What’s a faithful Catholic to do?
There is a tremendous – and warranted – outcry of rage and betrayal in the Church right now.
I’m not talking about the usual suspects in the media and the voices coming from the cafeteria line, either. I’m talking about the men and women who have sacrificed and stood steadfast, serving the Church with their professional lives, settling for smaller salaries and raised eyebrows at cocktail parties when they disclose their line of work. The little old ladies who are daily communicants. The blue collar workers who pray a Rosary on their lunch breaks and fast on bread and water on Wednesdays. The underpaid Catholic school teachers and the harassed Catholic healthcare professionals.
In other words, the faithful.
The ones raising larger than average families on smaller than average budgets. Refusing to cave to the extraordinary societal pressure to relieve the emptiness of their wombs at any cost, and opting for adoption or even childlessness over IVF. Bearing patiently the slings and arrows of public opinion when it comes time to defend the Church when her ways are not the world’s ways. Tossing aside the contraceptives and using NFP instead. Forgoing the “pleasures” of pornography and honoring their marriage vows. Remaining celibate and suffering in loneliness as an abandoned spouse or a same-sex attracted person. Sacrificing to educate their children in the Faith in the face of extraordinary difficulty. Refusing to reduce the immutable dignity of every single human person to an object to be used or discarded.
And defending Holy Mother Church with the ultimate gift – one’s fidelity to the Faith – even as the world around us spins farther into secular materialism.
Fathers, these children of your flocks are suffering. Suffering over the grievous injuries done to those other children, the ones named in the Pennsylvania report, the ones whose innocence was shattered, whose dignity was spat upon, who suffered in their very bodies the wounds of Christ tortured and crucified.
We cannot sleep for weeping over these images, crying out to heaven that men ordained to act in the person of Christ at the altar could also rape, pillage, and destroy the most innocent.
We need to hear from you.
We need to hear lamentation and rage, resolution and public penances. We must know that you stand on the side of Christ, crucified and risen. That even if your diocese is beyond a shadow of suspicion in August of 2018, your father’s heart breaks and your stomach roils in anger over what happened in our Church – no matter which diocese and no matter what year.
Many of us carried heavy hearts into Mass for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary yesterday, lifting red and swollen eyes to heaven during the readings and beseeching God for any answers, any explanation.
Too many of us – not all, but many – were met with deafening silence from the pulpits when the time for the homily arrived. The silence tore deeper into the wounds rent by the horrifying grand jury report; there was scarcely time for a scab to form over last month’s McCarrick revelations.
We need to hear from our fathers. We need to hear your anger, your shame, your outrage, your sorrow, and your profound and sincere resolution that this evil will be purged from the ranks of the Church hierarchy, no matter what the cost.
When someone intentionally injures or violates my child, even if – and perhaps especially if – I am not the cause of the injury, he or she can count on my swift and unapologetic rage.
We need to see your hearts, fathers. We need to see and hear our bishops doing public acts of reparation and penance, or resigning the privilege of office if the circumstances warrant it.
We need to hear our priests – especially our pastors – speaking uncompromisingly and unceasingly about what is happening, about the war zone we American Catholics find ourselves in, about the corruption and satanic violence within our own ranks, and about what is being done to bring about justice.
If your bishop hasn’t issued talking points yet or the diocesan-level HR department is cautioning restraint, damn the restraint. Your people are suffering, and they need to know their spiritual fathers are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore.
What can we, as lay people, do at a moment such as this?
Pray. Pray as you never have before. Pray a daily Rosary with your family, if you have one. With your spouse or significant other or roommate. Alone or with a recording, if you have nobody else to pray with. Ask especially for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, St. Charles Lwanga (Google his martyrdom story) and St. Catherine of Siena.
Fast. Give up social media one day a week, or limit it to a few minutes a day. Get rid of one of the three or four platforms you’re using entirely, maybe. Offer up those pinpricks of dopamine denial for the cleansing of the Church, and for the souls of the victims living and deceased.
Purge your home of anything that is complicit with this culture of death. Vaguely pornographic media. Explicitly pornographic media. Showtime or HBO DirectTV or maybe even your high speed internet, if it’s an occasion of sin for you. Go through your library and destroy anything that is influenced by the occult. If your right arm causes you to sin, cut it off. We must be beyond reproach as Catholics going forward if we are to have any credibility with this world and, more importantly, with Christ.
