benedict option,  Catholic Spirituality,  sin,  spiritual warfare,  Suffering

I will never leave her

I have wrestled competing emotions these past few weeks over the scandals coming to light in the Catholic Church in America, and elsewhere. Fear and anger mixed with a profound grief that feels something like abandonment.

Abandonment by a trusted father. Betrayal by those whose missions were to protect and serve but whose power was misused to coerce and terrorize.

But I will never leave.

Today I sat in the third row in a creaking wooden pew, running my hands along the smooth surface mellowed by decades of worshippers sitting, standing, and kneeling in the place I now occupied. I was there for the closing of the diocesan phase of Servant of God Julia Greeley’s cause. Julia was a beloved figure in the early Church in Northern Colorado. At her death in 1918, she was mourned en masse, her open casket lying in state for hundreds of mourners over a period of several days. Born into slavery in Missouri, she found her life’s calling as a free woman in Colorado, working menial labor, spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and preaching the Gospel with her life.

She died with almost nothing to her name, and people came to mourn her as if she were a queen.

Archbishop Aquila preached briefly about Julia’s virtue and her simple, hidden witness to holiness. He likened her witness to the witness of St. Lawrence, the martyr whose feast we commemorate today. “You know,” he said thoughtfully, looking out at the assembled faithful in the pews, “it isn’t the authorities or political leaders or the executioners whose names we remember 1800 years or a century later, it’s Lawrence’s name. And Julia’s.”

A hundred years from now, what will Catholics in 2118 say about the Church at the turn of the 21st century? Will they remember a vicious predator who charmed the media and the powers that be while hiding his true nature behind a mask of power and privilege, or will they remember a generation of faithful Catholics who rose up and demanded that the masks be stripped away, that all the wickedness and poison be exposed to the harsh – and perhaps lethal – light of day.

Will they remember a faithful who doubled down in penance and reparation for sin, offering up their own sacrifices and sufferings to purify the Bride of Christ? Or will they remember a mass exodus of people finally fed up with hypocrisy and failure, resigned to seek their spiritual sustenance elsewhere?

I am angry. I am desperate for transparency and justice and for a profound reckoning of the atrocities committed by men whose very lives are meant to emulate the Good Shepherd, and who instead pattern themselves after Satan, the Father of Lies.

But I will never leave. I would rather die than leave the Bride of Christ alone in Her suffering, or turn away from the Eucharist which is the source and summit of our life.

I am angry and I am hurt and I am deeply, deeply confused.

And I will never leave.

Jesus, give us the grace we need to endure the horror of exposing the rot and the wreckage, the festering and the fractured. Keep us close to the heart of your Mother who knows firsthand the cost of the betrayal of an apostle. Who extended her arms to receive Your mutilated and lifeless body as it was lowered from the Cross.

She did not run from the betrayal that pierced her heart seven times. She endured. She persisted. She united her broken heart to Yours.

We must demand a profound self examination from our clergy, and from ourselves. And we must brace ourselves for the chaos of what is to come.

And we must beg Jesus for the strength to endure, to hold on when it is more tempting to cut and run.


  • Diann

    Thank you, Jenny for your encouraging words. I too am sad and concerned but will never leave the Church He established which makes communion with Him possible. God bless you and your family.

  • Sandy

    And to where will we go? The Eucharist is home in the Catholic Church. Just praying through the dark times and praying our bishops take the opportunity to cleanse their souls before they leave this earth.

  • jeanette

    After reading a bit of the latest news today, it seems that God is readily bringing good out of this evil. You see this one situation coming to light is bringing about probably the biggest change yet: it forces everyone to scramble quickly and start addressing the problem…from here forward, there will no longer be a sweeping under the rug, will there? Maybe there will be a thorough house-cleaning of those engaged in unchaste relationships, whether with seminarians, priests, or whomever.

    Homosexual or heterosexual, there is NO consensual sex permissible, and I think that is the other issue that needs to be fully addressed. There should be no looking the other way, there should be admonishment of one another for improper behavior without any hesitation. People are often weak in pointing out the faults of others when they have the same faults. Maybe this is part of what is going on in such cases.

