abuse, current events, Homosexuality, Living Humanae Vitae, Pope Francis, prayer, Rome, scandal, Sex, sin

Disillusionment with the Church

November 12, 2018

Remember believing in Santa? Shhhh, my kids still do. Maybe that’s a bad analogy. Maybe you never believed in Santa. What about this: maybe you believed your mom or your dad to be invincible. Kind of superhuman or untouchable. And then you weathered your first big blow up between parents and an adult child. Or a shocking cancer diagnosis or the revelation of some kind of massive failing. I’m reaching for that feeling of deflation and just raw sorrow, of sort of coming unmoored and feeling unrooted. That has been the past 5 months for me, as a Catholic laywoman.

The Church whom I trusted implicitly, all my life, has broken my heart. Every morning there is a new story about some scandal, a message in my inbox about a parish whose pastor went on “administrative leave,” was arrested following – or at least incriminated by – some new allegation come to light.

The weight of it has ceased being a conscious burden; now it just feels like a sort of lingering heaviness, not unlike the way a clinical depression blurs the edges of reality and tamps down the colors and delights of daily living. I don’t mean exactly that I feel depressed about the Church, but that my perception of the Church has been shattered.

Even writing “the Church,” I’m not longer entirely sure what I mean. Do I mean the Roman curia? The Pope? The local bishop, who is technically my reference point for the authority of the hierarchy? Do I mean the parish down the hill where we worship? Our wonderful priests there who hear hundreds of confessions a week?

In many ways living here in Denver with such a vibrant Catholic community we have been isolated from much of the pain and scandal on an immediate level. In another sense, this makes things very strange when I feel “safe” in my own parish but feel utterly ill at ease in “the Church” at large. The Universal Church.

Our time in Rome this Fall, however beautiful, was also painful. Walking on a tour through the Vatican gardens, for example – what should have been a thrilling opportunity – was marked with sadness. “Here is the monastery where Pope Benedict retired to. There is the place where he used to like to pray, when he was more mobile.” My heart clenched painfully as I wondered, not for the first time, why God has allowed this season in the Church to come to be.

Why are we here? What does God, in His Providence, plan to accomplish with this wreckage and chaos?

And what can I possibly do, a mom with five kids, a little bit of internet real estate, no theology degree and no real position of influence within the Church?

Pray, obviously, which I have been. But I want to be transparent with you guys about how much I’m struggling with this. Every other week or so I try to make it to confession (see above: amazing parish) and one of my predictable recurring sins right now is one against charity towards the Holy Father, towards the bishops.

My choleric and justice-oriented mind does not comprehend that while I have been hustling and doing my level best to hold up my end of the bargain with God (and failing over and over and over again, naturally, bc sinner) there have been predatory priests preying on children. Homosexual bishops grooming and raping seminarians. Company men more concerned with promotions than with the people whose souls they signed up to shepherd. (And yes, I know there are good priests. And mediocre priests. And priests who are struggling manfully with heavy habitual sins. These aren’t the guys I’m thinking about.)

Priests hearing the confessions of ordinary Catholics who come to the sacrament of absolution struggling to live chastely, who are wrestling with any kind of addiction, who are trying to get their temper, their lust, their appetite for whatever in check; who are failing, crying out to the Lord for mercy, asking for absolution, who are coming back again and again and swimming upstream in this miserable culture of death, priests who meet up with an illicit lover later that same night, who shuffle an abusive priest to another assignment, who turn a blind eye to the failings of their brother bishops and keep on keeping on…

It boggles the mind.

And so while the surprise has abated and the rage has cooled, the lethargic sorrow remains. I thought I knew what the Church was. I never believed the clergy to be above reproach or without sin, but it didn’t occur to me that there would be priests leading double lives. Why not? I don’t know, I guess I’m an idiot? An idealist?

I don’t have a good wrap up. And it’s not like I’m over here wallowing in sorrow and questioning the existence of God or anything. But I am wrestling with what it means to be Catholic right now. Not because I would ever walk away, but because I am so angry that none of these guys did.

I know so many good priests. Good bishops too. As a parent, this is probably the most frustrating part of the whole crisis: are my children safe in the Church? Can we trust the men who we do know and love, going forward? I trust our bishop, and our parish priests. I love and respect and believe the religious community who we share so much of our lives with. Is a personal relationship going to be the necessary litmus going forward? Trust but verify?

I hate this place for our family. And I hate it for our Church, even more. There is no such thing as a personal sin. All sin is corporate. And everything that is done in the darkness will be, eventually, revealed in the light.

(p.s. This was written last Friday. How much more appropriate it seems today.)

