houses more people, clothes more people, visits more imprisoned people, takes care of more sick people and educates more people than any other institution on the planet!” – Matthew Kelly
3) Join the Voices that are Urging the Pope to Lead
Both men and women who are concerned can contact Pope Francis by adding their signatures to these open letters, requesting he take action to bring justice and transparency to the situation.
4) Pray the Rosary for the Persecuted
Since Judas betrayed Jesus, the Church has been messy, and unjust persecution has been the result. Here in America, we are suffering because of these scandals and we have a taste of real hurt in our Church. But as hurt goes, we have Catholic and Christian brothers and sisters all over the globe, that for political and legal reasons are suffering much worse.
As we are praying for God to right the wrongs of our nation’s clergy, please remember our worldwide Church family and the crosses they must bear each day. We are all in this together.
In 2015, I penned The Rosary for the Persecuted, for the website Catholic Stand. Since this current crisis was brought to light, I have been praying it daily for us and ask you to join me in praying for our Universal Church.
5) Defend the Eucharist
The Eucharist – the consecrated bread and wine at Mass and in tabernacles and Adoration monstrances, is the transubstantiated body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ Himself! Because of that, the Eucharist is the source, center and summit of the Church’s life.
It is the reason we don’t abandon our Church for another. Why go looking for God when He’s already with us?
Caralyn Collar has a great blog called Beauty Beyond Bones. She asked and answered the question of why Catholics would stick around in this disaster perfectly.
“How can Catholics, in good conscience, stay in a church that is so ripe with corruption?
And friends, that is a really hard question to answer.
But after a lot of prayer, I’ve come up with two things. And I can only answer for myself – obviously, I cannot speak for everyone.
Number One: The Eucharist. I stay because I believe in the sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross, and His true presence in the bread and wine.
Secondly, and this is the biggie: The Church is run by humans. And we are a fallen people. We do not live in Heaven. We are here on earth, where we all fall prey to the enemy. Even people in positions of power. Even priests.” – Beauty Beyond Bones, 7/23/18
So, we stay and fight. We will not abandon Him. We are in this to win this.
Personally, if I believed in schism, I would already be a non-Catholic. But I don’t. So I won’t.
6) Encourage the Discouraged
Anger, frustration and despair among some fellow Catholics is palpable. This too shall pass but it never seems that way, when we find ourselves in those fleeting moments of despair. We need each other. If you have a friend or relative struggling with this, don’t leave them hanging.
Remind them we are family and we are all in this together. Here is a powerful clip from Bishop Robbert Barron that I think gets it right. Share this.
7) Seek Truth above all else.
Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the the Way, the Truth and the Life.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – Jesus, (John 14:6)
In this current crisis, and any future chaos that seems inevitable to follow, seek truth above all else. Continue to demand clarity from our clergy and officials at every level. Support any measure that brings greater transparency to our Church, even if we don’t like what we see. It was the shying away from darkness that contributed to these problems in the first place.
Avoid the political infighting. I mentioned battle lines forming between bishops. Leave it alone. Just seek truth.
Truth, unlike spin, brings peace. With that peace we will know the way we should go. And following that way, my friends, will bring us the eternal life we are hoping for.