I am unabashedly Catholic. I have never known any other way. I was born into a conservative Catholic family, was baptized as a baby, and raised surrounded by openness to life and the teachings of the Church. As I grew and matured, my faith matured and developed. I gradually went from, “I believe this because this is what Mom and Dad say is true…” to “I believe this because I know this to be true.” I remember vividly the day I received the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus, for the first time. I wept all the way back to my pew. I still have that same awe and reverence for the Eucharist.
As a child, I had a complete, unwavering trust in the clergy. I felt great respect for the men who had taken holy orders and were guides of His flock. The roman collars evoked feelings of trust, understanding, and acceptance as a child and into adulthood. Approaching these men for the sacraments was always a very deep spiritual process for me. They acted for Christ, having promised chastity and obedience to His holy way.
I tend to shy away from open, contentious religious debates. Most of the time, I believe, these conversations do not “convert” anyone. Instead, they wound and divide. I live my faith. I tend to live by the quote loosely attributed to St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel and when necessary use words.” I try to love everyone I meet. I try to shower them in His love, so that they are happier when they leave me than when they first came upon me. I believe only love–His true love–is what will change the world. I think that actions are, often, stronger than words.
But I will fight for my faith. Make no mistake. The faith that sustained me through years of severe bullying in high school, the faith in which I immersed myself in college, the same faith that held me up during terribly dark times as an adult–I will fight for that faith. I will, if necessary, tell someone why I don’t support abortion. I will explain, as lovingly as I can, why I have homosexual friends but do not, cannot, condone their lifestyles. I will kind explain to someone why I do not agree with birth control while defending the beauty of being open to life. I will fight. I will get angry and defensive for my faith. Especially when men who took an oath of God perverted their role to abuse children.
That is not the Catholic faith.
I became deeply upset when I read the news about the priest abuse scandal in Pennsylvania. I did not hide from it; I read numerous articles. I saw the list enumerating all the abuses by all the priests in graphic, awful detail. I was physically sick; I wept. These men and their atrocious actions directly violate the Catholic faith and its teachings.
If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matt 8:16
These men, who inherently had the respect and trust of parents and especially children, sexually abused the children and broke them. Hundreds of children approached the sacrament of Confession, met with priests for counseling, discerned a vocation through altar serving, and were hurt in one of the worst ways a child can be. Their innocence was broken, their spirits deeply wounded, their lives irreparably altered. But something sickened me further. So many parents, who’s children told them they were sexually abused, told the children to keep quiet or refused to do report anything. So, instead, the children were victimized twice. Their priests attacked them and their parents abandoned them. Those crimes that were reported were ignored or diminished.
So I say this:
To any priest or bishop who sexually attacked and abused a child:
Shame on you. Many of you are dead. While you avoided justice in this life, you have met the justice and wrath of God. This brings me great comfort, for you are now realizing the truth behind Matthew 8:16. For those of you still alive, I pray that you come forth and confess your crimes both legally and spiritually. Part of receiving the sacrament of Confession is making restitution for your sins. I hope that you receive the full effects of the law.
To any clergy who covered up or diminished the crimes of sexual abuse of a child:
Shame on you. You need to step down and face the consequences of your actions. You revictimized numerous children and their parents. It takes great courage to step up and report any sort of sexual abuse. You told that child and his/her parents that they were not worth fighting for. You diminished their worth and broke them further. You, too, should face the full effects of the law, both spiritually and legally.
Neither of you represent my Church, you do not represent my Faith, and you most certainly do not represent my God. You go against everything my Church and God teach. You should be removed from your post and put in jail.
To clarify, the Catholic Church exists both in Heaven and on Earth, is both spiritual and physical:
The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchal society and the Mystical Body of Christ. She is one yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept.
There are two aspects to the Catholic Church–the human and divine. While the Divine is perfect and glorious, the earthly Church is run by men. All men, born with original sin, are flawed. We either choose to employ our will to overcome our flawed nature, or we give into sin. There have been terrible scandals, abuses, and heresies, among many grave sins, that have surfaced in the Catholic Church throughout history. This does not make them right. Instead the Church acted and rooted out the evil.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matt 16:18
As such, I am calling on my Catholic Church to root out this evil, once and for all. This starts on a small level, inside each diocese, taking the time and necessary action to root out any sexual abuse and to punish them to the fullest extent of the law. We must put in place whatever necessary measures to prevent this from happening again (as much as is possible). I will be writing my priests, bishops, and cardinals. I will be using my voice as a channel of His love and justice. Those victims did not have a voice when they were sexually abused, but I will be their voice now.
The Church in heaven weeps; Christ is turning over tables. Fellow Catholics, speak up with me. Fight with me. Defend the beauty and truth in our Faith. My Christian brothers and sisters who do not share my faith, know these great atrocities are not Catholic. They do not represent my faith. These criminals who paraded or parade about with roman collars do not represent my church. They do not act for Christ.
I will not stay quiet about this. I owe it to my faith, my Church, my God, and my children. Anyone who has ever sexually abused a child or anyone ought to be deeply ashamed. Anyone who has covered up or ignored sexual abuse ought to be deeply ashamed. As a mother, a Christian, a Catholic, a child of God, I have the responsibility to fight for the good and justice of these victims. I encourage you to do the same.
I am not afraid. I was born to do this.
St. Joan of Arc