How Anyone's (Still) Catholic after the Abuse Scandals
The abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church continue to be disturbing, right?
The actions of the abusers—and those who knew of the abuse but looked the other way, or worse, helped enable or conceal it—aren’t just disappointing, but wrong, evil, criminal.
These were men trusted to conduct themselves according to the highest standards of holiness, particularly around the most vulnerable of people.
And it makes you wonder: how can anyone still be Catholic under these circumstances?
What kind of person supports—still supports—a church infested with pedophilia? How can anyone be ok with the exposure of vulnerable children to such perversion and danger?
Who can trust a church that preaches for sexual purity, abstinence, monogamy, and heterosexuality—but simultaneously, secretly, commits violent criminal acts of sexual abuse?
Are these Catholics accepting of this hypocrisy, this flawed leadership, this obvious evil? Don't they have brains, consciences, hearts?
How can anyone still be Catholic?!
Isn’t it (past) time to get out?
Why I'm Still Catholic
With the hotly divided political scene, changing social norms, and ugly scandals in the Church these days, it’s not comfortable to admit that yes, I’m (still) Catholic—but please, hear me out.
First, I hate the abuse perpetrated by the clergy of the Catholic Church. It’s nothing short of a life-shattering, criminal wrong and an inexcusable evil.
I have no words to adequately convey my condolences to the undeserving victims of these devastating acts of violence + cover-up. I don’t condone any of these wrongful actions. They sicken me, sadden me.
But I won’t leave the Church—I won’t abandon Jesus because of Judas, or even a crowd of Judases.
I'm still Catholic because the Church itself isn't evil, though it is, and will sadly always be, plagued by people who do evil.
I’m still Catholic because I won't leave Jesus. This is the one Church Jesus left me, for better or for worse, despite the evil done by some of its most disappointing sinners. It’s the only Church Jesus started, the only one that can trace its lineage directly back to Him, when he commanded Peter to be its first leader in Matthew 16:18: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”
All other churches were started by dissenting men who thought they knew better.
And, with the Church’s many flawed sinners through the years, I can understand that temptation. But its not what He commanded. So I’ll stick with Jesus’ one true, Church, the Catholic Church, because it’s like St. Peter says in this passage of John 6:
After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Will you also go away?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.
And there's an almost-comfort in knowing that Jesus was not shocked to find betrayers in his most-trusted circle, either. He knew His church, and the weaknesses of the humans who would comprise it.
But He didn’t change his plan, or leave the rest of His disciples, just because of Judas. There was still good being done—and there still is. I know dozens of amazing priests and clergy and parishioners of the kindest, most incredible character.
A Call to Cleanse the Temple
Jesus rebuked the Jewish clergy of His time for their wrongdoing. He threw out the money-changers who had no place in the temple of the Lord. We are called to do the same.
Let the cleansing of the temple begin.
Abuse, cover-up, and any other serious offenses committed by members of the Catholic clergy cannot be tolerated. They must be brought to justice.
Let’s get rid of the Pharisees, the Judases, the demons. Let’s clean out the abusers, the criminals, those not fit to serve as holy spiritual leaders. These impostors cannot be trusted as clergy within the Church.
I demand transparency, clarification and reparation from the Church. These crimes cannot be downplayed, stuffed in a file, or swept under a rug.
It might be painful, but the abuse must be investigated—and exposed. It’s time to air out these criminal acts, to pursue legal justice. Let there be open, fair investigations. Let every file be revealed.
It might be ugly—sin often is.
But reparations must be made to victims, and these amends cannot begin until the wrongs have been fully assessed and uncovered.
A Plea for Perspective + Accurate Reporting
Media headlines continue to blast provocative headlines regarding the abuse, the accused, the Pope, opinions of select Catholics, etc.
I implore the media to stick to the highest standards of fair, accurate, and unbiased reporting. To not forget to include facts, or perspective.
For example, it’s worth noting—and not near the end of the article—that the vast majority of reported abuse cases took place decades ago. That many of the priests have died or have long been removed from duty. This does not negate or excuse the wrong, but it does bring forth the balanced perspective that the abuse might not be a recent or ongoing problem.