38 Comments

  • Reply Kellie November 12, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    I just read a really enlightening article about the sex abuse scandal from the perspective of an outsider. This one was way different from others I’ve read. For anyone who is struggling in their faith in regards to this issue, this is an eye opener: https://thejesuitpost.org/2018/11/a-survivors-perspective-sexual-abuse-in-the-church/

  • Reply Monica Devine November 12, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Not sure really why the ongoing angst over what has happened. It was always predicted and expected. Much of the abuse stems from misunderstandings of what Vatican II was actually promulgating. And from a profound misunderstanding of the concept of freedom. In keeping the 10 of us safe my mother applied 3 simple rules – never leave your child under 12 alone with anyone, only seek guidance from a priest who is very Marian, never trust a priest who takes Monday off! All 10 of us were safe (at least from clergy – being safe from ourselves was another matter left up to grace and frequent confession). The correct posture now is prayer and reparation – God will in his mercy take care of the rest.

    • Reply Torey November 12, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      Why no Mondays off? Around here I think that is typically the day the priests have off. I was actually more suspicious of a previous pastor that had Fridays off and NEVER led the stations of the cross during Lent because it was his day off. 🙄

    • Reply Melissa November 12, 2018 at 11:31 pm

      Unfortunately, you can’t even trust a Marian priest as I think of Father Corapi. 🙁

      • Reply Caroline November 13, 2018 at 4:08 pm

        Where is Fr. Corapi? We do not know. I have heard it said that he went back to his order, and lives out of the limelight and is doing I assume, penance that way. Pray for him- he must have been under incredible attack from the devil.

        • Reply yolanda November 16, 2018 at 4:06 pm

          Check out his LinkedIn profile. You will see there is no reason for us to believe he is living his life out of the limelight doing penance.

          He may have been under terrible attack from the devil, or he may have been a fraud from the get-go. No way for us to know for sure one way or the other. But I most definitely agree the man needs as many prayers as he can get.

    • Reply yolanda November 13, 2018 at 7:00 am

      Archbishop Groer, one of the most voracious predators known to the Church, was a HUGE supporter of Fatima. He was about as Marian as it gets. Predators often hide behind orthodoxy and various pieties that will give them “street cred” with faithful Catholics. Beware.

  • Reply Bernadette November 12, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    I cannot believe I actually did this, but I sat my oldest boys (4 and 6) down recently and asked them about a number of scenarios, including what if a Priest asked you to do something bad (various vague scenarios). One of them responded “No way! I’d never do that, I’d run away!” and the other one … said, “Well, if a PRIEST asked you to do it, it wouldn’t be bad.” That was horrifying to hear out of my child’s mouth, but I’m so glad he said it so we could discuss it.

    I don’t believe a personal relationship is enough, either. If it came down to it, the one priest I trust the most is someone I knew long before he was ordained. But there’s “trust” and then there’s “trusting you with my children”; I don’t believe you can possibly know someone well enough. Most molesters ARE people well known and beloved by the family. I think the answer is not to trust. There’s no reason for a priest to ever be alone with a child, anyway — fortunately our parish has the kind of confessionals with a totally separate box for priest and penitent, and curtains so you can see the penitent’s feet — I will never let my child in a “Reconciliation Room.”

  • Reply M November 12, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    I am really struggling with doubting our parish priest. Not because I believe he is in any way a part of this scandal, but I’ve found him to be very misleading. He’s addressed the issue, and held a mass of reparation and I’m grateful. He also responded to me in an ema when I expressed some concerns to him that I should be careful not to associate or “blame” the scandal on homosexuality, as evidence does not suggest that homosexuality is part of this problem. I was reeling after I read that one, I can say that much. And I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since then. At his point I can’t see that anything other than complete and total transparency does any good at all and I have no tolerance anymore for anything even slightly confusing or ambiguous.

    • Reply M November 12, 2018 at 7:08 pm

      In an email, not ema

  • Reply Colleen November 12, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    I keep thinking “eventually I’ll become numb” but it has yet to happen. Every slap in the face by the Vatican hurts just as bad, almost worse. As the severity of the sickness is further uncovered their utter disregard for the faithful and emboldened push to do further damage violates my soul again and again. For those of us who remain practicing Catholics, we are forced to wear the public shame they have put on us for actually believing in a divine institution they have stripped of all that is pure and holy.
    For years I begged people “fight this! make noise! Tell the truth! Never let your bishop sleep until things in your Church are acknowledged and rectified!”
    Sadly, I don’t think there’s a fight left in us. The ones who have been fighting are tired. We’ll stay for the Sacraments. But I personally am not trying to convert anyone.

  • Reply jeanette November 12, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    I agree with those who made the comments about trusting one’s child with a priest: there are appropriate boundaries for trust, and priests above all else should be wanting to observe those boundaries, and parents should not be putting that responsibility on the priest by extending too much trust. I get really annoyed whenever I read the details of situations where priests have abused children who were allowed by their parents to have an “overnight” with a priest. How idiotic are these people? I have priests with whom I have had years and years of friendship, yet I would never have thought to put them in such a precarious position as entrusting my child to them for an overnight (and certainly that never even came up as a possibility). The way to exemplify trustworthiness is not to put oneself in a bad position to begin with. That’s just one example of boundaries being crossed and parents being to blame. It boggles the mind why the failing of those parents is never mentioned in the stories that report the horror of those abuses to their children.

