The past several weeks have been fraught with heinous revelations in the Catholic Church. In Pennsylvania, documents from a grand jury were released detailing cases of rape and sexual abuse by hundreds of priests and bishops, many of which seemed to have been covered up by leaders of the Church.
Subsequently, an additional story spotlighted former Cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, who faces his own sexual abuse allegations of which the Vatican has known since 2000. During the previous papacy, Pope Benedict XVI imposed sanctions which restricted McCarrick’s authority, the same sanctions Pope Francis had lifted in 2015 for reasons he has yet to disclose.
Amid scandal on various fronts, the Church has been unusually disengaged. Following the news of Cardinal McCarrick, Pope Francis broke his week-long silent streak on social media to instead address environmental issues. While the Vatican has neither confirmed nor denied claims of covering up abuse, Pope Francis did eventually make a statement earlier this month. It was not about the predators in the Church, but about the “accusers:” “In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we are bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandal the people.”
It appears as though the Church is being hit on all sides without leadership to address the problems and guide us through. During such times, as a Catholic, you might feel helpless. You might feel tempted to abandon Catholicism altogether. As Children of God, we must resist this temptation.
Having faith and living out the Word of God transcend organized religion. The Church is a necessary institution to provide structure and a clear path. Even our highest leaders are still flawed humans. And just because their motives are being called into question does not mean we should scrutinize God or our individual faith in Him.
What should we do in these dark times? It is a necessary first step to scrutinize all institutions in which we are involved. It is far too common that people blindly pledge allegiance to their respective institutions and thus turn a blind eye or even defend them when these accusations arise. Every establishment must continuously earn our allegiance and respect. We are attached to the values they hold, not the people in charge. The moment those values are compromised, it is our duty as individuals to hold our leaders to strict standards and see to it that the corruption is purged.
At the same time, it is important that these allegations do not disrupt our habits of worship. If you regularly attend mass, continue to go. Even if you feel too uneasy to contribute to the collection basket. We attend mass to worship God and receive the Body and Blood of Christ because Communion, alone, can satisfy that hunger. By foregoing mass, we are hurting ourselves and our relationship with Christ.