Throw away your contraception. Your mind altering drugs. Your habit of gossip, of masturbation, of criticism, of getting drunk, of cheating “just a little” on your income taxes, of cheating on your spouse, of ignoring your children.
In other words, be a saint.
Our times call for great sanctity to counter this grave evil. And sinners like us, myself first and foremost, are the only material Our Lord has to work with.
Other practical suggestions:
Email, call, and write to your bishop’s office (and while you’re at it, to the Holy Father himself.) Be respectful and unrelenting in asking for a public meeting or an explanation of what your diocese is doing to address these evils. Ask your bishop what his plans are to clean up your local church if housekeeping needs to be done. Find out what measures are in place to protect youth and children and seminarians and old people and not so old people. Ask what standard of sexual integrity is set and maintained by the diocese of X. Do the same with your pastor. Be persistent. But love your Church enough to not stop until you get a satisfactory answer.
Tell your priest, once you’ve finished asking when his next related and excruciatingly clear homily will be preached, that you are praying for him. And then do so. Offer a specific act of penance every day for your priest. For any priest you know. Give up your daily coffee, your nightcap, your nighttime pleasure reading, a workout, salt on your food, etc. Do not leave our courageous priests and bishops unarmed in this time of agony for the Church. They are suffering as Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane, and they need our prayers.
We have decided for our family, that to avoid even the appearance of scandal and to protect all parties involved, it is best to avoid ever putting our priest friends – or any priest – in a situation where they are alone with a child of ours. I’m not talking about casual one-on-one talks with Father on the playground during recess, but being alone in a car, in a closed room, in a private home, etc. We are also exceedingly cautious about whom we leave our children with, and take into consideration the circumstances of any home or place they’ll be visiting. Most abuse takes place within the context of the extended family or trusted circle of friends, and we have chosen to err on the side of potentially giving offense by being “too careful.”
May Christ Jesus in whom we place our trust and confidence convict in our hearts a profound sorrow for all who suffer, and a firm resolution to spend ourselves utterly in striving to prevent future evil.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Hi Jenny, this is so what I needed to read right now. Thank you for a thoughtful and helpful piece. The Holy Spirit has gifted you with a wisdom and insight in dealing with the issues facing us as laity today. Sincerely, a sister in Christ from Canada 🇨🇦
God bless you and your family, Jenny! I am a daily communicant and have yet to hear anything from the pulpit since the McCarrick scandal from my pastor that speaks to this painful state of affairs. I have sobbed on the front row with my family, waiting for a priest to speak truth. And nothing. Even with the recent readings which have all been so pertinent!! I try not to judge or be holier than thou, but I pray just for some mention of these atrocities just to show some comraderie at the very least! Keep doing what you are doing. You seem like a great faithful Catholic, disciple, wife and mother. Take heart and don’t let your heart be troubled. ❤️
Our wonderful young priest at Mass today addressed the abuse directly but with tears in his eyes. My heart breaks for him and all the other faithful priests who are also victims of this evil as even devout Catholics find themselves viewing anyone in a Roman collar with suspicion. I keep thinking about a bumper sticker that was popular during the initial scandal that said “I am thankful for the many good priests”. There still are many good priests and they have never needed our prayers and support more than now.
Bravo. Yes to all of this.
Hi Jenny, I have been talking with your sister in law, Monica many times today about a reversal case but little did I know I would be reading your amazing piece tonight which Arina Grossu shared. My husband and I have been fasting and praying, believing that Jesus and Mary will help the victims be healed and the perpetrators to ask for forgiveness and do penance. It is a daunting task to keep praising our Church when our kids’ talk about leaving it due to their anger over the news of the Pennsylvania Report. The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the same today and forever, no matter what even priests and bishops do! Do you know Emily McBryan at CUA? God bless you so much!
Thank you so much clear posting this, I live in Pittsburgh, so we are right in the center of it. The assumption mass I went to the priest did an excellent job condemning while offering hope and encouraging us to fight evil. Keep writing about this. ❤️
If you don’t mind my asking, how does your family plan to handle confession for your children, considering that most parishes have closed door rooms rather than confessionals for this sacrament?
Good question. Our parish has confessional rooms with a narrow glass panel in the door for visibility. I imagine every parish will move to either hearing confessions in an open pew in the church or modifying their room-style confessionals to something compliant. I know confessionals with mandatory visibility are the mandatory standard for new builds. You could always ask the priest to hear your child’s confession in a pew in the sanctuary, the way many Advent and Lenten penance services are conducted. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to do it.
