Quick Hits – How can anyone remain Catholic – Part 2

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.

Catholic sex abuse

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.

8 thoughts on “Quick Hits – How can anyone remain Catholic – Part 2

  1. Hi all – I’d like to comment a bit further on the (extremely civil and interesting) conversation Jeff and I have had over the past several months on the situation with the Catholic Church and why I remain faithful.
    First off, I think I can speak for the vast majority of Catholics when I say I am both heartbroken and enraged by the scandal in the US Church, and elsewhere, brought about by the deeply evil conduct of a large number of priests and bishops, as well as the conduct of many in the Church hierarchy in ignoring and/or actively covering-up the abuses. I will not in any way defend that conduct. If I had my way, I would be doing more than defrocking those guilty, I’d be excommunicating them (for non-Catholics, that’s a really big deal in Catholicism). More on that later.

    I believe that Jeff and I differ because of a fundamentally different understanding of what the Church is, and what it is that makes one Catholic. Jeff’s view is apparently that the Church is comprised of human beings, and is basically just like other temporal institutions, to be judged by how the leadership of that institution performs its duties. My understanding is much different.

    My view of the Church is more focused on its mission – promoting what we consider to be the most important Truth, the Divinity and saving Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. That mission, carried out (imperfectly, of course) over 2000 years, is what defines the Church. With all of its scandals (there have been far too may over those 2000 years, to be sure) and all of the human frailty demonstrated by its leaders (don’t get me started on the Medicis), the Catholic Church has stood as a bulwark against heresy and as an incredibly profound (intellectually and practically) champion of the Gospel – the “rock’ referred to by Christ to St. Peter. The true Church is found in its doctrine, in the world but not of it. That doctrine is incredibly rich, and has withstood the test of 2 millennia. That’s what the Catholic Church is.

    I think there is also a misperception among many about how lay Catholics view the hierarchy and, ultimately, the Pope. Clearly, we have deep respect for our pastoral leaders, and for the Pope especially. But we are not subjects thereof. Most of us understand that the Church is comprised of human beings that are subject to the same temptations as the rest of us, and who fail periodically to live up to their principles (and, not unimportantly, their Holy vows). In short, we do not look upon the Pope and the rest of the Church hierarchy as some substitute gods that we must bow down to. We view them as vehicles for the Holy Spirit. So when we do bow down, as per custom, we are not bowing to the individual, we are bowing down to our Lord, via His vehicle. (This is much the same as our sacrament of Reconciliation – confession, in the vernacular. Non-Catholics think that we’re asking forgiveness from the Priest. We are not. The Priest, as with all other sacraments, is merely a vehicle through which the Grace of God is conferred.)
    So, how do I remain faithful in the wake of this incomprehensibly evil scandal among the shepherds of the Church? I remain faithful to what I consider to be the divinely inspired doctrine of the Church. The failings of mere men will not shake me from that. If the actual doctrine of the Church is radically altered, I will have some soul-searching to do. But the failings of individual men are new neither to me nor the Church. And the Church will endure, through the workings of the Holy Spirit.

    Now, on to the excommunications (and convictions)….

  2. Jeff—as a lifelong Catholic let me say this to you: Don’t go to another Catholic Church. If you don’t understand that God does not condone the sins of his supposed representatives on this earth then you are not welcome in his church. Whether you do or do not believe in God is irrelevant to me as a Catholic. I’m perhaps not as forgiving as I should be but your salvation is not my responsibility and I reject your judgment of my church. How you live your life is up to you and what you choose to believe about my church is also irrelevant. That’s blunt, but you brought up the subject and whether you go to any church, Catholic or not, is of no importance to anyone but you.

    • Angela,

      The column has a couple of thousand hits. So clearly it has importance beyond me.

      Jeff

      • I doubt people have anything but sympathy or disdain for someone who is so dismissive of the power of Religion. I don’t worship a church building or a pope. I worship a smart, caring and discerning God who shows me every day he cares for me and my family and my friends and wraps his arms around me. I feel his presence in the Catholic Church I go to and hear his words from his priests. If you don’t want to do that please don’t. But to be so dismissive of those of us who do is petty to say the least. And by the way, clicks or hits on any website or blog don’t equate to approval or acceptance. Sometimes people just like to watch the freak show.

      • Deleted my comment, eh? Again, hits don’t equate to approval. Very juvenile to promote that.

      • Angela,

        You’re off your meds again. I have not deleted anything here!

  3. It took a bit of time until my return comments appeared so I spoke too soon with the concern that one had been deleted. For that I apologize. But Jeff, your constant “you’re off your meds” retort (you’ve said that to me more than once when I dare to disagree with you) is really despicable. My devotion to God and my religion is real and for you to trivialize it is reflective of someone who cares less about others than his own ego. Really, get some perspective and help.

  4. Organized religion is control of the masses. I will believe and honor God on my own.

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