    As for your issue with the Church, Jenny, of trying to understand what we mean when we refer to “the Church” anymore, I’m going to assure you, you are not alone. I read two articles just a couple of days ago analyzing that very problem. There is a direction our current pope is taking things that is really attempting to flip your understanding of the Church and the papacy on its head…never mind all of this scandal making the waters muddy. The first, an essay by Dr. Douglas Farrow appeared in CWR “The Conversion of the Papacy and the Present Church Crisis” and the second essay is referenced in that article with a link, written by Roberto Pertici, “The End of Roman Catholicism” (with a pre-essay title: Bergoglio’s Reform Was Written Before By Martin Luther) both of which I highly recommend reading (and the Farrow one is quite long, but very illuminating). I think if you read these two together, you will come away with a better understanding about this bewilderment: it is not just your imagination, it is not just your emotion, it is a directional change we all better pay attention to. Frankly, after reading it, if you are like me your heart will be telling you that it is not what you mean by “the Church” and it is not why you persist in being a Catholic. We all better start paying a whole lot of attention to what is happening and dig our heels in hard. How do you do that? By resisting this directional change and being willing to be at odds with the “party line” priests, the ones who repeat the right words to show which side of the fence they are on, the side that is making changes to what we recognize to be the Church. They do it in their homilies, they do it in their bulletins, they do it in their conversations with parishioners, they do it in how they run their parishes. They ooze the party line. They just don’t know how obviously they stand out against the firm image we hold of what the Church is to us. We, after all, are JUST the laity. What do we know? Oh, they do have their following of parishioners who will defend their actions and words and never once stop to think what is going on, they just worship the ground their priest walks upon and they are his official cheerleaders. Woe to you if you don’t agree with that priest.

    So, there is a fight we need to make, but it is much bigger than this scandal. It is the nothings and nobodies and the non-degreed ordinary everyday in the pew Catholics who need to fight this one. So, don’t give up your fighting spirit, you are going to need it. Give it some respite as needed, but you will come out on the right side of things when the time comes, you will see clearly what the Church is supposed to be and will not acquiesce to this new model of Church. I’m sure of it.

    • Reply Jean C November 13, 2018 at 8:19 pm

      Jeanette, you make several good points about the inappropriateness of entrusting our children to priests in situations where they may be abused. At the town hall meeting our bishop and his delegate spoke of the difficulty in getting the people who’d come forward with allegations of abuse by our pastor to take it one step further and report it to police. There was great reluctance to press charges because of the elevated view of priests in general, or placing them on pedestals. If I’d not believed it when they spoke it, I certainly did after the gathering when a foreign born parishioner exclaimed “In my country no one would have dared to accuse a priest!” That hero worshiping attitude combined with a sense of entitlement on the part of some priests is a deadly mix.

  • Reply Remi Lessore November 13, 2018 at 4:39 am

    Jenny,
    I have had similar problems with several institutions in which I have worked – the police, the teaching establishment and also the Church which I left as a teenager in the late 1970s. – returning in the mid 80s.
    I do not think I had ever set much store by it anyway because it was obvious to me that few priests really believed what they preached so I was less shocked and saddened than you are by the time I just walked away.
    In the police and as a school teacher the compromise and corruption I saw never really rocked in my faith in the establishment – I simply resolved to do as well as I could. I still railed against the hierarchies who were clearly less interested in those they were ‘ordained’ to serve than in their own careers. But I was clear in my mind what I needed to do and got on with it as best as they allowed me and as best I could.
    Later it transpired that I no longer had the strength to be a teacher (- it seems strange that police work is so much easier!)
    In the Church I still have a problem – though mine is slightly different from yours. I am really not surprised by the sins – institutional and personal – which come to light. The cover-ups are normal, given that even more than in policing, the Church ‘governs’ by consent. The instinct is that if the population looses faith in the establishment then this can no longer do its job and chaos ensues. This is true up to a point – we should not wilfully cry scandal – but beyond that point secrecy ensconces sin. Where that point is very difficult to judge and requires discernment that so many lack AND which the antichristian media exploit wherever corruption can be insinuated. But secrecy is my BIGGEST problem with Freemasonry, for example.
    No. My problem is that the Church establishment actively prevents evangelisation – it is the Holy Spirit who can change the hearts and minds of ALL – including the corrupt who have so upset you. Many Pharisees converted when they saw the depths into which their self-righteousness had plunged them. Jesus was under no illusion when he told the people to do as they said, but not as they did and people followed him because he had authority – he was visibly coherent. He spoke as he believed while they insisted on Rites and religious habits and customs.
    My experience is in one of the Church “ Movements”. The greatest hurdle to announcing the love of God inside and outside the Church is the parish and diocesan establishment – not everywhere, but in most places. Even though all the Popes since Paul VI have encouraged the Movements, many (maybe most) priests and bishops do not themselves trust Peter and the Church enough to do so as well. Even good priests are strongly opposed to relinquishing their hold on the pulpit, even when they are visibly failing to reach out to the non- Catholics and lapsed Catholics all around them.
    You may find this strange, but this is what maddens me more than the public sins we hear about.
    So, how to cope with the Church’s betrayal of its own mission?
    There are two concepts of the Church, in my mind:
    One is the people – from whom we can expect no more than we know we should. Nobility and corruption can exist inside the same heart, let alone across the entire spectrum.
    The other is the Church Militant and Spiritual which is all of us – including those people – when we act as we are called to act by God. When we do not, we are in a sense de facto ex-communicants. When we obey, we are Saints. How we are called to die will decide on our eternal fate, but we cannot judge others. I heard that even Judas may be saved – this is God’s business, not ours.
    So…? So nothing. As in the police we muddle along, doing what we can, challenging what we can, praying for ourselves and for others.
    Exercise prudence rather than paranoia. Let your children know that evil and love dwell in all those they will ever meet, irrespective of garb or office or station in life, and that God loves the sinner.
    It is possible that your current suffering is calling you to a faith in God that is not mediated by faith in men, or that He has something else in mind.
    And carry on with your mission. Your witness to Faith (and to doubt overcome by Faith) are a good thing.

