Dear fellow Catholics: the church needs you now more than ever

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

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?”

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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.

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sheila gray
2 months 3 weeks ago

Dear Katie: You can demonstrate you care about Survivors in your own community. You can demand answers from your local Catholic Clergy, including nuns and women leaders, about what is being done now to reach out to survivors in your own parish. We need help. This is a dangerous time for victims and survivors. People are being triggered all over the place... with nowhere to turn. Survivors need Healing Centers, where people can gather together to help one another. We need your help now!!!

Jinny Wallerstedt
2 months 3 weeks ago

Yes, yes, and yes! Sadly, many of us have sexual abuse in our families (not involving priests) and, with recent revelations about the Church, have become once again deeply troubled, saddened, afraid, and disillusioned. My sister and I relied as children on the Church for "someone" to trust. This kind of abuse changes people for life...for life. And their families. And the spouses they eventually marry. And their children. And their friends. And on and on and on. It afflicts the heart, the mind, the body, and the spirit. As we resolve to remain Catholic, we MUST remember that this costly faithfulness includes finding ways to comfort and help heal those innocent brothers and sisters who have been torn asunder by people they looked up to and trusted. People who represented themselves as Christ's proxies on earth. Thank you, Sheila, for the reminder.

sheila gray
2 months 2 weeks ago

Jinny: I believe, through 49 years of being a survivor, that healing from clergy abuse is essentially about “unconditioning the conditioned mind”. 5 years ago I was very excited about Pope Francis. I started a FB Page, called, “The Open Gate”. If you go there (it is a Community Page) and scroll to the bottom you can see the progression of my thinking. We need Healing Centers. If you leave me your information I will contact you. This could be the beginning of creating the communities we Survivors need to beat this terrible tragedy of lost lives due to clergy abuse and endless cover-ups. Thank you for responding! We can do this... together.

Michael Ward
2 months 3 weeks ago

God Bless you Katie!!!! Hang in there. Be assured that there are many others who "ain't goin' anywhere". We need to be be stouthearted and wait for the Lord....and insist on the truth...because it will set us free.

john collins
2 months 2 weeks ago

Amen, Michael.

Thank you, Katie.

Lisa Weber
2 months 3 weeks ago

We stay Catholic, but we also need to insist on transparency in our leadership. Clericalism is the problem in this crisis and far too many Catholics are happy to remain blind because of clericalism.

KATHRYN LAMONT
2 months 3 weeks ago

Amen, amen! Thank you for voicing the concerns of myself and so many of my friends -the ones in the pews asking what do we do? Yes we need accountability, reform and maybe resignations, but that will not happen overnight. Prayer - Mass - Eucharist - Community...all these are needed now. Thank you for expressing so well what is in our hearts.

Jeffrey Essmann
2 months 3 weeks ago

Hey Katie: Thanks so much for this, especially for your focus on the Eucharist--and on your children. A couple weeks ago when all this was breaking, one night on my way home from work, feeling particularly hollowed out, coming out of the subway I prayed to God that I might see someone from the parish on my way home, just someone to remind me of my connection to all that was good in the church. And as I got to the top of the stairs, there was one of my third graders (I'm a catechist at my parish). He was one of my favorite kids. He loves talking about Jesus. And it occurred to me as I was talking to him that, wherever all this leads, whatever the church looks like in the future, whatever it's configuration, the kids need to be prepared for it. They need to be guided into the purity and mystery of faith. They need a place where they can talk about--and experience--Jesus. And I also remembered the thing about teaching by example--and the last thing they need is to see their example walking out the door.

Jeffrey Smith
2 months 3 weeks ago

Yes, we pray. Yes, we continue to show up on Sunday. Yes, we do the work of the church wherever and whenever we can. Yes, we work toward forgiving those who inflicted the most horrible abuse on innocent victims and those who allowed it to happen. No, we don't forget what was done. Too dangerous to do so. We remember what happened and, if necessary, we become the cross that our church's leaders have to bear, heavy and burdensome, so that they stop talking and start doing the right thing. I am a lifelong Catholic - gay, former religious, Catholic school teacher. Never laid a finger on a child. Weary of being blamed by arrogant, closed-minded folks in robes and pointy hats for this cesspool the church is in.

