I entered the Catholic Church in 2001, just as the abuse crisis was being revealed.
I was coming from an Evangelical Protestant background, and before that from atheism, and ironically both had taught me, in different ways, that people will do evil things and fail.
So the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, as disgusting as it was, did not shake my faith in God or His Church, and the resurgence and new revelations about the abuse crisis currently going on, likewise have not shaken my faith, nor should it shake yours.
But why shouldn’t it shake my faith? And shouldn’t we be justifiably angry? And shouldn’t we do something about this? And if so, what?
Man Does Evil Things
After graduating high school, I learned that a beloved teacher, whom I had for two years, had serially abused classmates of mine in school. That teacher moved around to different schools and school districts, and eventually when a brave child came forward with allegations, he went home to his house, poured gasoline around it, and set it and himself on fire. He died.
Then in college, I had just converted to Evangelical Protestantism from atheism, after suffering from a social anxiety disorder and depression. I joined a Baptist church. Some months later, a fellow Protestant young man, someone in many of my classes throughout college (we had the same major) was accused of abusing two children through the Protestant church.
So when I became Catholic, I did not have high expectations of how Catholics, whether lay or ordained, would behave. I did not expect them to be immune from the temptations that everyone faces to do evil. Of course, being Catholics they should have more graces to resist such evil, but given the anemic state of the Church when I became Catholic, which was evident to me even then, it did not surprise me that massive evils and failures had been perpetrated by even priests and bishops.
My faith was in God, not in the human leaders of His Church here on earth.
Fast forward to 17 years later. I’m still Catholic. No intention of being anything else.
Now we have new revelations of the depth of evil that was done by hundreds of priests, and how it was covered up. We have revelations as well of a high ranking bishop who, even after the abuse scandal exploded, continued to abuse seminarians, and that many other bishops knew about it (a “secret in plain sight”) and did nothing about it.
My Catholic friends are up in arms. Here’s several things they have been doing:
- Written letters to our bishop demanding many reforms
- Stopped donating to the diocese and even to the parish
- Researched paying for a billboard on highway calling out the bishops and encouraging Catholics to stop donating to dioceses
They are angry. They want reform. They want to send a loud message to the craven bishops that they won’t take this garbage anymore.
Meanwhile, one bishop wrote a letter to be read at his diocese at all the Masses. In this letter, the bishop:
- named in explicit detail the evils going on, scandalizing the children in the pews (“what does it means that a priest sexually abused a child, daddy?”)
- “reassured” us that his diocese was responding by “examining internally procedures” and “improving efficiency of its processes”
- told everyone that we were solving this problem by making all the laity take the “safe church” program where they hear from pedophiles who abuse children
No wonder that my friends have been angry and have resorted to activism. Such milquetoast, bureaucratic statements from bishops read more like lawyer-speak and bean-counting than true spiritual leadership.
Other friends of mine are making blog posts, creating videos, and digging into to “get the dirt” on all that is going on. Where was Vigano when? What did Pope Benedict know about all this? Which bishops are telling the truth and which are lying? What did Pope Francis know and what did he do, and is he lying now?
I understand: we want to know the truth. We want to have the answers. We want to demand that the leaders of Christ’s Church, even up to the Pope, answer for their actions, face the music, and are punished if they have been lying to us.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day on a truck that said “throw out all the incumbents!” An alluring thought: all those people we just voted in? Yeah let’s throw them out because they’re no good. Then let’s elect new people! That will solve it.
But the new people would be just as bad as the old people. Because the soil from which all the people have grown is poisonous.
Another Way to Respond
So if activism is not the best response, what is?
Personally, I have decided that I can’t change other people. At least not directly. So while I don’t condemn my friends for taking the actions they have, I am approaching it through prayer and personal conversion.
The only person I can change is myself. The only way I can change (and become a saint) is through prayer.
So I am praying novenas, praying the Rosary daily with my family (20 minutes of vocal prayer per day, the bare minimum in justice we owe to our Lord), and practicing mental prayer each day for 10 minutes (the second level of prayer after vocal prayer).
I wish I were at the prayer of simplicity, level 3 of prayer, but I am not. I am barely at level 2, in spite of being a Catholic for 17 years.
And regarding novenas, I pray novenas through my mobile app that you can get here for free: https://pray.app.link/GetTheApp
God is not mocked. He has allowed all this evil to go on in His Church, scandalizing countless people. These men think that they have gotten away with it, escaping human authorities. They may have done that, but they haven’t escaped God’s ultimate justice. No one escapes it. And many of them are old now, and close to meeting God face-to-face. No amount of smirks and dissembling will work then. The millstones are heavy they have tied around their necks.
My faith remains in the Holy Trinity. The Church’s teachings continue to be as true as they ever were, in spite of the men who have violated those teachings in abhorrent ways.
Put your faith in God; follow the teachings of the Church, and become a saint through prayer.