    • Reply Shannon Hernandez November 21, 2018 at 9:07 am

      “The greatest hurdle to announcing the love of God inside and outside the Church is the parish and diocesan establishment.” Yes, I have experienced this too, and it has caused me great frustration. But it has also made me sure of one thing: the role of laity is absolutely key. We look to the Church as institution for two things: the grace of the sacraments and the preservation of the Deposit of Faith. Everything else is up to us, and we must be growing in love and holiness, praying without ceasing, and evangelizing everyone we know, never waiting for the clergy to do these things for us or even to lead us in doing them. It gives me hope to think that one of the long-term effects of this time of scandal will ultimately be a more sanctified laity, which by the grace of God could lead some day to a bumper crop of holy priests, deacons, and bishops. Please God, let it be so!

  • Reply Hank Rutland November 13, 2018 at 6:39 am

    On a lesser scale, My first experience with this feeling was when I found out about President Kennedy’s adultery with many women. Shocked. Disgruntled etc. I have always wanted my clergy to be good and holy and yet they are me, too, a sinner. Currently, I am aghast at the things that are being justly reported, not the least of which is the takeover of a small order of nuns by the Vatican because of their “Sectarian behavior”: wanting to remain with the Former Ordinary Liturgy of The Church, the Latin Mass, under which the order formed in 1948. I Pray for Pope Francis, and the lost souls in the Church who do not love Jesus more than themselves. (I am grateful to receive the sacraments and listen intently for any departure from the truth I am being taught.)

  • Reply yolanda November 13, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    At this point, I am honestly not as worried about a priest actually molesting my child in the confessional as I about about a priest messing with his/her head in some way that will predispose the child to various forms of exploitation in the future. And I’m not necessarily referring to straight-up sexual grooming (although I wouldn’t put it past priests to probe with inappropriate questions, etc.). Manipulation and spiritual abuse can come in many forms, and I believe children are far more at risk for that than for having the priest actually grope them (or worse) in the confessional with me or their father standing right outside. I do think most but the worst of pedophile addicts are smart enough not to do that, and there is evidence sexual abuse of children by priests actually is decreasing since the Dallas Charter (although I don’t believe the song and dance the hierarchy gives us about how the Church is the safest place for your child now, not by a long shot).

    What I am not remotely convinced of is healthier attitudes among priests and bishops in general, and I don’t have any reason to believe spiritual manipulation, lies, and other forms of abuse by the clergy is decreasing in any way, shape, or form. It’s this that makes me very, very nervous at the thought of sending any of my children into the confessional these days. Once you know, your responsibility as a parent is that much greater. And kids haven’t been around the block enough yet to know when a priest is trying to manipulate/coerce/or malform them in any way. Heck, a lot of adults can’t even recognize when they are being abused in this manner.

    • Reply M November 13, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      This. This! We’ve all heard stories of the sins that priests have waved off as no big deal when hearing confessions. But also, as an example, my oldest son (who is only six) recently said “I wish I was a girl!” And internally I freaked OUT, not because I believe that he really wants that (he’s six…), but because if the wrong person hears a child say something like that these days and can plant a nefarious idea, they will do it. And there’s a lot of evidence out there that plenty of priests hold to ideas that are the complete opposite of what the church teaches.

