I wasn’t going to write about the unconscionable cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. I don’t have anything nice to say.
I am angry and it feels horribly unnatural to be angry at the church that I love. But the church I love doesn’t molest children and certainly would never cover it up and let victims multiply exponentially to maintain a sham of integrity.
Except they did.
It’s incongruous with the church I know who serves the poor, feeds the hungry, cares for the sick, educates, and indoctrinates. I have spent much of my life surrounded by Catholics. Like most Christians, they are people who live consciously, generously, and with a fierce commitment to love and serve others.
Trying to reconcile the beauty of my faith with this grave betrayal feels impossible. Yet, I know that all things are possible with God and I pray for healing. I pray for the victims who were violated, shushed, ignored, and invisible to the church who betrayed them. I pray for those who served on the Pennsylvania grand jury who investigated these atrocities and advocated for their exposure foraging a pathway to justice for victims and a forthright accountability of the Catholic Church. I pray for the many good priests who dedicate their lives to the teachings of the church, who follow the rules, and who imitate the life of Christ in their ministry. I pray for Jesus, whose holiness was shamelessly used to facilitate these crimes. I pray for the grace to move past this.
But in all my fervor for mercy, I can’t seem to muster a prayer for the priests who committed these crimes or for anyone complicit in its cover-up. Mercy is compassion. It’s not clandestine. Jesus’s mercy is inexhaustible, but for now, mine seems to have reached its limit.
At Mass, our pastor addressed the issue with weariness, sadness, and sincerity. He talked about how Jesus asked his disciples if they wanted to leave him. “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:68-69).
There are a lot of places I can go to find God. I don’t have to stay in the Roman Catholic Church. There are a lot of other admirable denominations. But it’s not me that needs to go. It’s not those who join me in the pews either. We may be flawed, broken, fallible, and desperate for mercy, but we are also sincere in our love for Christ, our faith, and our commitment to serving others. We are middle-age mamas, grandmothers, fathers, brothers, children, and young adults. We represent different races, generations, and income levels. We are children of God. We are the church. We deserve better from those who lead our church. We have a right to truth, transparency, and the prosecution of these transgressions. Anyone in the church’s hierarchy that can’t give us that, needs to go.
This tragedy’s ending has not been written. And no words, however powerful, pure, or poised, will be the catalyst for change. It will only be through the tireless commitment to truth, an unending quest for justice, and an active pursuit of Christ’s teachings that this will reach the best possible resolution. I want the church that I love, the church as it was intended to be when Peter asked the Lord where else he could possibly go, to thrive. That will never happen if any part of the church remains in the dark. All of it must be unshrouded. All of it is meant to shine.
As for me, there are many places I can go to be with God. But, Roman Catholic Church, I am not going anywhere. I am not among those who need to go. But I suspect you know who does.