Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
The power of story is at the heart of humanity. It's as if our hearts and minds are hardwired to learn through story. That's why so many of the old jokes start with “two guys walk into a bar...” Oh, okay. There's time, place, character and we're tuned in. We're buckling up and going along for the ride. Similarly, but with less punchlines, Christ typically attempted to teach the dopey guys around him some point about the nature of God or truth, by sharing a parable.
As evangelizers we tell others the story of Christ. We tell our own conversion stories. But the stories we share with others aren't just the ones that come out of our mouths. The most important story we have to tell is the one we live. And in this day and age when a narrative can travel the globe within mere seconds, if your rhetoric stands in opposition to your actions, your actions will explode across social media and undermine anything you've ever said.
And this is where we are now. The news this week has an 800-page grand jury report which is expected to name 300 priests accused of sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses over a period of decades. That's 300 in just six dioceses! There are also the horrible allegations about Archbishop McCarrick and the damning silence from many of his brother bishops that existed for years.
That sadly, is the story that people are hearing from the Church today. And it's very different than the one we're trying to tell. This is why I bring up Archbishop McCarrick. As it stands now, everything he said in life, everything he espoused is undermined. Because the story he reportedly told with his life runs counter to what he was saying.
McCarrick's brother bishops stayed silent and even now many say they had no idea, no clue. But they hastily add that if they're trusted this one more time to do the thing they said they'd do earlier, they'll really get it done this time. They say a new commission pushing the old ideas will solve the same problems. But here's the thing, we don't trust them anymore to solve this issue. At least I don't know anyone who does.
The Church's story in America right now is one of disgrace. We are stained with it. We are all stained with it. We are all undermined.
Every time a pro-lifer urges people to protect children, some will say Catholics don't care about protecting children because the Church protects abusers. And these are not just the weaponized words of political opponents, though surely they will gleefully brandish the headlines against us. Many good and moral people see the Catholic faith as something more akin to a gang that protects its own, rather than espouses sacred truth. There are real wounds to real people who will distance themselves from the Church and the Eucharist because of what has occurred and what has been allowed to occur.
Any time a young Catholic stands up for the sanctity of marriage, others will point to the rampant homosexuality in the priesthood that the Church continues to remain silent over or the public waffling of some priests on this issue.
The Church's story is ours. We are the ones defending the sanctity of life and marriage. And we are being undermined. We can not speak loudly enough to be heard over the actions of many in the clergy, whether they be those who committed atrocities or those who remained silent.
I want to write stories about the joy of family, my gratitude for God's forgiveness, and the wonderful stories of Christians facing down persecution all around the world. That is the story I wish to share.
But sadly, that is not our story right now.
The Church is in desperate need of saints. I guess the world always is but that need seems especially acute within the Church right now. We need someone who will speak the gospel truth, consequences be damned. We need someone who is unafraid of paying the price of speaking unpopular truths. We cry out for the clarion call of a certain trumpet, rather than the whisper of soft meaningless words from pastors more interested in elevating their own careers rather than souls to heaven.
I've always trusted that the gates of Hell would never prevail against the Church. I still believe that. But the truth is that the Church is being attacked from both the outside and inside. And as the Church fights those battles, countless souls will be lost in the confusion. I can't imagine a tragedy worse than lost souls. Their stories should be heard and remembered. And I pray that God will have mercy on them and those who led them astray.