  • Reply Jo November 13, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    i have so much to say about this topic. First of all, have you fully forgiven these men for their traspesses against you? Because every time you pray the Our Father you declare that you have forgiven… and the fact that you are still hurt by the issue could be a sign that you haven’t fully let go of the issue. Secondly, as you have said it yourself it’s very naive to think the Church could be perfect in the hands of regular men WHEN even Jesus was betrayed by his very own Apostle…someone who followed him closely for 3 years! A friend! When Judas betrayed Jesus, did the rest of his followers throw in the towel saying we can no longer belong to this “church” because how could God allow this to happen? The rest of the apostles persevered and became martyrs for the Truth. So how can we, who don’t even have to risk our lives for the faith walk away from the Chruch when it needs us the most? Sure, we are hurt..but it’s mostly our ego that’s hurt. We don’t physically get flogged for being Catholic…we are just ashamed to admit we are because of what people might think of us. Above, someone mentioned they only go to church for the sacraments but that’s where it ends…you have to remember, you are only able to receive those sacraments because of brave sounds throughout history that stood by the Church no matter what. If you walk away from it now, how can we ensure that future generations will have access to the same sacraments? Gotta think about that for a moment…And a last point: the fact that the church is being infiltrated by the devil further proves that it’s the true Church, the devils enemy…otherwise why would it continue to be attacked if it’s not? There is a true battle going on that might not be wholly visible to us..but that doesn’t mean we can forget about it…I try to pray the novena of Abandonment to God as frequently as I can because I believe by surrendering to him and his will is the only way we’ll ever retain our peace in time of need such as this..

    • Reply Jo November 13, 2018 at 3:14 pm

      Ps. “Brave sounds throughout history” was meant to read “brave souls”.. ☺️

  • Reply jeanette November 13, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Still thinking of you! I wanted to comment on something else you said: “In many ways living here in Denver with such a vibrant Catholic community we have been isolated from much of the pain and scandal on an immediate level. In another sense, this makes things very strange when I feel “safe” in my own parish but feel utterly ill at ease in “the Church” at large. The Universal Church.”

    “Safe” is relative to many things and can suddenly, abruptly change when a priest is reassigned or a new bishop is installed. So, during your days of feeling “safe” always pray for those in your diocese who are in fact doing what they ought to in regard to fulfilling their role in leading you and your family towards holiness and faithfulness. These are the men who will be able to carry that wherever they go, even at your loss, and you want them out there strong in their ministry. They will be subjected to many tests and need the graces from your prayers and sacrifices to keep doing what they do.

    Also, regarding your comment on “corporate sin”: Yes, it is corporate sin. That does not exclude the laity. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the only way to counter sin is through personal holiness. You cannot control what others choose to do, you can only control what you personally choose to do. So, we all have control over that, and yes, going to confession is an active choice to obtain the graces you need, and the minister is of no consequence, even if he leads a double life. You are receiving the graces from Jesus Christ. And at times like these, it is so important to firmly remember that it is Jesus Christ whom you follow, and the Church is appointed to lead you in His way, but you have the entire history of the teachings of the Church available to you…much of it online…so you have to make a concerted effort to feed your mind and heart with what is holy, so that you can nourish in yourself the good the Church has produced over the ages, all the while undergoing scandalous times. It is like immunization time for us.

    • Reply Jean C November 13, 2018 at 6:03 pm

      Amen to that, Jeanette. Well said.

  • Reply Maria November 13, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    The Catholic Church is not the men that preside it. The Church belongs to Christ. I do not understand how people can be disillusioned with the Church, the Bride of Christ. It is the men, not the Church with whom we need to be disillusioned. There have always been traitors and the lukewarm. In this century, it is a fact that Communists (Stalin) had people infiltrate the priesthood and put purposely among them, many homosexual men to destroy as much as possible, the Catholic Church. See Bella Dodd. It is disheartening to hear any serious Catholic say they are disappointed with the Church. Be disappointed and angry with the bad priests who are the cause of this scar upon the Bride of Christ, don’t be disappointed in the Bride.

    • Reply Jean C November 13, 2018 at 8:09 pm

      Maria, the Catholic Church is comprised of all of us baptized into the faith, we are God’s holy people. So are the men who preside in it. As Jenny pointed out, all sin is corporate. When one of us sins it affects all of us. So, I think that when we say we are disillusioned with the Church, we are especially referring to those in positions of great responsibility, making the decisions, and in the case of abuse, often wrong and hurtful decisions, taking advantage, and then covering up with more lies. Those leaders in positions of authority have been causing great harm and many are still doing so and getting away with it. It is not an easy time to be a Roman Catholic with our Church’s dirty secrets aired for all who hate Christ to use against Him and our faithful.

      • Reply Maria November 13, 2018 at 9:26 pm

        Jean, indeed- but to say “disillusioned with the Church”, it sounds like one is speaking of the Church as a whole. Particularly to those outside of it, who hear Catholics speak of their own Church that way.

