In May of 2021, the website OnePeterFive ran a letter they received from an anonymous seminarian describing his discouragement and frustration with the Church amid the current sex abuse crisis and his plans to leave the seminary and even possibly Catholicism. I wrote a letter in response to this seminarian and since it was never published, I am publishing it here and hope that it may reach him. I also hope that it may help others who are struggling with this and help them see the beauty of the Church as the Bride of Jesus Christ and why they should remain within Her fold.
To the Seminarian Who Is Discouraged and Disenchanted with the Church,
I understand your frustrations and sentiments regarding the current situation in the Church today. It is incredibly sad and disheartening to see certain bishops and priests who are supposed to be shepherds of the flock instead turning against Our Lord and His Church and leading the flock away, thus acting more like wolves wanting to destroy the sheep. This is certainly not what Our Lord would have wanted when He appointed Peter as the first pope, but He allowed it to happen in order for His Bride to be purified.
You see, as much as I understand how frustrating it is to watch what is going on in the Church unfold, what you seem to be missing is the realization that the Church is not an institution, but rather the Bride of Christ. And as such, Her foundation is on Jesus Christ Himself and on Peter’s confession of faith in Christ, not in himself or his own weak aspirations or capabilities. And Jesus knew that Peter and his successors were not perfect, but instead just regular human beings (Peter demonstrated that perfectly when he denied Christ three times). In fact, that’s exactly what He intended. He chose mere human beings because, as He told St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He wanted us to depend on Him for everything, including the running of His Church, so that His power could be made manifest to the world. But yet, He gave us free will and He knew that even His chosen ones would abuse the power they had been given and fail to fulfill their tasks because of their fallen human nature.
In Luke 24:26, we read “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and so enter into His glory?” And as Jesus told St. Faustina, “The Bride must resemble her Betrothed.” If the bride should resemble the Bridegroom, and Christ had to suffer unspeakable torments in order to enter His glory, how much more appropriate is it for the Church to suffer to enter Her glory along with Her Bridegroom, Christ the Lord? Yes, it will be painful and at times it will feel like the Church has been abandoned. But these are all things that Christ experienced and He wishes for His Church to experience these things in resemblance to Him. However, we know how the story ends. Just as Christ triumphed over sin and death and rose again on the third day, in the end the Church will triumph over all of the trials and tribulations that She experiences in spite of the people that are put in charge of Her on earth. And the reason for this is none other than Jesus Christ.
What does all this have to do with us? Well, as members of the Church, we are also members of the Bride of Christ. We are all called to live out our baptismal promises as kind of like marriage vows. And just as in marriage, the promises are “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.” No matter how bad it gets (and it will get worse before it gets better), we are called to stick by the Church because Her (and our) Bridegroom is Jesus Christ and we must believe that the promises He made for Her will never fail. Remember what Jesus told Peter: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against It” (Matthew 16:18).
I believe that Christ called you into His service specifically for the purpose of evangelizing others and leading the flock that He puts you in charge of in the right direction instead of leading them away as some others do. And we need that in the Church today. The fact that you are frustrated and angry is a good sign. It means that you want the Church to be what She is meant to be and that you’re not willing to just follow the crowd. But God wants you to use that as fuel to do good in the Church and start steering Her back in the right direction, not just give up. What you are experiencing is a temptation and they happen to everyone, particularly those in formation and those who are already priests and religious. I encourage you to invoke the intercession of St. Michael to banish these temptations, along with St. Philip Neri. He evangelized many and did it amid great difficulties, realizing that if we keep our focus on Christ and not on what others are doing, we will find great peace and joy.
I will leave you with these words from St. Paul: “You must hold fast to faith, be firmly grounded and steadfast in it, unshaken in the hope promised you by the gospel you have heard. It is the gospel which has been announced to every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1:23).
Please be assured of my prayers for you. Even if you do not choose to continue your seminary studies right now, I pray that you will remain a faithful Catholic.
A fellow Catholic