I wish they would bring back the old style confessionals in which the priest was alone and confession was done through a small screen, or face to face with the barrier between the priest and the person confessing. I always feel like I’m going into a closet or bathroom when I use the new confessionals.
Jenny, first of all, just thank you so much for sharing these words, thoughts, and practical + productive suggestions for action. I have been thinking about the confessional A Lot lately and, to be honest, I have been incredibly uneasy with my children entering a confessional since making their First Reconciliation over the past few years. My husband and I have been talking about how we wish confessionals allowed for visibility. I love this idea of confession heard in an open pew.
What are your thoughts on stopping the money we give to the Bishops, for things like the Annual Appeal? It’s hard when it could have negative consequences on good parishes.
Emily, you can specify to what you want to donate money to each Sunday. For example, you can write on the bottom memo section of the check “for electric bill only”, etc. A bishop can canonically and legally use money for whatever he deems, unless the donation is specified for a certain purpose. At this juncture, I wouldn’t donate to any Bishop Annual Appeal, but would continue donating to my parish, with specific intentions for use. They need to get the message. Where do you think all the payouts for these abuses have come from?
THANK YOU for speaking OUT LOUD what so many of us are thinking but are unable to get the words out due to our anger–our fury. As a daily Communicant, I thank God I am able to attend Mass daily at our beautiful Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians cared for by the holy Discalced Carmelites of the North American Province. As you most clearly stated, we must all arm ourselves with the weapons that will most surely defeat Satan–Holy Communion as often as possible, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and penance. Our Lady of Fatima hear our prayer!
From Canonist Edward Peters:
“I guess the point needs to be made expressly. If Cdl. Wuerl is still the Archbishop of Washington it is because Pope Francis wants him to be the Archbishop of Washington. Wuerl’s resignation from that office was submitted more than two years ago.”
It’s been reported today 7 of those priests were sent to a rehab center in Toronto. This is a facility north of the city treating alcoholic/depressed/burned out/pedophile/you name it priests. An article in the Toronto Star dated 2010 states the facility has fewer priests in residence as the wave of child sex abuse among clergy has largely declined. Choking on my morning coffee.
Our daughter stopped going to Mass years ago due to a skirt chasing priest. Though she was in her mid-20’s she was not worldly wise but he had a known past amongst the faithful, befriended and groomed her until she became wary of his intentions, thereupon he became offensive and angry so she gave up on the church. It isn’t only children these freaks are harming.
I have a cure for the lot of them – take them to the OR and have them become living organ donors. All their organs. If the end result is the end of their lives so be it, it would be a side effect, not an intentional execution. Perhaps if they donated their organs they would have been of some help to someone on this good earth.
Yes, I know the above isn’t acceptable, but can you tell how furious I am about the way Mother Church’s hierarchy have been mishandling the faithful? Their lack of attention and justice is in itself abuse. As Caroline suggests, all our donations will from now on be specifically earmarked. We have to be good stewards of our money and I agree, they need to get the message – money talks, always has, always will.
A lot of helpful reflective material in this blog post, and may I suggest re-reading the post and responses in the earlier “I Will Never Leave Her”. Thoughtful comments and as always Jeanette’s measured and faithful accompaniment.
I was approached (more like accosted) by someone last night who wanted to know what I thought about the Penn situation and the Church in general. Every off-the-cuff remark made by OHF and reported/distorted has been thrown at my husband and I by those who are aware we are faithful Catholics. We’ve been ridiculed on our way to Mass by neighbours who normally don’t have anything derogatory to say to us and who we’ve considered friends. I suspect all the faithful will be held accountable for the sins of the fathers on an ongoing basis. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving through time, talent, treasure – back to the basics and may we remain true to our Lord. I keep thinking about what Jeanette wrote about God about to bring good out of this.
So difficult Jean. I have had a few emails and IG messages this week along those lines. It’s a hard time to be Catholic no matter where you stand, I think, and my read is that it’s only going to get worse. Prayer, fasting, penance, you’re right…
Thank you Jenny. Your words are helping me to prepare a statement for the parish the Lord and my bishop have entrusted me to pastor.
Praise God. Thank you for your fidelity, father. You and all suffering, faithful priests are in my prayers. You will really be living out a Passion in the times we’re facing, I imagine.
