I was born and raised in the Catholic Church. I have not always been the most faithful, mind you, but I’ve tried. If nothing else, I do what I can to set a good example for my daughters.
It seems like my whole life has been filled with stories and jokes about priests and altar boys. These scandals aren’t new – Massachusetts comes to mind – but they do get a lot of media attention, and it’s frankly not hard to see why. The Church is supposed to be a beacon of Christian life and morality for all its flock, but the Church is run by man, and man is deeply flawed.
Yes, even Popes can and have been flawed.
So when these stories come out, it always feels like a gut punch. My faith is shaken for a moment, and I dread briefly wading through headlines and social media about the scandals. Inevitably, you see the people who have always been hostile to Catholicism and Christianity cheering victoriously. “Yes!” they cry. “We knew you were corrupt and perverted!”
It can take a toll, if you are someone who ever wavered in your faith. And, on more than one occasion, I have.
However, I keep my faith and I continue on, because at the end of the day my faith is not in man. It is not in people. My faith is in Jesus Christ. It is in God. There is a plan, and I plan to see it revealed.
One of the biggest criticisms that practicing Catholics, clergy and laymen, get after these stories is that there aren’t enough loud, public condemnations of acts like the ones described in the grand jury’s report. The Church has failed its flock in that regard, as it has shown them that they are the expendable ones and the men in power are more important.
It is important for religious leaders to realize that it is the health of the flock that should be prioritized, as their growth will mean the Church’s growth. But, power – even power within the leadership structure of a religious institution – can corrupt. It can lead someone to set the wrong priorities.
I was introduced recently to a wonderful verse on the subject:
“Reprimand publicly those [presbyters] who do sin, so that the rest also will be afraid.” -1st Timothy 5:20
This is the important first step that has to be taken. The Church did fail in this regard, and it is my hope that actions will be taken to remove any sexual abusers from the ministry and focus on gaining the trust of the people who fill the pews each week.
But, at the same time, I won’t be joining in the bashing of the Catholic Church, which has been my spiritual home all of my life. I won’t be leaving it, as so many critics would demand of those of us who identify as Catholic. I am no more Catholic because of the people who told me to be such and who told me how to act. I am because only one man has ever been perfect, and it is His example I choose to follow.