  • Reply Jean C November 13, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    I’m glad you wrote this post, Jenny, because I sent you an e-mail about our parish. Our pastor has been removed while under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct in one of his previous parishes. The allegations were of a heterosexual nature involving a minor and several adults. The bishop found other allegations in his personnel file while under the authority of our previous bishop.

    So there you have it. How do we, the parishioners feel after our current bishop’s town hall meeting? Sick, worried, concerned for all involved. How long will the investigation take? Will we ever know the outcome? Will that also be “confidential”? Many of us feel betrayed even though we know that according to the law our pastor is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Angry, given in an earlier communication to all parishes by our Archbishop that monetary assistance would be provided to victims of abuse if warranted. Where will that money come from? We, the parishioners, of course. We, who are pensioners living on a modest fixed income, young families trying to raise Catholic Christian children and struggling to make ends meet, single people who have to shoulder all their living expenses on one income, parishioners who are out of work.

    This was the second priest in our city to be removed in just a few weeks. Both innocent til proven guilty. Both under investigation. And what if the allegations are not true? Then what? And if they are then why don’t these men admit their crimes? These thoughts, accompanied by a cascade of emotions goes round and round in our minds with no resolution in sight.

    So what should we do? I think about the wedding at Cana. What do we do when the wine runs out? We do what Jesus’ mother instructed us “Do what he tells you”, which is to pray, to forgive, to carry out the work of the Kingdom, to avail ourselves of the Sacraments. But I, and many in my parish, are mad as hell with the institutional church and the men sitting in their comfy chairs stringing us along.

  • Reply BridgetAnn November 14, 2018 at 8:09 am

    In a way, (to put it mildly), it is also disorienting; like having one’s senses taking away.

    I read the following this morning and thought it was a good “visual” to help understand how to view this current situation. From Caryll Houselander’s “The Reed of God” (copyright 1944):

    “We know perfectly well that there are often scandals in the Church… the Church is still Christ, Christ in His Passion, Christ crowned with thorns, His face covered in blood and dirt and the dust of the road on which we flung Him down…. ‘He has no comeliness whereby we shall know Him.’ But we know Him without comeliness. ” (p.16)

  • Reply Roxanne November 14, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Hi Jenny,
    Please read Susan Skinner’s blog, The Veil of Veronica, on the mass being the center of our lives. Also, Mark Mallet’s blog, The Now Word, on how the Catechism speaks about how the Church, the Bride of Christ, will have to walk in the footsteps of her Lord, Jesus Christ, and undergo the Passion, be betrayed,
    crucified and put to death, and then rise again
    Holy. Pope Benedict has also spoken of this …

  • Reply Zachary Salazar November 14, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    I think what bothers me most about all this business is that I have had problems with an Ex fiancee chasing after men of the cloth. It went so far as the Priest kissed her while we were dating, I am not sure if anything happened beyond that. After the confrontation between me him and her and the evidence I brought forth he demanded I destroy the messages on my phone and her phone.

    This hurts even worse because this was the same priest that would go on to baptise me. This was also the same priest that gave last rights to my Ex’s dying father whom was ailed with cancer.

    How could someone so well spoken, so we’ll read, and so well respected bold face lie to me? How could a man that is a leader to me and my community not take ownership?

    The damage is done and I never seemed to ruin his name. I am sick of these new weak willed priests making their own secret relationships. I am sick of the lack of boundaries put up by women that partake in these secret relationships.

    I don’t know what to do, and I am frustrated on all sides. Why God? Why?

  • Reply Cleo Martinez November 14, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    “Disillusionment” hits the nail on the head for me. When the news came out, I thought our parish should have had a meeting to let people vent, express concern, anger, sadness; all of the above… Nothing happened. I wanted to hear our pastor’s words about his position and feelings on the matter. He has mentioned the scandal in general terms for prayer but we have not heard his opinion. My wife and I went to a neighboring city where the scandal was made a, last minute, topic for a Theology on Tap gathering. It was obvious there that many were looking for guidance and assurance that this will be dealt with in a way that will repair our broken Church.
    Recently, our pastor visited each mass over the weekend to tell us that he had been reassigned/promoted. (I wanted to cry out, “You take time after mass to tell us THIS? What about the scandal!?” )
    I am wondering who will replace him, where did they come from and why. Sad to say that, for me, receiving a new priest in my parish with open arms will be followed by researching his background to the best of my ability.
    Yes, I need to keep praying. for our Church, my fellow Catholics and myself.
    John 6:68 “Master to whom shall we go?”

  • Reply Cami November 15, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    Jenny, I’m a bit out of the media loop simply because I haven’t kept up on current events with all the littles here all day. Can you recommend the best sources for me to read and get caught up on all of this? I mean, I know about it obviously but mostly from reading responses from people like yourself. I’m not necessarily aware of the who and where that’s involved. But I probably should know more to prepare myself for any discussions with other adults or my kiddos. Also, I wanted to suggest in feeling sort of lost regarding what it means to be Catholic, I’m thinking going back to the catechism may be helpful. Just to read the logic and love in church teaching might help. Hugs to you during this tough time.

