I’m not talking about the usual suspects in the media and the voices coming from the cafeteria line, either. I’m talking about the men and women who have sacrificed and stood steadfast, serving the Church with their professional lives, settling for smaller salaries and raised eyebrows at cocktail parties when they disclose their line of work. The little old ladies who are daily communicants. The blue collar workers who pray a Rosary on their lunch breaks and fast on bread and water on Wednesdays. The underpaid Catholic school teachers and the harassed Catholic healthcare professionals.
In other words, the faithful.
The ones raising larger than average families on smaller than average budgets. Refusing to cave to the extraordinary societal pressure to relieve the emptiness of their wombs at any cost, and opting for adoption or even childlessness over IVF. Bearing patiently the slings and arrows of public opinion when it comes time to defend the Church when her ways are not the world’s ways. Tossing aside the contraceptives and using NFP instead. Forgoing the “pleasures” of pornography and honoring their marriage vows. Remaining celibate and suffering in loneliness as an abandoned spouse or a same-sex attracted person. Sacrificing to educate their children in the Faith in the face of extraordinary difficulty. Refusing to reduce the immutable dignity of every single human person to an object to be used or discarded.
And defending Holy Mother Church with the ultimate gift – one’s fidelity to the Faith – even as the world around us spins farther into secular materialism.
Fathers, these children of your flocks are suffering. Suffering over the grievous injuries done to those other children, the ones named in the Pennsylvania report, the ones whose innocence was shattered, whose dignity was spat upon, who suffered in their very bodies the wounds of Christ tortured and crucified.
We cannot sleep for weeping over these images, crying out to heaven that men ordained to act in the person of Christ at the altar could also rape, pillage, and destroy the most innocent.
We need to hear from you.
We need to hear lamentation and rage, resolution and public penances. We must know that you stand on the side of Christ, crucified and risen. That even if your diocese is beyond a shadow of suspicion in August of 2018, your father’s heart breaks and your stomach roils in anger over what happened in our Church – no matter which diocese and no matter what year.
Many of us carried heavy hearts into Mass for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary yesterday, lifting red and swollen eyes to heaven during the readings and beseeching God for any answers, any explanation.
Too many of us – not all, but many – were met with deafening silence from the pulpits when the time for the homily arrived. The silence tore deeper into the wounds rent by the horrifying grand jury report; there was scarcely time for a scab to form over last month’s McCarrick revelations.
We need to hear from our fathers. We need to hear your anger, your shame, your outrage, your sorrow, and your profound and sincere resolution that this evil will be purged from the ranks of the Church hierarchy, no matter what the cost.
When someone intentionally injures or violates my child, even if – and perhaps especially if – I am not the cause of the injury, he or she can count on my swift and unapologetic rage.
We need to see your hearts, fathers. We need to see and hear our bishops doing public acts of reparation and penance, or resigning the privilege of office if the circumstances warrant it.
We need to hear our priests – especially our pastors – speaking uncompromisingly and unceasingly about what is happening, about the war zone we American Catholics find ourselves in, about the corruption and satanic violence within our own ranks, and about what is being done to bring about justice.
If your bishop hasn’t issued talking points yet or the diocesan-level HR department is cautioning restraint, damn the restraint. Your people are suffering, and they need to know their spiritual fathers are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore.
What can we, as lay people, do at a moment such as this? Pray. Pray as you never have before. Pray a daily Rosary with your family, if you have one. With your spouse or significant other or roommate. Alone or with a recording, if you have nobody else to pray with. Ask especially for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, St. Charles Lwanga (Google his martyrdom story) and St. Catherine of Siena.
Fast. Give up social media one day a week, or limit it to a few minutes a day. Get rid of one of the three or four platforms you’re using entirely, maybe. Offer up those pinpricks of dopamine denial for the cleansing of the Church, and for the souls of the victims living and deceased.
Purge your home of anything that is complicit with this culture of death. Vaguely pornographic media. Explicitly pornographic media. Showtime or HBO DirectTV or maybe even your high speed internet, if it’s an occasion of sin for you. Go through your library and destroy anything that is influenced by the occult. If your right arm causes you to sin, cut it off. We must be beyond reproach as Catholics going forward if we are to have any credibility with this world and, more importantly, with Christ.
Throw away your contraception. Your mind altering drugs. Your habit of gossip, of masturbation, of criticism, of getting drunk, of cheating “just a little” on your income taxes, of cheating on your spouse, of ignoring your children.
In other words, be a saint.
Our times call for great sanctity to counter this grave evil. And sinners like us, myself first and foremost, are the only material Our Lord has to work with.
Other practical suggestions:
Email, call, and write to your bishop’s office (and while you’re at it, to the Holy Father himself.) Be respectful and unrelenting in asking for a public meeting or an explanation of what your diocese is doing to address these evils. Ask your bishop what his plans are to clean up your local church if housekeeping needs to be done. Find out what measures are in place to protect youth and children and seminarians and old people and not so old people. Ask what standard of sexual integrity is set and maintained by the diocese of X. Do the same with your pastor. Be persistent. But love your Church enough to not stop until you get a satisfactory answer.
Tell your priest, once you’ve finished asking when his next related and excruciatingly clear homily will be preached, that you are praying for him. And then do so. Offer a specific act of penance every day for your priest. For any priest you know. Give up your daily coffee, your nightcap, your nighttime pleasure reading, a workout, salt on your food, etc. Do not leave our courageous priests and bishops unarmed in this time of agony for the Church. They are suffering as Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane, and they need our prayers.
We have decided for our family, that to avoid even the appearance of scandal and to protect all parties involved, it is best to avoid ever putting our priest friends – or any priest – in a situation where they are alone with a child of ours. I’m not talking about casual one-on-one talks with Father on the playground during recess, but being alone in a car, in a closed room, in a private home, etc. We are also exceedingly cautious about whom we leave our children with, and take into consideration the circumstances of any home or place they’ll be visiting. Most abuse takes place within the context of the extended family or trusted circle of friends, and we have chosen to err on the side of potentially giving offense by being “too careful.”
May Christ Jesus in whom we place our trust and confidence convict in our hearts a profound sorrow for all who suffer, and a firm resolution to spend ourselves utterly in striving to prevent future evil.