Over the past week, I’ve been watching my online news feeds and social media timelines for reactions to the heart-wrenching revelations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Shock, anger, disappointment, frustration, doubt, hopelessness, and even fear seem to be racing through the hearts of Catholics throughout the nation and beyond
It’s been hard to watch.
I’ve been experiencing many of these same emotions myself and feel trapped under the pall of devastating sadness that the faithful find themselves these days. Some of my friends and colleagues have admitted to thoughts of leaving the Church or of dread at attending Mass at their parishes, particularly after the most recent bullet spray of newly uncovered travesties. That deepens my sadness.
But I’m seeing something rising out of the ashes that is giving me great hope for the healing and future of the Church. Amidst the devastation, real heroes are emerging who I believe will ultimately be responsible for the cleansing and rebuilding of the Mystical Body of Christ. These are the courageous priests and bishops who have been upright in their priesthood and have not been involved in the perpetration of sexual abuse in the Church and yet apologize and pledge themselves to healing the wounds, prayer, sacrifice, and acts of reparation for the sins committed.
These are the shepherds who publicly acknowledge the shame that has been brought upon the Church and who outline concrete steps that will be taken to do NOW what should have been done long ago. These are the bishops who are forging clear and distinct pathways for the reporting and immediate and harsh handling of cases of abuse.
One of the heroes is Bishop Robert C. Morlino of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. On August 18, he issued a letter to be read at all weekend Masses in the parishes of his diocese that told it like it is. He minced no words in condemning former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and others like him who have violated the holiness of the Church, insisting on a purging, and forging a path of rectification and rebuilding. I encourage you to read his entire letter and to share it through email and social media.
There are others. More and more good, holy priests are putting their feet down, speaking out about their disgust and anger at the insults and injury inflicted on the priesthood, and requiring widespread accountability and apology from the Church’s hierarchy. They want this righted and they want the laity to be part of the solution by heading real and substantial accountability measures that will prohibit scoundrels like Archbishop McCarrick from proliferating the heinous acts they’ve been allowed to commit until now.
The priests and bishops speaking out all are the real heroes of the Church. I admire and am grateful for every one of them. The laity absolutely must become involved in comprehensive reporting, investigation, prosecution, punishment, and dismissal of abusers and those who hide them or look the other way. The laity must take the upper hand, but we can’t do that until the clergy put themselves into our hands. Only when they release their grip can we begin to get ours. Those who have nothing to hide will welcome our efforts and we’ll come to love them as the fatherly heroes that they are.
Please don’t give up hope. Please don’t leave the Church. The real heroes are rising up and they need us to rise up with them. It may not seem so, but the Catholic Church is filled with holy men true to their priestly vocation who want the purification of the Church and a resurgence of the devotion and holiness that makes her One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. These men need our prayers, support, and cooperation to make that happen. Now is not the time to turn our backs on them, but rather to join their ranks in our own respective vocations.
I’m awed and humbled at the demonstrated courage of clergy who are innocent themselves yet take the sins of others upon themselves through apologies, outreach, suffering, prayer, and reparation as they stand before angry, confused, and pained congregations trying – in whatever way they can – to make amends for something by which they themselves have been severely harmed and hurt.
The battle to reclaim our holy Catholic Church has begun and we must take the pledge and stand beside the real heroes in order to save her.
Image: Wikimedia Commons