This post is difficult but it is a must-write. It is later than other current posts in the Catholic blogosphere on the crisis-scandal in the Church involving Bishops and priests and their evil sexual behavior with minors and seminarians (and probably with each other) going back decades, including cover-ups. Seems like every Catholic with a blog has posted on it. That is no matter. This is a mostly a personal blog, not a news/opinion piece and so I needn’t be “timely.” I won’t expound on the details, you’ve probably heard enough about them from other sources.
What this post as about is on how people will react to the crisis. Namely, “How can I remain a member of the Catholic Church after all of this?”
I won’t deny the difficulty. Although the thought had never crossed my mind about leaving the Church that Jesus Christ Himself founded, I am aware that the faith of many has been shaken,
This bothers me for a number of reasons; for to me, when a person leaves the Catholic Church, it is often because they are unaware of what they are leaving. If you truly understood what the Church is, you would never, ever, consider leaving. No matter what this Pope or that Bishop or those priests have done.
I understand that staying may be hard, especially if you’ve been hurt by the Church (whether by sexual abuse or some other manner.) We are all human and have our limits of pain tolerance. Sometimes you do need to leave something for a while, especially if you were betrayed or hurt in some fundamental way.
But where would you go? Do other churches have what the Catholic Church has: all Seven Sacraments instituted by Christ? Were those churches founded by Him, or by mere humans? How could those churches “feed” you? While Jesus may be “spiritually present” (“whenever 2 or 3 are gathered in My Name, there I am…”), He is not physically present in them, like He is in the Eucharist. Can their ministers absolve you of your sins?
As I said a few paragraphs above, I understand and can appreciate why people might leave. Sometimes we get frustrated beyond a point that can be tolerated. “Don’t the Bishops understand? Don’t they get it?” we scream. And in our hurt and rage and pain we walk.
But to do that means leaving Jesus because of Judas. Jesus Christ is really, truly present in the Catholic Church. His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is Really Present in the Eucharist; He established the Church when He gave the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter and the power of binding and loosing to him and the other Apostles. And He promised that He will be with Her until the end, adding a guarantee that the “gates of Hell” will “never prevail.”
Another analogy is those disciples of Christ who left Him after the Bread of Life discourse in John 6. His teachings on His Body and Blood were “too hard,” and so they left. Where else would they go? Who else has the words of eternal life?
Same for His Church. Who else was entrusted with safeguarding His teachings as well as those of the Apostles?
All of that sounds nice and wonderful and so on, but it might seem too abstract and academic and not nuts and bolts everyday ‘real.’ Fine. But understand that those in the hierarchy and priesthood who have committed these sins are like Judas the Traitor. Don’t let him determine which church you belong to.
Would you really leave the Catholic Church because of these Judases? What about the other members of the Church, those in the Church Triumphant? They were members also: the Church Fathers and Doctors, other great and holy Saints, the good Popes and so on. Their example is to be outweighed by the Judases?
But, you say, “What about the scandals? The corruption?”
Yes, what about them?
I can be trite and say that no other church is perfect; that all churches have their share of corruption and scandal. The Catholic Church is no different; but here’s the challenging fact: there has never been a time in Her history when the Church hasn’t been riven with some form of scandal or corruption.
“What?” says you. “That’s supposed to make me feel better?”
Well, yes, in a way. In a weird sense it’s proof of the Church’s divine origins; for while the Church has had heresies and corruption and scandals and schisms and all other sorts of things afflicting it that would make a mere human organization collapse into a footnote in some history textbook, the Catholic Church is still here. Throw in wars, rebellions, revolutions and plague, while we’re at it! (And oftentimes lousy leadership!) The Catholic Church has survived Her own history, a history that would have destroyed any other organization. The fact that it is divine in Her origins helps make up for Her human composition.
You know, humans, creatures of a Fallen nature, prone to sin and evil.
Like you. Like me.
Those that are in the Church and are guilty of the crimes reported are followers of Judas. They will go to their own reward unless they repent. And speaking of who else dwells in the place of that particular reward, the scandals and corruption seem to me proof that Satan himself knows which Church is the One True Faith, for it would be that very Church which would suffer the most targeted and evil demonic attacks. (More on that in a follow-up post; this won’t be the only piece I write on this.)
Seriously think about it if you have left or are considering leaving. Pray long and hard. In fact, if you can, go and visit the Blessed Sacrament. Many churches have hours of Eucharistic Adoration; if not, go to a church after a Mass and just pray before the Blessed Sacrament reposed in the sanctuary.
See what answers you get. Oh, and can you do that in another church?
To repeat: I get the pain, the rage, and the betrayal. I understand the attractiveness of leaving. But allowing yourself to be influenced by the deeds of a sinful group of men and and having that outweigh the wealth of the Church’s history in the Communion of Saints, Her Sacraments… and the Presence of Jesus… I don’t know. I wouldn’t. Perhaps depart for a while, maybe. But then the temptation to stay away would only grow.
I said in the first sentence that this post is a “must-write.” When you consider that I began Sober Catholic in 2007 in part to help stem the loss of Catholics to other churches due to their exposure to indifferentism in Twelve Step meetings; yeah, I had to write it!
DISCLAIMER: I have never been abused by anyone in the Church. Nor has any parish that I was a member of ever been closed by the Bishop due to priestly shortages and changed demographics. So, you can say it’s easy for me to remain faithful. It is incorrect to state that I haven’t been hurt by the scandals. I see a Church hierarchy “out-of-touch” with the laity. (Perhaps there needs to be more dioceses to reduce the population in each, thereby making the Bishops “closer” to the people. I do not see this happening, at all.) But I do “get it” regarding the attractiveness of leaving. But I beg you to seriously think about it. It is not a light decision; your immortal soul depends upon it.
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