Vinka Soljan
2 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you, Katie, for this excellent article! Yes, We stay in the Church. St. Francis of Assisi appeared as a thin flame 8 centuries ago in Europe dark with heresy. That thin but powerful flame ignited the faith of our predecessors, spreading throughout Europe and the rest of the world, creating so much beauty that will sustain generations to come. Let’s keep the Faith!

Trisch Broach
2 months 2 weeks ago

Be strong, place your faith in Jesus, and pray for the Church He founded. When Jesus said, “ You are Peter (‘petros’, meaning rock), and on this rock I will build my church”, He then said “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Those “gates” have been attacking the Church for nearly 2,000 years but, through heresies and schisms and scandals, she has survived. The Church on Earth is served by humans, and humans can falter and fail. But the overwhelming majority of our priests are holy men who are true to God and to their vows. God cannot and does not ever fail. Our faith is not in mere men, but in Jesus, and His teachings, which are the teachings of our Church. The Church will survive this latest trial because of the promise of her Founder, Jesus Christ, God the Son - “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Place your faith and trust in Him.

Trisch Broach
2 months 2 weeks ago

Be strong, place your faith in Jesus, and pray for the Church He founded. When Jesus said, “ You are Peter (‘petros’, meaning rock), and on this rock I will build my church”, He then said “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Those “gates” have been attacking the Church for nearly 2,000 years but, through heresies and schisms and scandals, she has survived. The Church on Earth is served by humans, and humans can falter and fail. But the overwhelming majority of our priests are holy men who are true to God and to their vows. God cannot and does not ever fail. Our faith is not in mere men, but in Jesus, and His teachings, which are the teachings of our Church. The Church will survive this latest trial because of the promise of her Founder, Jesus Christ, God the Son - “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Place your faith and trust in Him.

Janis Barnard
2 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you so much for this. As I enter my seventh decade, I fear that that I won’t live to see the end of this scandal. I’m not going anywhere either. I spent 10 long years searching for another church, but none were my home. So I came home.

What was done was reprehensible and the price must be paid. It is being paid in loss of membership, financial reparations, vocations. And of course,by the victims. But I am the Church too. As others have said, much good continues to exist. So, I say, go ahead - remove the remaining members of the clergy who offended or who ignored and enabled the offenders. Let the rest of of us stay and pick up the pieces and keep building on our rock. It’s wonderful to see positive responses to your writing. I’ve been inspired to do less hand wringing and more praying for this church that I love so much.

Jacob Richardson
2 months 2 weeks ago

Many Catholic Bishops and Priests rape children and the Catholic church protects the Bishops and priests who rape children. Any person who remains part of this church is aiding and abetting child rape and is a servant of the devil. What part of "child rape is wrong" can't you understand??

Paige Smyth
2 months 2 weeks ago

I agree. If it were my child being raped and people continued to support that, I would be devastated

gerald nichols
2 months 2 weeks ago

Jacob, you need to realize that those writing here are also victims of the RCC. They only know to continue in their victimhood. They have been deceived just as I was until my eyes were opened to the Word of God in the Bible. I am sad for these victims and pray for them.

Paige Smyth
2 months 2 weeks ago

We will not give a penny to the Vatican. They are a mess. Francis needs to be ousted and a lot of leaders. For now we give to local Catholic charity and that’s it

gerald nichols
2 months 2 weeks ago

I doubt if this pablum works anymore for some Catholics.
I have read evidence of this all over the internet.

Vic Cortes
2 months 2 weeks ago

It has been going on for many years it needs to be stopped. Accountability and jail time is needed. From the top down those that his these crimes should be excommunicated from the Church including the Pope.

Vic Cortes
2 months 2 weeks ago

It has been going on for many years it needs to be stopped. Accountability and jail time is needed. From the top down those that his these crimes should be excommunicated from the Church including the Pope.

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