Love – Disappointment – Hope
Living in an Abusive Church
I put together a deeply personal reflection for this moment in the Church over at Where Peter Is.
I believe that love is a requirement for disappointment.
I love the Catholic Church. I’ve shared this story many times, but during the summer following my high school graduation, at a Steubenville Youth Conference, I fell in love with Jesus, the Church, and the sacraments of my faith.
When you fall in love with someone, one of the first things you want to do is learn everything you can about them, so I studied Theology for my undergraduate degree and have never stopped learning about the Catholic faith. Another result of falling in love is commitment. My entire adult life has been one decision after another to serve the Church that I love—the people and the institution—as a lay minister, catechist, and future pastoral counselor. I’ve tried to say yes to wherever the Lord has called me.
I learned over these years that a result of loving the Church can be disappointment.
This included working for over seven years for toxic and harmful clerics. My own experiences in the Church have given me ears to hear—to actually hear—other people’s stories about how they have been harmed by the Church. I’ve heard stories from lay ministers working for other pastors, stories from former seminarians, stories from folks accompanying clerical sexual abuse survivors. I’ve read reports of priests in my diocese hooking up with 16-year-olds. I’ve read the unfolding coverage about the Franciscan University of Steubenville—the place where I first encountered Jesus—covering up absolutely hideous sexual abuse. In just the past year I’ve read about so much hurt, so much harm, so much cover up, and so much victim-blaming from bishops, dioceses, Catholic colleges, and religious orders across the country.
In the past, I would go to Mass three times a week. In the last eight months, however, I have little desire to attend Mass at all and struggle to go just on Sundays. I do go. Somehow the Holy Spirit has kept giving me the strength to go. But it’s not easy.
I know that the harm I’ve experienced in the Church pales in comparison to the abuse others have experienced at the hands of priests, not to mention Church leaders who allowed it to happen and turned a blind eye to their pain. Too many of the individuals with power in the Church have refused to hold their brother clerics accountable.
I don’t know why Christ allows so much filth and corruption in the Church. I don’t know why he hasn’t flipped tables and driven out those who harm the vulnerable. I don’t know how to reconcile the real evil in the Church with the holiness that God has revealed about His Body.
The Church’s pastors are broken and sinful, her leaders are broken and sinful, her people are broken and sinful, and her structures are broken and sinful. And on some days it’s difficult not to believe that the whole thing isn’t rotten to the core.
Read the rest at here.
Thank you for this one, Paul.