The Catholic Church, my church, is in deep crisis. The abuse scandals globally and here in the U.S. are staggering. The response of the official Church so far has been sad, pathetic, and an insult to the “person in the pew.” Not to mention a total lack of justice and reality for the victims. There are no members of the official church who look good at this point, not even Pope Francis, even though the current attack on him right now by right-wing Catholics is merely an opportunity for them to vent their dislike of him. It’s amazing how nasty the “inside” of the Church is! In any case, the Pope’s first words about the Pennsylvania Report were very weak and showed that he has no awareness of the real nature and extent of the problem. He and so many others look at this as simply some “bad people” were active in the church and the rest of the prelates were not attentive enough and responsive enough. Or something like that. But as I pointed out in the previous posting, this problem is much, much larger than “some bad people” or even some “bad bishops.” It reveals a structural and a doctrinal problem that has been covered up as well for centuries. This leads me to think that nothing really substantial will happen–the official church will just wait to let the dust settle. Yes, a few prelates might “suffer” a bit, like losing their cushy positions; but I think it will mostly be the usual stuff in the long run. To borrow from a Roman historian lamenting the decadence of the Empire: We can neither stand our sickness, which is becoming terminal; nor can we stand the cure. I am afraid that there are some folks in the pews who are “taking the cure” their own way–they are leaving. It is happening in places like Ireland by the droves; and it is beginning here.
To be fair, I have seen quite a few op-ed pieces in recent days that voice a position for staying while others say they have had it. Both are usually cogent and make a good case for their position. I am reminded of a Hasidic story told by Martin Buber: Two rabbis are engaged in a heated debate about some point of the Law. A third rabbi comes by, hears their disagreement, and turns to Rabbi A and says “You are right.” Then he turns to Rabbi B and says “You also are right.” A fourth rabbi was walking by and overheard what this rabbi was saying. He becomes very agitated and says to this rabbi, “They both can’t be right; they are in total disagreement.” The third rabbi then turns to him and says, “You know what, you are also right!”
Recently I saw one of these articles in the online version of Salon magazine. Here is the link:
It is a very powerful statement by a woman who has been badly hurt by the Church but “stayed around” to fight the good fight until recently–the Pennsylvania report was the last straw. The best piece of this kind that I have seen even though I might not agree with every sentiment she utters–it seems she is going to go Episcopalian, but really do you think the Episcopal Church doesn’t have its “sewer” like we do? Yes, it is a lot smaller sewer simply because they are a lot smaller church. But I really respect her position and cannot disagree with its orientation. You really need to read it to understand what a lot of people are struggling with. Here is the concluding paragraph:
“My older teen became a holidays-only Catholic several years ago, but until recently, my 14-year-old and I still made a Sunday ritual of mass, and the meditative walk to and from church. My daughter doesn’t quite know yet how she wants to proceed, only that her lifelong parish is no longer a place she wishes to be a member of. She says she needs time to figure the rest out. As for me, I’ve always considered myself the making a scene, turning over tables in the temple kind of follower of Christ. And now, I’m following him right out the door of the Catholic church.”
And you know something, she is also right!
I was taken aback by her last sentence; it is actually an amazing image if you think about it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus calls himself a “gate,” and a “door.” You go in and out this door. It is because of Christ within her that she has a door to leave by. This sounds heretical! I prefer to stay (sort of), but I think she is right. And you know something, I am also right!