    McCarrick is about my father’s age…and it is sad to think a man his age is finally faced with an ugly reality of a hidden past. How many others like him never had their sins exposed, never were publicly scrutinized, and never truly repented. But he gets to be the one whose sins are going to be the catalyst for what I suspect will be a huge change for the better. It’s no longer going to be possible to duck responsibility for this. So, amidst your anger, confusion, and disgust, realize that God will bring good out of this situation.

    And do pray for McCarrick’s soul. As an elderly man, he may not truly recall much detail of such actions buried long ago in his heart, covered over by a rejection of the truth about what he did, maybe lying to himself about his own failures. Pray for him to experience true contrition and the grace of remembering his sins so as to place them before his eyes and enable him to repent sincerely of them. And then pray for yourselves to become holy in your own life by living the virtues that oppose the sins he committed.

  • Kathryn Koen

    I am always uplifted by your writings. I stand with you in my promise to continue my faith in Jesus and my devotion to the church He formed. I pray for strength for all of us.

  • Laura

    This may be just the tip of the iceberg. Buckle your “pew” belts. I won’t leave either, but I am not naive enough to believe there is not much more to come. Organizations religious, or secular, do not do a good job of policing themselves. An outside group of lay people should do the investigations. Just today Cardinal O’Malley has begun another investigation of a Boston Seminary. There will be more unfortunately. We stay for the Eucharist and our own need for the Sacraments.

  • Alicia Lankowski

    I don’t usually comment Jenny but I have to say Amen to your post, too – I’m not leaving. And may we all pray and fast in the times ahead for our Pope and all of church leaders (and our country). In the book of Revelation, the church must go through the Passion, just like our Savior, and I do believe this is the church’s passion. I equate this to the 11 apostle’s during Jesus’s passion at the foot of the cross, only one apostle, John stayed. The rest disbursed out of fear. Those that will/have left the church due to the church’s (the bride of Christ) passion are the 10 apostle’s that hid during the darkest hours. I will stand at the foot of the Cross. And may the Lord always give me the strength do to so.

  • Caroline

    Of course you’ll never leave! Anyone who leaves over this doesn’t know their Faith well. If they did, there would be no question – ever – of leaving the Church! Penance, penance, penance – though it may be hard to offer up… “Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!” Our Lady, to St Bernadette, on her 8th apparition, in 1858.

  • Amanda

    This is beautifully written, especially with such a murky topic.
    You’re a brilliant writer, Jenny.

    I’ll never leave her, either. And I’ll stick around your blog, too.

  • Mary

    I too have been struggling with this. I am a survivor of abuse by my father and although I have come to the point in my life where I have forgiven him and look only to the times that were good the bad memories rear their ugly head when this comes to light. It takes a lot of prayer and trust not to go back to that time and it also takes a lot of prayer to forgive those in the clergy who have fallen.
    We are all sinners in some way or another and I know I am not called to judge.
    I also remember Peters response to Jesus – ” To whom shall we go” I can not leave this church it is my home. I know that the gates of hell will never prevail, that is where is where my hope lies.

  • Monica

    One of the key responses of the church should be an updating of the vocations discernment process. ALso looking into the future we have to look at care of young people in the church vis a vis not leaving them alone EVER with anyone.

  • Bruce

    How can you rationalize the rape and destruction of children by remaining with a corrupt religion. This problem has spanned generations. Is your need for the golden handshake with God so great nothing will spur you to behave as a rational, moral human being? The posts here are scary indeed in their utter failure to be proactive and see the problem for what it is.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      No indeed. The corruption must be purged and justice must be brought upon those who caused grievous injury to any child, teen, young person, middle aged person, old person, etc. I honestly think death is too gentle a penalty for someone who rapes a child. But will I leave the Church Christ gave His life for, leave the Eucharist which is His Body and Blood, because there are monsters within her ranks? No. The monsters will always be there. They must be rooted out and the evil destroyed, but no, I would never let the presence of evil drive me from the presence of God. I don’t know about a golden handshake, but what any unrepentant priest or bishop who sodomized a child or subordinate has waiting for him in the afterlife is terrifying to contemplate…Humanity is diabolically compromised at every level. Look around at the society we live in and the sexual disfigurement and horror that is inflicting injury on every single living person, and ask yourself if you seriously want to do life apart from God. That men wearing collars and professing fidelity to Him could choose to do so is horrifying.