Jenny, as a mother of sons (and daughters!) whose dream has been to one day see my boys serve at the altar, attend vocation discernment retreats throughout middle and high school, what do you recommend? There are LOTS of one-one time in closed space, outings, extra meetings alone with priest, when serving as altar boy. What can altar server parents do in times such as these? Thank you.
I struggle with this. We have an order of priests and religious we are very close to – spiritual direction, godfather to one of our children, stood up at our wedding, etc – when my sons are old enough to attend the Lifeteen and Covecrest camps they serve and be instructed in altar serving, I’m not sure what road we’ll cross. My initial thought is that any parish that would hold closed altar server trainings at a time like this would be crazy. Needs to be a parent(s) chaperone (and honestly, more involvement from moms would help tremendously) in any situation where kids and teens are alone with unrelated adults, period. Sleeping arrangements need to be clearly segregated and supervised, just like you’d expect on a school trip. I don’t see any great burden to having a mom or two or some well-formed dads chaperoning any kind of retreat or training or day of recollection. Thank you for reading!
From the globe and mail today:
Frankly, it will not be the last we discover of such horrors. The church has reacted of course, but always slowly, usually reluctantly and often incorrectly. It still treats offenders leniently, still covers up when it thinks it can and still refuses to address the major causes of abuse. One horribly regrettable response, for example, has been to try to link sexual abuse with homosexuality. It’s probably more difficult for a celibate gay man to enter a seminary under the allegedly progressive Pope Francis than it was under his more conservative predecessors. It’s not only an odious fallacy, but also a painful digression.
In fact, there are three genuine issues. First is enforced celibacy. Men denied sex do not become abusers, but abusers do look for places where they can disguise their crimes. There are a large number of gay priests – estimates are between 25 per cent and 50 per cent – and these men, some in relationships and some not, have to live a lie. Abusers exploit this culture of obfuscation to hide their crimes. A solution would be to ordain married men and to allow gay clergy to be open and honest.
Second is the extraordinary patriarchy that exists within the church. Women are not ordained, have very little influence and are excluded from decisions. While the presence of women doesn’t make abuse impossible, it certainly reduces the likelihood. The vast majority of abusers in any situation are men; women are more often survivors and have greater empathy and sensitivity to the issue, and they inject a gender balance that makes an abusive context more difficult to maintain.
Third is the rigid sense of authority that permeates the church, even under more liberal-minded pontiffs. This is still a clerical church, and until it is democratized, closed circles of secrecy will be formed whenever leadership is challenged.
The reality, however, is that the church will almost certainly continue to regard loving same-sex relationships as sinful, will never ordain women, and as Roman Catholicism is based on absolute central authority, will not genuinely empower the laity.
Abuse exists everywhere there is a power imbalance, and the church is not unique. But unless we admit that child sexual abuse within Roman Catholicism is due to systemic problems rather than human failing, the obscenity will not stop. Prayers simply aren’t enough.
Sorry, you lost me at “allow gay clergy to be open.” That would fix the issues that are spewing out of every seminary this week how…?
Thank you for this. I have two family members who were abused by a priest as young children, and the priest continued to be shuffled from parish to parish. The situation was never addressed. I’ve emailed my pastor to find out whether any kind of statement is going to be made to the parish regarding this, and offering my prayers for him as well.
Fr Brendan McConvery CSSR
Thanks ma’am! As a faithful priest, I am angry in the name of all those faithful Catholics of the sort you named and whom I have known from my childhood. Let us never forget that Jesus used a whip to drive out the money changers from the temple and there are worse than money changers here.
I am not a big blog commenter (really trying, ha!) but I wanted to get my thoughts out there. Was on vacation last week- ironically, in the state of PA visiting family. Attempted to go to Assumption Mass with the little ones but the GPS sent me to the wrong church. Apparently this particular parish has two locations (or took over another old church and they both have the same name). Anyhow, the church was locked. I rang the bell of the rectory next door (no answer) and tried calling- also no answer. Now I know why! We were in the mountains with minimal cell service and I didn’t find out what was going on until the evening news.
