They Just Don't Get It

Souls are being lost while the bishops fail to act.

Bishops gather for an opening session during the annual US Conference of Catholic Bishops fall meeting, Nov. 12, 2018, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Bishops gather for an opening session during the annual US Conference of Catholic Bishops fall meeting, Nov. 12, 2018, in Baltimore, Maryland. (photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The Vatican’s stunning request that the American bishops press pause on voting on a plan to address the abuse crisis highlighted the sad fact that they still just don't get it.

When the news stories broke about sexual abuse over a decade and a half ago, many Catholics were quick to defend the Church, pointing out that the great majority of priests were good men. We also pointed out that the many of those gleefully pointing out the Church's sins were loath to uncover the shortcomings of other institutions such as public schools. And while that was all true, it didn't change the sad fact that the Church was in trouble. The embarrassment over this issue crippled the Church for years and made the jobs of priests much harder.

But we consoled ourselves with the thought that things were getting better. That's what we were told. And that's what we told ourselves. But when all the news broke recently about Cardinal McCarrick and the horrific report coming out of Pennsylvania a few months ago, we were all stunned. Reading the details of a cabal of priests handing children over to each other for abuse was probably the worst thing I've ever read. It became clear that a culture exists that propagates these sick practices. And one of the most disturbing comments we began hearing over and over was “Everyone knew.”

Everyone knew about McCarrick. Everyone knew that seminarians were treated as prey. That phrase is a gut punch to all Catholics. One only has to peruse online Catholic sites to feel the dismay people are feeling, the confusion.

But this time it's different. Few are defending the hierarchy of the Church. Most Catholics I know are now happy with the fact that attorneys general across the country are investigating the Church at all levels. They don't trust that the Church will be able to face this problem in an open and meaningful way. They know that it will be painful but they believe it's necessary.

Yet, after a decade and a half, the only response I didn't expect from the Vatican or the bishops was that they still didn't get it. But they clearly don't.

And while the Vatican and the USCCB haggle over who gets to investigate what and which documents should be released, real souls are being lost. People are confused and are looking for answers. And many are no longer looking to the Church to find them. What greater emergency could be taking place than souls are being lost because of the actions of those in charge of the Church?

We are seeing a Church in crisis that doesn't seem to know it. I'm believing that they just don't get it because the thought that they do but just don't care is too awful to ponder.

I would implore our priests, bishops, and Cardinals to listen to the people on this. Get online. Read a few comment boxes. Check out Twitter. Everything has changed. The faithful no longer have faith in you as a body. The believers no longer believe you.

I honestly don't know how the Church turns this around outside of supernatural interference. And that's what the faithful pray for.