    • Caroline

      Bruce, What is ‘the golden handshake’?

      Evil will always try to destroy Good; are we to run the other way when the devil seems to get the upper hand in the battle? That would be turning our back on Christ and his Church. The devil certainly won’t win the war, though he may take many down with him, and the one thing he wants it to take destroy Our Lord’s Church, His Bride. Stay strong, take heart, be not afraid!

    • Diann

      Bruce, it is not the religion that is corrupt, but the people in it. Just as in any human endeavor those who are in positions of leadership and power often tend to abuse it, this endeavor is not just human, it was begun by the Son of God Himself who even in his omniscience chose his betrayer. He cannot change us, unless we allow it and some of us would rather not.
      Poor decisions were made, cover ups were put in place, those in authority turned a blind eye to complaints and clear evidence about what was happening. We are still the Body of Christ, we just have to cut off the dead and rotting flesh of festering sin so that we can flourish healthy once more. If we sever completely from the Body, we will perish indeed.

    • GiannaT

      I will not give those SOBs the satisfaction of letting them drive me out of my home. I’m going to stay here and make a royal pain of myself until they change. I can do a lot more to reform the church from within her than without.

    • jeanette

      This is a sickness that is pervasive in our society, not just within the confines of the Catholic Church. The Church herself does not teach these behaviors, they are a symptom of our lack of sexual morality in our society at large. The covering up behavior is internal to processes of bureaucracy that also reflect the way scandals are handled in other areas of society. Think politics and damage control. Is that not a common behavior? It is not merely Catholic institutional behavior, it is pervasive in society. I also suspect there is a lot of legal advice going on in many of these incidents that run contrary to justice in an effort to minimize legal consequences. Are we examining the motives of the whole legal representation that gets involved in these situations? This is a very complex matter involving many players and many motives. The fact that members of the Church are behaving in ways that reflect our society is not something that means a “rational” person must therefore abandon their FAITH. Our faith is in Jesus Christ, and our faith teaches us that He instructed his apostles to carry that faith forward. Holiness is the task of all of us, and sin will enter into it. Men are not automatically holy by virtue of their baptism or ordination by any means. We have to correspond to the graces we receive and live in the truth, and this is what we believe. The fact that some do not live in the truth is not enough to require a “rational” person to quit believing. On the contrary, it makes belief all the more necessary. Belief that Jesus came to offer us something to overcome sin and death. So, perhaps you are not a believer now or ever were and you are judging the situation from the position of feeling like you are somehow more rational for not believing, and therefore see it from a different angle. If you are an outsider looking in, you have a particular lens through which you are viewing things. If you are a rejecter of the faith, having been inside of it before, you still look through a different lens, perhaps of one who is hurt, one who is doubtful, etc. This colors how you look at things. The issue at hand is not about those who choose to stay faithful, it is an issue of dealing with what is considered a betrayal of trust by our leaders in the faith. It certainly does not make one irrational to remain faithful to Jesus Christ as a Catholic.

      Having said that, you must realize there are other places where this kind of behavior of abuse goes on doesn’t get the same amount of press nor is it dealt with. The public school system is an example. Don’t you think, by your logic, that people ought to stop sending their children to school because abuse occurs there? Frankly, I’d welcome a cleaning house of the public school system comparable to what is going on here. I think it is irrational to allow a system that is compulsory by law to be left free to abuse children. So, let’s clean up our whole society while we are paying attention to this issue. How about other vulnerable populations in institutional settings, like the elderly, the mentally ill, the mentally disabled. Do you think perhaps there might be some cleaning up to do there as well? As I said already, to confine your comment about a rational response to the situation as requiring abandonment of our faith, you need to take your logic a step further and apply it to other situations. Then come back and see whether it really is a “rational” position. I don’t happen to think so. The rational position is to root out the problem wherever it exists, in the Catholic Church or elsewhere.

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