And there’s another thing—a delicate topic, that should be handled with sensitivity and painstakingly accurate wording when it comes to quotations.
The vast majority of reported and investigated cases were found to be of predatory homosexuality, not pedophilia. The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report found that 81% of the abuse cases occurred between an adult male predator and a post-pubescent male victim—which does not fit the definition of pedophilia, which involves pre-pubescent children, of either gender.
I can see how this could quickly, easily be misconstrued and misreported. In fact, NPR’s headlines have already done so: “As Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis Deepens, Conservative Circles Blame Gay Priests.” The article goes on to paint a picture, by way of including several quotes from what they’ve self-described as “Conservative” anti-Pope members, that the Church believes homosexuals are abusers and rapists.
That’s not fair. Or accurate.
I don’t know one faithful Catholic who is blaming, or much less, remotely implying, that homosexuals are abusers and rapists—far from it.
But they are making a simple, important, and factual distinction: i.e., that the perpetrators acted on predatorial homosexual impulses—rather than pedophile impulses. Because, yes, there is a difference, and it’s a notable one that the investigative report revealed to be a problematic trend occurring in the Church. Is this not a fact worth relaying?
Again, I implore the media to use their highest standards of unbiased listening and reporting when writing on this sensitive issue—rather than quote-framing, judgmental labels, and shock-value headlines.
Not Shocked by the Abuse Scandal
While I’m disturbed and upset at this abuse, its cover-up, and the stain on the Church, I’m not at all shocked or surprised by these events.
Humans—all humans—have been, and will always be, plagued by the temptations to do harm, to sin.
It swirls all around us. It's in us, each of us, to varying degree. It’s our darkness, our personal demons, our disordered desires.
Evil is the force that drives us to hurt others, to put ourselves first—to sin.
And no one is immune to its attack: not you, not me, not your elderly grandmother, not your child, not the most upstanding person you know, not priests or bishops or cardinals... no one. We all give in to evil and we all sin. Often. Evil attacks our most trusted shepherds at least as hard as us ordinary sinners.
No, it’s not the least bit surprising (or permissible) that evil is wreaking havoc on the Catholic Church, the one true church that Jesus Himself started through St. Peter when he said, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18) giving him the permission and authority to be the leader, priest and pope of the very first Christians.
What evil wants more than anything is to disable and destroy the Catholic Church, the Church that fights so hard to preserve the timeless biblical values and wise traditions prescribed by Jesus—values already weakened and under attack by the world.
Are the sex abuse scandals not the sly, deliberate attack of evil against the morals and traditions of priestly celibacy, heterosexual marriage, sexual purity, male-only clergy, which now seem completely undermined?
Is this not the obvious infiltration of evil trying to weaken the Church, force it to change, shove it down into the degrading muck of worldly values?
Yes, the sex abuse scandals make way too much sense—in an eerie, wicked sort of way.
Sadly, I think we can—and should—expect there will be more reports of wrongdoing. Evil will continue to attack the Church. To think that it doesn’t, or won’t, or can’t, is a sort of spiritual pride. But this doesn’t mean we get to stand by and watch, feigning helplessness. Or jump ship.
No, Catholics must not abandon Jesus or His Church in this time of weakness.
They must speak up, speak out, investigate, cleanse the temple, and stick together to implement safeguards, prevent future wrongs, and even make personal acts of reparation for the offenses committed. They must live there lives as impeccably as possible—be living, loving counterexamples of evil.
The Catholic Church is still a church made up of millions of holy men and women who are disgraced, disappointed and upset to learn that demons have been masquerading as their faithful shepherds.
Points to Ponder + Discuss:
How do you feel about these reports?
What impact has this had on your faith and Catholic identity?
What do you think is the role of everyday (lay) Catholics during this time? How should Catholics respond to this crisis?
How would you like to see the Church change/not change in response to this crisis?
Further ponder / discuss the following verse as it relates to this article's topic and our role in the world as Christians and Catholics: