As a Catholic who’s been sickened by the atrocities against children within my church, I’ve struggled with where the scandal leaves me as a life-long Catholic. It’s time to call my church to task, as I believe Jesus would ask me to do.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you’re Catholic or not…
Dear Catholic Church,
I’m eternally grateful that, with the help of my family, you introduced me to God and cemented an unshakable belief in our heavenly Father, Jesus His son, and everlasting life.
My favorite part of Mass has always been the music that fills my soul as if I’m singing among a choir of heavenly angels. The Bible readings feed my faith and the sermons shape goals for my life. Within your walls, I felt safety and security and a sense of family and belonging, similar to how I felt during Sunday dinners at my Grandmother’s house. Within your walls, my heart was home.
And then stories about sexual abuse of children started popping up. My experience working at the church rectory as a teenager and what I witnessed within my childhood youth group told me with unquestionable certainty that the stories were true.
Then people said anyone who turns away from the church is a traitor. They said not to let the sins of a few bad priests shake your faith in the many good people. They said the sacraments were holy and independent of the fallible humans performing them. They said not to give up. To pray for the priests. To pray for the Church. They said my donations weren’t being used for legal fees to protect pedophiles. They said a lot of things that rubbed me the wrong way.
I’ve spent the past several years in an internal struggle that I equate to dysfunction within a family, since the Catholic Church and its “Fathers” have been my extended family for decades. So, if my earthly father rapes me, should I be expected to maintain a relationship with him? If my earthly father doesn’t rape me, but rapes my siblings or my friends, should I defend him? Should I maintain a relationship with him just because he never raped me? If my mother knows that my father is raping me and does nothing to protect me, is she innocent? If she never reports my abuse and he moves in with another unsuspecting family and does the same thing to those children, does my mother bear no responsibility?
Because I was never abused by a priest, can I just turn the other way? What about my childhood friend who was abused by a Brother? Does my complacency minimize the pain he suffered?
It’s only a handful of bad apples, they say. No, not really. If statistically it’s 6% of priests who’ve abused children, yes, that’s not a huge percentage, but it equates to a large number of priests. And when priests are moved from one parish to another for their “indiscretions”, putting them directly in the path of more unsuspecting and trusting families, how can the pastors, bishops, and cardinals who are well aware of the rigged system not be held accountable? How can someone shun me as a traitor if I want justice served and the nightmare to end? Why am I the bad guy if I want a light shone in the dark corners of this horror show? Why aren’t we all screaming for justice?
Being Catholic today is a little like an addictive drug. It’s hard to break free from the lifelong association, from the organization that brought me the best part of life itself – faith in a loving God. It feels like having a doting earthly father who treated me to fun family vacations and showered me with love and attention, yet raped my brother.
Does 6% evil count as pure evil? If my brother seems to have gotten on with his life, does that mean I can turn a blind eye to the abuse?
People say, “Don’t let the sins of the church break your faith.” Rest assured, NOTHING can break my faith. My faith is not based on the Catholic Church or any church. My faith is in a loving and fair God. One who asks me to love above all else.
I love you, Catholic Church, but I cannot condone the actions of the sexual predators you have cultivated and protected for so many years. For the love of my brothers and sisters, I must speak out against your sins against them. I cannot be a complacent sister, shoving all the dirty laundry into a closet, just because it didn’t happen to me.
When your pedophiles start going to jail for their actions, I might begin to trust you again. When those responsible for shuffling the perpetrators from assignment to assignment are finally held to task, you might gain back a bit of my respect.
In the meantime, I come to your house to let your beautiful music lift my soul, to hear the words of Jesus, and to share a dedicated time of prayer with my parish community.
You have broken my heart and shredded my trust in you. The only thing that might repair it is if you finally choose to do the right thing for your people, and I pray you will.
Your conflicted daughter