Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
“Lord, to whom would we go?” It is the reason I stay. I've read enough of the reports and the findings to feel beyond sad. I read it because it's important to know, even as it hurts.
If the Church were merely a worldly institution, a club with rules and regulations, I’d be demanding all the money I’ve given, all the time, all the work paid back with interest for the abject failure of so many over so many years, to recognize evil must be opposed. I’d be screaming and suing to run the whole thing to the ground leaving not even dirt alone, for holding the laity to a standard they ignored themselves. People who followed the Church and gave willingly, lovingly, earnestly of their time and treasure, who obeyed the rules to the letter and beyond, if this were merely a worldly thing, are the greatest suckers in a sad long history of suckers.
Except we know the Church is a hospital for sinners, we just didn’t know, or rather, we forgot, the assistants to the physician, they too are sick. We are sick. I am sick. We are all sick. I know I’m sick at heart, sick of trying, sick of hearing about reform, sick of hearing how good everyone normally is, because I don’t see it anymore. I can’t trust what I see. I can’t trust what I hear. I can't trust what I read once. I can’t trust what I used to know or rather, believe. We need more than policy and procedure. We need action, we need more than the usual, it’s just a few bad actors, and ordinary letters and interviews and tweets saying “we’re all saddened and angry.”
No. You are not yet. You are nowhere near as sad or as angry as you need to be about this, because you still know, if we want the Eucharist, we can go nowhere else. We’re stuck knowing the sacraments are here, knowing Jesus is here, and knowing, everything else is also still here.
Howling at God seems stupid. Howling about how these people pretended they weren’t sinning, even as they created rules and rubrics and made us get finger printed and hear lessons about proper behavior, is infuriating. We weren’t the source of the problem. I don't howl at God because I'm fairly certain God didn’t like this state of affairs either.
However, you will hear me howl. “A Wizard should know better!” Going to war seems like a viable option, even feeling as I do, like a very little hobbit with a very tiny rock. I admit, I want to throw my rock.
This sin needs to stop. The cleansing and clearing of the temple is a severe mercy, because it will require removing people from positions, even though they might be gifted at what they do. A priest is first and foremost, a servant to God, and to the face of God in all others. If the priests cannot serve without being slaves to grave sin (either of omission or commission) they cannot stay. They will have to walk a more humble path, stumbling with the rest of us, wanting always the Eucharist, and not always being able to partake. God wants all of us in Heaven, but we cannot get there clinging to sins or pretending we don’t sin, or pretending the sins we commit aren’t serious.
We see from this horrid scandal, from this bitter fruit, how little some of the shepherds of our Church have valued this gift, or the dignity of others or themselves or the sacrifices good priests and good laity made in trying to live it. This hurt hurts, because the Church isn’t just a club. It isn’t an organization of the world. It is the Bride of Christ. It is the Body of Christ, and we have wounded it grievously, by what we have done and what we have failed to do, and many will feel tempted to wound the Body of Christ still more, out of wrath, revenge and a sense of righteousness. We will be wrong because it will be very difficult not to get caught up in the dark joy of rage. We won’t be able to stop, and we will hurt the Church and good servants within it in the process.
So I’m putting down my rock, because I know I’m not without sin, because I must stay, and because throwing the rock would not remove one smidgen of the wrong, it would only add. However the charge remains, the Church needs to act to make sure this does not continue, not one more day, not one more moment. This cannot continue. I pray for some of my children to one day follow a calling from God, but now I have to fear, some predator will use the position of authority to abuse my child, now I have to wonder at every act of kindness, every connection and I resent the hell out of feeling I must exercise necessary wariness.
Please, be priests of courage. Please, even if you've stumbled up to now, because you are men who loved God, who still love God, who want to serve God, act now. Root it out.