Rebecca Hamilton is a former pro-abortion activist and leader. As the Oklahoma Director of NARAL, she helped establish the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma, and she continued her activism after being elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. After experiencing a profound conversion to Christ, voters returned her to office as a pro-life Democrat and she spent twelve years defending life and families in the Oklahoma Legislature. Rebecca left her political career in 2014, and along with the National Catholic Register, she writes at Patheos on her blog Public Catholic.
I’ve been treading water ever since the Church sex abuse scandal started touching the Throne of Peter.
I won’t go into all the charges and countercharges of this clerical he said/he said. I’m certainly not going to try to untangle the spider’s web of what-did-the-pope-know and when-did-he-know-it and which-pope-knew-first.
I cannot do those things, either for you or for myself. Odd as this sounds, the answers to those questions aren’t the most important part of this, at least not for me and for you, as we try to learn how to walk by faith across this glacier of distrust and scandal which has shrouded our Church like a tomb.
A longtime reader of mine asked me how and why I bother to stay Catholic, given all that has happened. I told her I would write about it, but I haven’t. The reason I haven’t is that the clerical sewage just keeps pouring down on our heads. There’s no stopping point in this cacophony of tragedy to get my bearings and think through the what-nows of that question.
I can’t even feel it all. I have to keep it at an emotional distance in order to comprehend it. There is no space in this to digest things emotionally. Without that, I’m stuck at several steps away from thinking it through and arriving at a personal road map forward.
We’re being battered by unfolding scandals involving the unthinkable. The certainties of our faith are falsely portrayed, by some clergymen, as less certain than they really are.
Despite all this, I have a clear answer for my reader who asked me why I bother to stay Catholic, given what has been called the “cataclysmic moral failing” of the Church. It’s simple enough that it sounds childlike. But it’s strong enough that I am certain that I will wander and wobble across this glacier of lies and corruption without falling into a crevasse or sliding over the edge and down to my destruction.
I will stay Catholic because I am Catholic, and I am Catholic because the Holy Eucharist is real. Jesus is really and truly present, under the appearances of bread and wine, and I can touch him. I can go in the middle of the night and sit with him. The Holy Eucharist, which is a part of the enduring scandal of the cross, of following an incarnate God who was an executed criminal who died a tortuous, ignoble death at the hands of corrupt priests and a cowardly politician, is the real presence of that same incarnate God in the now.
Far too many of our religious leaders act as if they serve the Church, but not Christ; that the laity must be protected from the truth; and thus that it is a moral good to lie, obfuscate and hide evil, even at the cost of enabling that evil to flourish and spread. They seem convinced that if the Church hierarchy’s sins are revealed the Church will fail, and that if the Church fails, God Himself fails.
Far too many of our religious leaders have used this bogus reasoning to back themselves into a liar’s corner. But Jesus Christ does not need their lies and depredations in the name of defending the Church. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords because that’s who he is, not because the Church says so.
I will stay in the Church because Christ in the Holy Eucharist called me here. I will stay because He is really, truly and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist.
But I will not defend monstrous behavior. I will not deify men in collars. These bishops, cardinals and popes whose guilt we are so assiduously trying to understand, are, a good many of them, deeply corrupt. That is obvious. The priests, from whose hands we receive Holy Communion and to whom we confess our sins, are also, many of them, corrupt.
Worse, we cannot tell by looking at him whether a man in a collar is corrupt or not. Sociopaths are liars and manipulators, and they are good at it. I’ve been fooled by sociopaths a number of times in my life. Sometimes I recognize and can avoid them. Other times, I don’t see it.
That is a fact of our Catholic life. It is a reality of our faith walk. More than that, these are facts and realities of living in this fallen world. Sociopaths don’t just hide inside the Church. They are the corrupt business leaders, politicians, soldiers, husbands, wives, teachers, students, neighbors and relatives who cause so much suffering in our world.
It is a horrible moment when you look into another human being’s eyes and Satan looks back at you. It is a faith-destroying moment when those eyes belong to a man wearing a Roman collar.
But just as Satan is real, and more often than not walks into our lives on two feet, the Holy Eucharist is real and comes to us from the hands of a priest. When those priestly hands belong to an apostle of Satan, it’s a crazy-making thing.
But don’t let it make you crazy. The wheat and the tares, the good and the bad, the evil and the holy, will live side by side in this world until Christ comes again. Jesus told us this Himself.
I will not leave the Church because Jesus is really and truly present, under the appearances of bread and wine, and I can touch him. I will not be a fool for corrupt men in collars. But I will stay.
Because the Holy Eucharist is Jesus. And I will not leave Jesus.