Some may wonder how that can be in the wake of the revelations about sexual predator Cardinal McCarrick who was an open secret among many of his brother bishops. Or in the wake of the grand jury report on Pennsylvania detailing 70 years of misconduct and systematic church coverup in six dioceses across the state. (PDF of report here.)
The Pennsylvania report which has been the subject of so much reporting is not really news. We got a lot of this bad news during the first wave of the scandals in the nineties and early aughts. The good part was that things seem to be on the mend, as the report itself mentions, in that much has improved over the last fifteen years. That is reason for hope.
For me the most illuminating part was that it went back seven decades, well beyond the common understanding of this problem arising as part of the post-Vatican II era and the sexual revolution. It made me think of Bishop Barron's reflections on the original scandal as a diabolical masterpiece because "that awful crisis just seemed too thought-through, too well-coordinated, to be simply the result of chance or wicked human choice."
My thoughts turned to Pope Leo XIII who is said to have written the St. Michael prayer in response to a vision he had of Satan being allowed to test the Church and choosing the 20th century. The visible threats to the Church during that time from changing governments and social values and other sources suddenly seemed like only one front in a global war. We fought the threats we could see while under the surface innocent people were victims of an evil we couldn't imagine. An evil perpetrated by a fifth column* of trusted priests and bishops.
For that reason I welcome the report. It sheds light into the darkness. I welcome the exposure of Archbishop McCarrick and those who joined his evil by their silence. If we do not see the source of an infection, the existence of a cancer, how can we eradicate it? Now we know the hard truth. Now we can work through the shock and horror of new knowledge. Now we can begin the long work of healing and rebuilding for the victims, for the Church, and, yes, even for the hated perpetrators and collaborators, many of whom are still in denial.
I know many are so angry and hurt and upset that they are talking of leaving or indeed have already left. I grieve for them but in my own case the reality of the Church is not the deeds these evil men have perpetrated in her name. They have corrupted and perverted the Truth that Christ gave us. Where could I go? There is nowhere else that has the fullness of truth. I am not happy about anything to do with this whole mess, but I am happy that the sure foundation of Christ and His Church is here for me.
As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”So how do we practice our own share of that healing and rebuilding work? Elizabeth Scalia has 7 good, practical steps we can take. They are at the bottom of her piece if you are in a hurry, though the whole thing is good. Here's the personal part for everyday:
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Gospel of John 6:66-69
I add to the above that we need to keep our priests and bishops in our prayers. The vast majority of priests are good men who are also in shock over the latest revelations, trying to shepherd their flocks through this flood of troubles. Likewise, not every bishop was part of the uncaring, collaborative hierarchy.
... commit to deepening your own prayer life. Pick up the Divine Office and pray some part of it daily. If the opportunity to pray before the Blessed Sacrament is available to you, take advantage of it. Ignore anyone who tells you that it’s an antiquated medieval piety best left behind, which is precisely the sort of stupid, arrogant thinking that helped bring us to where we are. How can praying before the very Presence of Christ be anything but good and powerful? Hint: it can’t.
- Help define what makes a healthy church and begin to be yourself the church you want to see by becoming an open conduit for the love, justice, and mercy of Christ, and the movement of the Holy Spirit, to come forth—even if how Christ defines justice and mercy is not quite as you would prefer; even if the Holy Spirit seems to be taking a turn you don’t understand. That openness is essential because it is a form of consent that speeds along both the action of the Spirit and the glory of God.
Two more imperatives:
- Offer up your own troubles for the healing of the Church and in reparation for all of her sins. Yes, offering it up is still a thing, and it is powerful.
*A group within a country at war who are sympathetic to or working for its enemies.