Who will speak up for the Catholic Church where it has been banished from public worship?
All of us watch as crisis after crisis continue to challenge our faith by unheard of events that would even test the confidence of angels. Yet, it is through our holding on to the God who created us and continues sharing his love with us that keeps our deep abiding trust in the one who is in charge.
As far back as the 11th century there existed in the church sexual abuse by clergy. Recently, in Pennsylvania, the Attorneys General brought hundreds of law suits against many hundreds of priests in our state alone. Of course Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCorrmick stands out as one of the current names and he was dismissed in February 2019 from the priesthood.
With all the scandal taking front page some Catholics could not endure it with many leaving the pews, withholding funds, and some seeking other houses of worship as if to say; “we don’t understand and so we are going elsewhere for prayer.” That alone presented a crisis wherein the parishes struggled with the loss of money, but the struggle was greater with souls turning away from God and the Sacraments they were raised with. After a period of those who did not leave we have seen a return of some who will not leave or abandon the church in spite of the sins of their clergy.
Then, last year a pandemic arrived, first in other countries, but followed quickly to the United States. To date over 500,000 have passed away from complications to Covid - 19. I myself spent 12 days in the ICU with the virus and am thankful to God that I have recovered and doing well. However, the one problem with the virus is churches have curtailed attendance, closed the church doors in many areas, and a second crisis in the church where the Sacraments are just a thought for some and parishioners hungering for a return to their Lord, physically.
We are still blessed since we can attend Holy Mass in person even on a limited basis. The blessings are more than real, they allow us to be part of public worship without interference of public officials. This is not possible in many countries where imprisonment or worse is imminent for attending public Mass. Priests are thrown into prison or murdered in some places for holding Mass.
I just learned this evening that Ireland has forbidden public Mass, perhaps due to Covid - 19, but to disallow the Sacraments is a greater put-down on our right to pray and worship God than the other two problems that deters us from our true worship of God.
Don’t forget North Korea, China, and many other nations that are denying their citizens the right to pray, attend Mass, receive the Sacraments, and live in freedom which is constantly denied them. We might think that why not just retaliate against the government and seek our right to pray. After all, don’t we have the First Amendment of the Constitution to protect those rights? One time many of those nations also had rights, but governments that became dictatorships changed their freedoms. Could that happen here? Absolutely! Today, life is changing and what we held as sacred a short time ago exists with new descriptive signs that confuse the meaning of freedom and good will towards mankind. Our forefathers’ vision of a land for the poor and needy has all but disappeared. The hope for change requires trust in God and our refusal to succumb to tyranny.
Ralph B. Hathaway, Spring 2021