It’s impossible to find a silver lining in this week’s news that a Pennsylvania grand jury accused over 300 priests of abusing about 1,000 people over the course of 70 years. But for better or worse, I’m an idealist, so I always look for a silver lining. And without discounting the evil that was uncovered this week, here is my “silver lining”: I have spoken with many friends and read posts by many bloggers and social media influencers, all of whom are Catholic and are condemning this behavior (and its coverup) in the harshest language – while standing by the true Church created by Christ. To paraphrase Catholic Answers chaplain Fr. Hugh Barbour, our sadness and anger are, in fact, a sign of our love for Jesus and the Church.
If, however, you are feeling your faith in the Church shaken by this news, you are not alone. And there is hope that your faith can be restored. That’s because our faith is in the Church, in what God created and what God sustains – and not in the broken human beings who manage it here on earth.
“For every predator who has used the Church for sinful purposes,” writes author Tom Hoopes, “there are thousands of spiritual healers who Christ uses to reach us through the Church to forgive us, restore us and refresh us.” For every one of the 300 Pennsylvania priests accused of abuse, there are thousands and thousands of people like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Pope John Paul II, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Teresa Benedicta, St. Joseph, our own Blessed Mother … and countless others, living and dead, whom God has spoken through to guide His church.
For every person who has been hurt by a priest, there are millions who have been changed by one. For every person who has felt let down by a Church official, there are millions who have received Christ’s body and blood from one. For every person who has been made to feel that there is no place for them in the Church, there are millions who have found their home there.
The walls of that home are not perfect. There are cracks in the panelling and there are holes in the roof. But inside is the heart of Jesus, and no matter what happens, we will always find Him there.
In 2005, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later to become Pope Benedict XVI) shared this prayer:
Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.