There are a thousand arguments as to why this happened and why the coverups continue. It’s just so sad. Like many have said, there were no mentions whatsoever during Sunday’s homily back at home. My pastor looked like he had been through the ringer but said nothing. Some allusions, maybe. The silence is deafening. Unfortunately, my opinion is that the general reaction to the silence is going to happen in the collection baskets. People are going to start docking their envelopes because they think/assume that initiatives such as the Cardinal’s Annual Appeal (what we have in Archdiocese of NY) and the regular Sunday collections are going to or have gone to coverups, payouts and lawsuits. Many ministries that would otherwise benefit from these funds are going to suffer as will our parishes. It’s awful. My heart breaks for the victims and their families.
I was thinking more as I was catching up on my reading last night and could sort of compare it to something that happens in my line of work. Am a nurse, and a growing problem in the field is drug diversion (where healthprofessionals steal narcotics for personal use or sell them). In my decade-ish career, this has happened on my particular unit but happens more than is admitted Hospitalwide. A particular incident last year was very shocking (can’t get too too specific because of privacy laws) but basically this person knew there was suspicion that they were being watched and still continued to abuse. Whether it was not giving patients their medications, withdrawing extra from the machine, or even sifting through the sharps container to find used syringes and go shoot up in the staff lounge (actually happened). This sad on so so many levels. Whether or not this individual had addictive tendencies before working, we don’t know. Or whether or not the culture of the work enviroment (very high stress, easy access to highly addictive narcotic drugs) contributed to it, we will never know. The reason I bring this story up is because my unit handled it like the Church has handled it’s own scandal- silence. The staff knew this person was fired and the rest of the story is sort of he said, she said, etc etc. There was no education for staff or counseling offered. Maybe administration didn’t want everyone to know because it’s bad for business (hospital is very well known) or they’re afraid others will follow? It’s bizarre. Statistics tell us there are probably others battling the same demons, so why not offer counseling to staff or education. Sort of on the lines of if you are having problems at work or personal life, there is help available. This is not worth losing your license over. We don’t even know what happened to this person. Instead, we now have cameras everywhere and have even stricter narcotic guidelines. It should be that way, but there should also be some tranparency on part of the hospital to not sweep this one under the rug and hope it doesn’t happen again …because big brother is watching.
Sorry for this being so long! Wanted to share my thoughts. Thank you so much for your blog! Praying for all.
On the subject of altar servers being in a vulnerable position, it seems one area of this problem can be resolved by making use of fathers as acolytes and permitting the children of acolytes to be altar servers with their fathers present, thus putting appropriate supervision over the situation and not putting priests into a position where scandal can occur, while at the same time engaging married men in a ministry appropriate to them.
Hi Jenny,thank you for a very sincere response to your problems in America.I am in Australia and sadly we too are facing the same problems and same responses..We have just concluded in the last year a Royal Commission into sexual abuse in all our countries institutions, including state and church and charities ,the lot and the final report like your grand jury one made for appalling and heart breaking reading that has shaken many Catholics such as me to the core of my being.We even have the spectacle of our most senior cleric Cardinal Pell on trial right now for abuse.So we know and share your pain and anger. Upon reflection being a few months ahead of you dealing with it all, I’m still a Catholic and will remain so thru thick and thin as the message Christ brought to our world is a good one , a loving one and no matter what, needs to be heard, believed and obeyed as really it’s the only way to be in this life.Forgiveness does not go out of fashion, love is always an amazing expression we can offer others,having a developed conscience will always keep evil at bay and so on it goes.The gifts Jesus gave to us are always relevant and in the face of the current atrocities much needed to get us thru this time of woe and testing. Lastly this must be a time for change and reform too. The institutional church must cede some or even a lot of it’s power to us the true believers the faithful and massively reform.Just one instance is fine tuning Christs’ message for our times.At the moment it’s splendidly ready for about 1700 AD. Christ has a great message, one that rescues us , saves us from the horrors of this existence and promises an amazing future.Can’t we as a church make this message resonate to all, everyone whether they be a Wall St tycoon worshipping money or a young kid trying to understand life and needing real advice and not platitudes and stuff they can not relate to,Gods’ message needs an update, refined for our times now ,to attract people and counter the evil narrative holding sway.And now is the right time to do it…..we must come out fighting for the light and never surrender never give in , we owe that to Jesus as he has saves us.
Both our bishop and priest have addressed the scandal. Our priest was crying through the whole speech. Our bishop gave instructions on what to do if anyone is a victim in the church and told us what happens to priests that are accused. I have never met a priest I have been wary of and pray that good honest men fill the position. As for confessionals we have older style ones with the priest going through one door and parishioner through the other with a wall and screen to talk through, so I have zero worries for my children in there.