    • Reply jeanette November 16, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      Cami: I hope Jenny does send you some links to assist you. We need to help others to keep abreast so as not to be overburdened. Like you, many probably aren’t following that closely, but as you point out, it really is necessary to know in detail what is going on. At the same time, we need to just remain faithful to Jesus Christ so as not to get carried off in the wrong direction. The problem I’m finding is that it chews up a lot of time to find these things out, because there is just so much going on and so many reports daily (mostly because the topic is at the top of the discussions bishops are having in the various gatherings of late). I read a CWR article yesterday that showed some of the comments from the Bishop of Miami. I will directly quote him, so as to be clear about what he said. And I will add my opinion that his joking manner was inappropriate to the situation, his assessment of the laity was way off and he should hear an earful from everyone about how he is out of touch, and his remark about the “industry of addiction and outrage” is a term to really watch, as I keep seeing it come up as a way of ducking from the genuine reaction of the faithful which should not be reduced to this “code” language for the arrogantly condescending view of the laity on such a serious matter. Carefully watch the language being employed by these men. You can see readily who is serious and who is part of the problem, as they don’t know how thin the veil is in their attitude. When I worked in my career, such people were referred to as the “gravy train riders” because they are part of an organization for what they can get out of it, not for what they give to it. Jesus called them to be holy, not to be self-seeking, He called them to share HIS gospel message, not one of their own invention.

      Here is the quote from the article (and I would love to see the names of those who applauded this man),

      “Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida joked at the beginning of his comments that the bishops should be glad Donald Trump is president, otherwise the Church would be receiving even more attention and “bad press” than it already has.

      He urged the bishops not to get “distracted” by the media, and not to give in to the “industry and addiction” of outrage. Most people are not hung up on the sex abuse crisis, he said.

      “People are coming to Church, they’re praying, they’re sending their kids to Catechism, the life of the Church is moving on. If you’re not reading the blogs, if you’re not watching cable TV, this is not front and center for most of our people,” he said.

      “We’ve done a lot, we have to tell our story better and not get played in the outrage business and get back to what we’re supposed to be doing as pastors,” he said, to applause from some bishops.”

      Well, Cami, there is a lot more out there where that came from. If you listened to this particular bishop, you could just walk away assured you don’t really need to know anything at all, just move on. How dare he!

      • Reply Jean C November 16, 2018 at 2:08 pm

        Jeanette, if the bishop of Miami thinks most people are not hung up on the sex abuse crisis he should have a chat with the members of my parish in Canada. We are hunkering down, comforting each other, drawing closer, shocked and outraged by what is unfolding in our diocese. Many have decided not to contribute this year but to donate to other causes such as the local food bank or homeless shelter. I fear this will have a very detrimental domino effect. I can’t believe other faithful Catholics, be they in the US or Canada are as unaffected as he wants to imagine.

  • Reply Melissa November 16, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    Thank you for writing this. You are not alone!

    “I never believed the clergy to be above reproach or without sin, but it didn’t occur to me that there would be priests leading double lives. Why not? I don’t know, I guess I’m an idiot? An idealist?”

    Yes! Same here. More than ever makes me realize we need to pray for our priests.

    • Reply Henry B Rutland November 17, 2018 at 8:36 am

      I, too want the clergy to be above reproach but that idea died when I found out about JFK’s dalliances. We must hold them accountable to a standard, yet , have compassion with the knowledge that , ” there but for the grace of God, go I”. Maybe, their standard was lowered by the secular culture of acceptance of evil in the name of “love”. Reminds me:,”Stop! In the name of love…before you break my heart!” lol

  • Reply Jean C November 16, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    One of the commenters questions whether we who are upset with the Church’s mishandling of this widespread corruption have truly forgiven the abusive and pedophile priests, suggesting our ongoing pain might be a sign of our lack of forgiveness. With much respectfulness I’d like to leave you with a quote from St. Augustine: “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”

    It’s one thing to read the stories, hear them on the tv, but wait ’til you have a priest in your own parish who has been placed there for his own safekeeping, having committed crimes against minors and vulnerable adults in another, distant parish, now in your own parish connected to schools. Wait ’til your church and alleged sex abuse pastor is on your local news and you have neighbours questioning your loyalty to your religion based on case after case after case as the years go by. And what has our Pope Francis had to say about it this past week?

    • Reply Henry B Rutland November 17, 2018 at 8:43 am

      You know the answer to that. Work with the pastor on accountability. Perhaps, justice can be administered with compassion. We, as disciples in training, cannot wish evil on these men no matter what they have done; we can expect some atonement from them or deprivation of freedom from them. It is interesting to me to note the people who want long terms of incarceration…clearly, they have never been incarcerated. Accountable treatment is available but also justice must be done, I agree. It follows from our treatment of Purgatory.

