I have a heavy heart today.
You may or may not be aware, but there has been an unprecedented gathering at the Vatican, of cardinals and bishops from around the world. Also in attendance were survivors of abuse, and 10 women religious. All coming together to address the heartbreaking abuse that is tearing the Catholic Church apart at the seams.
The Vatican Summit on Child Protection, which concluded over the weekend, has left Catholics – and the world at large – particularly shaken to the core at the brokenness of our religious organization that is supposed to be the legacy and bride of Jesus Christ.
The Summit has been met with mixed reviews. Their theme of “transparency” feels all but hollow when, over the weekend, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx admitted that decades worth of files were destroyed to prevent the documentation of sexual abuse.
Ugh, my heart is just gutted typing that out.
How can the church stand on a new platform of “transparency” when literally this is coming to light at the Summit itself?
One highlight, however, came in the form of Nigerian nun, Sr. Veronica Openibo, who gave a powerful, powerful speech to her brothers in Christ. She was frank and direct about how this abuse has destroyed the credibility of the Church, and that we need to move forward with humility and zero tolerance.
But enough about the nitty gritty. Because at the end of the day, what’s going on behind the opulent, closed doors of the Vatican has so far, had little to no effect on the hurting, confused person in the pews on Sunday, who is left holding the broken pieces of a beautiful, meaningful faith they once knew.
Because the truth of the matter is that post-scandal Catholicism, is red lining.
That’s not some overly-dramatic “blog speak” meant for click bait. No. We’re talking, after the McCarrick abuse scandal, the Boston Globe story, and as a result: the Spotlight docudrama. The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. The findings in the archdioceses of Galveston-Houston, and Illinois. And now, even just two days ago, a Cardinal from Australia was convicted of molestation. The details of the horrific abuse — and the even more repugnant cover-up of it — are detonating a Church that is barely hanging on.
It’s no secret that I am Catholic. And to say that the atrocities coming to light have shaken me, is the understatement of the year.
And if I’m honest, I feel so much shame – so much embarrassment – simply admitting that I identify as so.
And clearly, not just me.
At Mass, I look around and church attendance is frightful. Saying that the church is 1/6 full would be incredibly generous. And mind you, when I first moved to the city, it was standing room only.
The church is deeply wounded, and unable to trust the men who are supposed to be In Persona Christi.
What are we to do?
People are leaving in droves, heading to nondenominational churches – which honestly, I don’t blame them.
This summer, I visited RedRocks Church in Denver, and it was honestly such an incredibly moving service. It’s no surprise that people are choosing to abandon the Catholic faith, where recently, Mass feels more like a funeral service, for a rock-concert-caliber worship experience. I get it.
It’s crisis of faith. That’s how it’s been described to me by many Catholic friends.
And I can definitely relate.
The only way I am getting through this is to remember that my faith is not in the men who run the Church. It’s not even in the organization itself. It’s in the foundation of Christ’s ministry on earth. It’s Jesus who I am putting my faith in. It’s my love for the sacraments, and my devotion to Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist that brings me back to the pews each and every Sunday.
There’s so much brokenness in the world. If you need any proof, just look at my own story, for crying out loud. No one is immune to it. Not even the priests and clergy who have the responsibility of leading the Catholic Church. We are a fallen people, and clearly, we are witnessing the severity and depth of that truth, in the abominations coming to light.
So what are we to do?
I think the most discouraging and frustrating part, is that as lay people, there’s not much we can do. The Church is run by priests, and the vast majority of them do not want to speak on the matter. The people in the pews are so often left in the dark, with their parish priests simply not addressing this from the pulpit.
But, setting that unfortunate reality aside….
First and foremost, let’s support the victims. They should be the foremost concern here. The unimaginable burden that they’ve had to carry is just soul crushing. Let’s support them and bring them justice.
Secondly, we need to eradicate the problem from the root. No more cover ups, or sanitizing the truth. We really do need transparency. And consequences. Now.
Next, – and this is going to be tough, but here me out – we need courageous Catholics. We need people of faith to stand by the Church during this Armageddon. Yes, attendance is down. Yes, we’re the butt ends of jokes. Yes, it would be a hell of a lot easier emotionally and spiritually to just walk away. But we need to stand in the rubble and say, My Church is broken, but we can rebuild.
Lastly, and this is especially for all of my non-Catholic brothers and sisters: We need your prayers. I know that, especially right now, it is more convenient and popular to jump on the band wagon of criticism. And heck – I’ve found myself criticizing the Church, and Pope Francis’ lack luster address at the culmination of the Summit. It’s easy to be skeptical about its actual impact. And it’s more satisfying to pick apart the faith in – well-deserved – anger or disgust.
But, I humbly ask for you to pray for the Catholic Church. For her leadership. For those who are confused and hurting and angry. For the future, and for the courage of those in leadership to do the right thing.
Because at the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. And no matter what faith you call home, we have the same ultimate goal: Heaven. And so let’s encourage one another in our path and pursuit of holiness.
What are your thoughts on the Vatican Summit? Had you heard about it? Are you surprised? Disappointed? Encouraged? Please share.
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