A great part of the reason I persevere in this journalistic gig is, you, the reader. We may not always agree, but I enjoy the conversation, especially those ongoing debates and discussions that take place behind the scenes.
And What’s Happening in (City Name) Facebook pages owner, Paul Stukel, and I have been deliberating over the title subject since last August. It’s not as much an argument as an asymptotic approach towards some sort of mutually objective reality.
Put more simply, like that plotted curve that eternally moves closer to a straight line but never quite gets there, we will likely never agree. So, the value is in the discussion and not some ultimately unattainable conclusion. We’re basically daring each other to stop defending our position.
What makes that conversation even more fascinating is Paul and I are both equally steeped in the Roman Catholic tradition.
Though recent revelations may have put him on the ropes, Paul maintains that the Church is still a “fixable” proposition, while I’ve long since given up on it. Paul believes the faithful should put their energy into a solution, while I contend the Church hierarchy doesn’t nearly deserve that kind of loyalty.
I understand traditions never go gently into that good night, but I’d go as far as saying that tough Christian standard demands separation.
What prompted the revisiting of this subject was a recent piece by Washington Post columnist George Will, who asked the question, “Has the Catholic Church committed the worst crime in American history?”
I kinda think they have.
Focusing primarily on Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s investigation into the sexual abuse of 1,000 victims at the hands of 300 predator priests in just six dioceses, Will paints a horrifying picture of institutionalized child predation that clearly isn’t the case of a “just a few bad apples.”
Seven months after that bombshell grand jury report was released, Shapiro said the Church’s “cover-up” continues as they “resist discovery motions” and challenge the Attorney General’s jurisdiction “every step of the way.”
He added that “the bishops are still involved” in that “stonewalling” process.
It’s happening right here in Illinois, too. Former attorney general Lisa Madigan said Illinois bishops and cardinals refused to release the name of 505 priests who have been accused of sexual abuse.
We all know it’s not relegated to the U.S., either. In addition to a slew of worldwide child sexual abuse charges, Catholic nuns in India, Africa, South American and Asia just came forward with terrifying tales of their own sexual abuse at the hands of priest and bishops. The reason they finally went public is the Church ignored their private pleas.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Shapiro said his investigation “is only in the third or fourth inning” and that 45 other Attorney Generals have reached out to him regarding how to conduct similar investigations in their own states.
If the Church showed any remorse, repentance, or made any meaningful effort to face this scourge head on, I’d probably find myself in Paul’s camp. After all, the history of humanity ain’t one for the faint of heart.
But a November convocation of American bishops in Baltimore, as Will put it, “was neutered by the Vatican,” and Pope Francis’ worldwide February meeting produced no definable results.
The Church did recently defrock a couple of the worst American Cardinals, but that’s the quintessential drop in the bucket and it only happened after they were allowed to wreak havoc for decades.
So, whenever I drive by St. Peter in Geneva or St. Patrick in St. Charles on a Sunday morning, I want to stop and ask those exiting parishioners how they can possibly have any faith in a Church that’s shown itself to be downright evil. I want to ask them how they can financially support a Church that not only refuses to address the rampant sexual abuse scandal, but continues to do their best to obfuscate it.
I want to ask them, in light of all the incontrovertible evidence, doesn’t the Christian standard demand they fully hold their Church accountable or, failing that, move on to something else.
Please don’t get me wrong, much like it is with my evolving polemic with Paul, these aren’t accusations. They’re questions borne of an intent to deepen my understanding of how the remaining faithful stay faithful.
I have some very fond memories of my nine years at St. Nick’s in Evanston. I enjoyed being a altar boy. I own a cross crafted from the wood of the original chapel pews. I have framed Kafka and Donne quotes beautifully done in calligraphy by a Catholic nun. I occasionally talk to a couple of the priests, former nuns, and teachers from that time, too.
But with the exception of a funeral or wedding, I will never darken the doorway of Catholic Church again. And though we’ll never agree on my basic premise, I do look forward to Paul’s and my continued deliberations.