Oh, dear Lord, here we go again. The Catholic Church is being rocked by more clergy sex abuse scandals. The first time around, beginning in 2002 in Boston, it was shocking and embarrassing. This time around, it is simply infuriating.
After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, plus a lot of prayer, I have come to the conclusion that there are two things I will not do in response to this new scandal: the first thing I won’t do is shrug my shoulders and say, “Well, it was an anomaly. A few ‘bad apples’ did terrible things many years ago and the bishops will make sure it never happens again.”
The shameful behavior described in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, along with the stunning news about disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick—now revealed to be a longtime practitioner of “perversion coercion”—is enough to make you sick. It was not an anomaly. It was not a few bad apples. There were literally hundreds of priests, bishops, and seminary leaders who used and abused teenage boys and young seminarians.
Yes, it is a fact that most of the horrible abuse took place many decades ago. But rather than being motivated by truth and justice, it seems during the past 15 years Church leaders were more concerned about covering up rather that cleaning up. No, this time around I will not shrug off these scandals as rare occurrences from the past that the bishops surely will rectify. On the “hierarchy trust meter,” the needle right now is hovering near zero.
The second thing I will not do in response to these scandals is leave the Catholic Church. Don’t get me wrong: for the past couple weeks every fiber of my being has screamed, “Leave! Get the hell out! Go join a Baptist church or a Methodist church! Anything but that demon-possessed Catholic Church!”
The old expression, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” keeps running through my head. After they’ve fooled me twice, am I really going to stay? Am I that much of a sap?!
Well, I am going to stay in the Catholic Church, and this is why: at the end of His famous “Bread of Life” discourse in John’s gospel, after some very harsh and disturbing teachings, Jesus defiantly said to His disciples, “Do you also want to leave?”
In reply, St. Peter stepped forward and said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
In a nutshell, that is why I’m staying. Despite the horrible crimes committed by many clergy, the Catholic Church is the original church founded by Jesus. It is the Church that teaches the full Gospel message — the “words of eternal life” — and it is the Church where Jesus Christ is really present, body and blood, soul and divinity, in the Eucharist.
I will not leave Jesus because of Judas. There are many Judases in the Church, some occupying lofty positions in the hierarchy. But despite this reality, the Gospel message is perfect. Jesus chose to give His perfect message to a very imperfect institution.
This is Jesus’ Church, and I am not going to leave it. That’s exactly what Satan wants me to do. Instead, I am going to fight the creeps who are causing the Church to rot from the inside out. I am going to join with the many good and holy priests in the Church, along with the millions of devoted laypeople who love the Church, and be a faith warrior on behalf of all that is good and true and beautiful.
Jesus promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church. But He never said it would be easy. We are entering into one of the most difficult moments in Church history. Christ needs every available warrior to join in this spiritual battle.