As a lifelong Catholic and as a person who has served in Catholic health care for more than 20 years, I am writing to give another perspective on the current sexual abuse crisis that is afflicting the Catholic Church.
Our faith is a rich one, something that I could not live without. Our church is more than the evil that it is now being subjected to, and there are many faithful bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay members who work daily to fulfill the mission entrusted to them by Jesus.
Everyone is aware of the numerous news reports depicting acts of sexual abuse on the part of some in the Catholic clergy. We also read that this problem has existed for a long, long time and has not been addressed or remedied by church leaders. This inaction and in many cases this outright concealment has caused many of the faithful to loose confidence in our bishops. How easy this is to understand, given that as a group, our bishops have been shown to be dishonest.
There is no doubt that many bishops have covered up evidence of sexual abuse and at least since 2002 have misled the public with claims that this problem has been resolved. Even conscientious bishops, whose own conduct and leadership were beyond reproach, contributed to the overall problem by failing to denounce those who were flagrantly corrupt and dishonest.
It is easy to become depressed when one looks upon the magnitude of this problem and when one considers the damage that these sins are doing to our church. But our church has many parts, even though we are all one body, and only a portion of our parts are sick.
The Catholic Church remains important and necessary even in the midst of the current turmoil and shame and is more than the individuals who have perpetuated such evil while claiming to serve her.
As Christian people, we need to remember that the church shows believers a path wherein we hope to reach our redemption. It has been entrusted with the teachings and traditions of Jesus Christ and shows us how to apply these teachings in our daily lives. All of us have physical and spiritual needs that must be met. The church helps us fulfill our spiritual needs, which allows us to achieve happiness and joy here on earth and look forward to life even after our time here is done. In addition to this, the church also helps fulfill the physical needs of those who cannot fend for themselves and are most in need.
The Catholic Church is also the largest private provider of health care, education, and many social services in the U.S. These ministries, were originally the lifelong mission for thousands of religious sisters and brothers and their congregations. They emphasize service to the poor and vulnerable and in many locations they are the only game in town. Currently, one in every six patients are treated at a Catholic health care facility. The church sponsors more than 7,400 schools and universities in the U.S. alone and serves the poor in diverse social programs.
The Catholic Church has also been an important voice in confronting injustice and providing a moral compass for society to follow. The goal (in spite of current circumstances) is to achieve the eternal salvation of people by spreading the gospel, taking care of each other, securing the common good, and testifying to the truth. Easier said than done, to be sure, but our world is losing its way; we need rules and guidelines for society to work.
I ask you to consider the good that still exists in the church. To remember the committed priests, deacons, religious and lay people who have devoted their lives to spreading the Good News and who are suffering so much in this time of trial as they mourn the plight of the victims and the actions of those we thought we knew.
More specifically, if you are a member of the Catholic Church, I ask you to consider working within the church so that together we can eliminate the evils that exist there. Please do not leave us now when you are needed the most.
If you are of another faith, please pray for us and try to understand that we are more than what appears in the news each day and that we remain your brothers in Christ.
Finally, if you feel that something is missing inside you spiritually and are searching for a faith tradition, please consider joining us. For all of the reasons I outline above and more, the Catholic faith is a rich and fulfilling faith tradition. Know that you are always welcome.
To conclude, I recall some of the final words of the risen Lord when he told us that he would be with us always and that he would never abandon us. May these words give us the hope and courage we will need to bring about healing, forgiveness, and reform in our church.
Terry Judd, Hennepin