I went to bed Saturday night with a feeling of deep sadness. After reading the 11-page bombshell testimony of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former apostolic nuncio to the United States, in which he alleges that bishops, cardinals and Pope Francis himself knew about the allegations of abuse against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and continued to support him in his ministry, I truly did not know what to think. The question that kept running through my head as I turned off the light and tossed and turned for hours was simply: If it is true, what do we do now? What happens next?
The same question weighed on my mind Sunday morning as my family and I made breakfast. My 1-year-old sat in her high chair, blissfully chewing on bananas and avocado toast. My husband brewed a pot of coffee. I made waffles. And as I laid my daughter down for her 9 a.m. nap and got ready to go to 11 a.m. Mass, I thought for a split second: “Do I really want to go today? How can I? What’s the point?”
If it is true, what do we do now? What happens next?
I think a lot of us are asking those questions as day after day another round of news sends tremors through the church. One day there are reports of terrible abuse and systemic cover-ups. Then there are confirmed rumors about a former cardinal doing awful things to the very men being formed to serve the church. The next day, there are allegations that this abuse and cover-up and immorality goes all the way to the top of the hierarchy. Caught in the midst of the news storm are the normal churchgoing Catholics who pray their rosaries, hang crucifixes on their walls, raise their children in the faith and diligently give of their hard-earned money to keep the church’s lights on. Now suddenly asking they are, “What do we do now?”
So what do we do?
We pray. More than we ever have, with more fervor, passion and hope than ever before. We cry out in anguish, we cling to the merciful and just Lord, and we beg him to cast out Satan and all his evil works and shed light on the truth.
We go to Mass. We sit in that pew, we sing, we sit, we stand, we kneel, we receive the Eucharist, and we go forth proclaiming the Gospel with our very lives, knowing full well that without the Mass, we will not survive, and without us, the church will not be who she needs to be in the world.
When staring into the face of abuse and grave sins, it would be far easier to simply walk away.
We demand transparency. We insist upon independent and thorough investigations, from top to bottom. We write letters. We attend listening sessions. We demand that no complaint go uninvestigated, no file unopened. It all must be revealed, no matter what may be found and no matter how hard it may be to see. The only way to heal the wound is to expose it completely so that the infection can be completely dug out.
We stay. We remain. We proudly, definitively and without hesitation declare that we are Catholic, and we live our Catholic faith more boldly than ever before.
I know this is all far easier to write about than it will be to execute. When staring into the face of abuse and grave sins, it would be far easier to simply walk away. When people go looking for answers to injustices in the church, sometimes lies are told and sides are almost always picked. We look at this church and think: “How can I stay here, in the midst of this sickness and destruction and dishonesty? Surely there’s someplace better.”
But there isn’t. Despite hurt and confusion and fear and doubt, we are called to remain, firmly rooted in the belief that Jesus Christ established this church, built it upon a rock and calls us to stay.
Jesus calmed that storm, and he will calm this one, too.
Jesus once slept in the bottom of a boat in the middle of a terrible storm. He napped. The apostles were bailing out water, trying to navigate stormy seas, and Jesus was taking a snooze. He woke up to the screams of the apostles, “Do you even care if we perish?”
Jesus calmed that storm, and he will calm this one, too. And we need to be here when he does.
I still went to Mass Sunday morning, and I prayed the Nicene Creed with pride, saying each word louder than I ever have before. I still received the Eucharist and knew, without an inkling of doubt, that without it I would not survive any of this. I still prayed a rosary with my child Sunday afternoon, thumbing each bead, begging Mary, the mother of the church, to lead us closer to her son. I will still serve the church as best I can, however I can, whenever I am called to.
What do we do now? What happens next? We stay Catholic. We are not Catholic because of men in collars who do or do not do the right thing. We, all sinners united in the pursuit of a relationship with Jesus, are the church. We stay Catholic because we need one another now more than ever.
We are Catholic because Jesus Christ established this church, unites us in this church, and even in the midst of turmoil and confusion and hurt and fear, we do not walk away. We do not bail out. We stay. We pray. We fight. We lead. We yell out to Jesus and beg him to calm the storm, and we stand there in awe, with steadfast faith, and watch as he does.