There’s Only One Way Out from Here
The truth shall set us free.
The Church in America is in crisis. The lowest of lows. But I believe it's going to get worse. A lot, lot, lot, lot worse.
We just had the Pennsylvania attorney general's report show credible allegations of 300 priests abusing 1,000 minors. We've seen a cardinal credibly accused.
Now many other attorneys general in other states are preparing to undertake similar investigations, which will likely unearth horrors. And each state will come out with their own report and each report will be announced (gleefully in some corners) by the media. We are essentially looking at years of pain ahead for the Church as parish priests, bishops, and perhaps even cardinals are implicated in the coverup.
As painful as it will certainly be, I say, bring it on. Flannery O' Connor once wrote that “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” And the truth will be difficult. But I want it all out. And if the trail leads all the way back to the Vatican, so be it. It will be calamitous, embarrassing, and painful but in the end it is only the truth that shall set us free.
Purification is always painful. As Catholics, we understand that suffering can bring us closer to God. Sometimes the cover up was instigated by wrongheaded thinking about protecting the institution. Sometimes it was something even more nefarious. Either way, it was wrong. All wrong. A complete misunderstanding of the mission of the Catholic Church.
Far from lambasting the motives of the politicians and the media, we should be encouraging all these reports to come out and be made public. Yes, some of the politicians and media professionals would love nothing more than to harm the Church, but their work is necessary for us to get all the facts we need.
The late great bishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.” It is up to us. And in that responsibility we have failed.
The thing is, Catholics are used to troubled times. We’re used to being persecuted. I’m not saying we like it. I’m just saying we expect it.
The earliest known artistic depiction of Christ is anti-Christian graffiti called the Alexamenos graffiti. We’ve been fed to lions and Communist dictators and Middle East fanatics. But we’re not used to the battle coming from within our own ranks. Lions don’t dress like bishops and cardinals.
But our Church was not founded by priests, bishops and cardinals. We belong to the Church founded by Jesus Christ. We must insist on the truth. Above all else, we must have the truth. And the truth shall set us free.