    • Reply jeanette November 18, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      There is a pastor I’m acquainted with who is currently removed from his parish while under investigation for failing to follow the national protocol obtaining a “letter of suitability for ministry” before allowing a visiting priest from another diocese to engage in preaching at the parish. The breach was reported to the bishop by parishioners who found the visiting priest’s name on a published list of known abusers. The pastor is well acquainted with the priest, so he would have known this about him. The bishop immediately took action. This same bishop also in the past year removed another priest from a parish for having inappropriate contact with an adult. All bishops are not sitting on their hands doing nothing, in spite of the pope’s delays to the process of corrective action or the restrictions he has placed on the USCCB from taking any steps to move forward.

      I’m going to take this off track for a moment, but I’ll tie it in.

      I’m far more irked by the thought that, in addition to the need to correct all of this scandalous behavior going on, there is a much bigger issue of priests living unchaste lives in general, and their names are not going to end up on any list and their souls are in greater danger for that reason, and so are those they are leading.

      If a priest only sees his celibacy as a restriction on marriage and does not heed the gospel call to chastity (and the other virtues of modesty, purity, etc), then you are going to have rampant sinful behavior going on that is not breaking any civil law, only God’s law. But that sinful behavior can eventually cross the line into criminal behavior and abuse. And who is going to monitor that behavior so it doesn’t manifest itself? That is where self-examination is needed and when that fails, brotherly correction should take place. Yet many parishes now have only one priest on staff, and this enables such behavior to take place even more, because who is going to see what is taking place (except maybe the office staff if they are really paying close attention to the life of their priest).

      Priests who take a 9-5 view of their ministry are also in danger. They build a social life in their off hours that could lead them down the path of sin quite easily. Parishioners don’t help matters when they unwittingly supply their priests with the means to pursue such paths in the form of material gifts and other perks, such as the use of vacation homes, etc. Recreation is a valid and needed part of anyone’s life, but when it starts becoming the purpose in one’s life in the priesthood, then they become in danger of leading double lives. They need to understand that vocations are 24/7. Moms and dads don’t clock out. Husbands and wives don’t clock out. Priests shouldn’t be clocking out.

      Priests who form healthy relationships with others, who carefully guard their prayer life and develop true intimacy with God, and who do not allow their life to be too focused on pursuits of material goods and other self-centered pleasures are in a better place than their peers who become too engaged in worldly pursuits. Priests who are living really full lives, investing their time in the work of Jesus Christ, involved in works of mercy and other initiatives for the spread of the gospel are going to be better off than the priest who thinks he clocks out at 5pm. What saint has only put in an 8 hour shift? And we want saintly priests.

      That’s why formation is important in the seminaries, but once out of the seminary, a way of life that is healthy and ordered to holiness also needs to be continued. Friendships should be wisely chosen to lead to holiness, just like the rest of us do when we avoid bad company. When the structure of the seminary life disappears, and a priest is immersed in the life of the parish and he defines his own boundaries, he needs to have the ability to be self-controlled, especially if he is on his own and not with peer priests who provide that immediate support group of positive example and mutual respect. Loneliness can also be a problem, and even a well-formed priest can be subject to this if he is not deliberate in how he manages his free time.

      When a priest fails to lead a chaste celibate life, he is like an adulterous husband. But as long as he doesn’t feel like his behavior “hurts” a particular individual, he will not feel any need to curb such behavior. The clue should be that he doesn’t want anyone to know what he is up to. That’s the conscience kicking in, and he ought to heed it. It’s really not that complicated. I think there is an unspoken “rule” that consensual sexual behavior is to be overlooked and it is up to the individual priest to manage his own behavior. That thinking needs to come to an end, because it enables one to cross the line and provides the environment for cultivating abusive behavior.

      I think that in order to solve the abuse issue, more attention needs to be given to the virtue of chastity. I agree with you about the issue of forgiveness and justice, and it is also part of the problem with the whole “fake” mercy that people want to apply to sinful behavior. The issue of forgiving transgressions is an issue best addressed in the confessional. But forgiving public sinners outside of the confessional does not mean turning a blind eye to a problem that needs resolving in the clergy abuse and leadership failures, and that is what people are focused on, not the individual transgressions. For while we may be scandalized by their behavior, and rightly abhor it, we still do care about their salvation and wish for their repentance and spiritual wholeness.

      As for what others say to us regarding loyalty to the Faith, our faith is in Jesus Christ, and only He offers us the means to overcome sin. Even if those who are ordained to lead us are themselves sinners. We need to tell people who question our loyalty that we want to help Jesus to save sinners, and we are not going to save any sinners if we walk away from them, we are only going to save them by living a holy life alongside them. And we won’t get far in that pursuit if you leave the Church. Neither will we get far in that pursuit if we are not intent on faithfulness to Jesus.

      1 Peter 3:15-17 “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.”

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