News reports detailing the abuse and cover-up of abuse by priests and leading Shepherds in the Church have been ubiquitous of late. Many have weighed in on the causes, the solutions, the proper responses etc. Understandably there is much anger among the faithful and non-Catholics alike. Amid so much disgusting sin, betrayal, heartbreak, and particularly malicious evil there is one question I want to answer: why should anyone still remain in or join the Catholic Church given what we now know and what that might portend for future revelations? Some have said they can’t. Others have given reasons why we should. Briefly, I want to outline 3 reasons to remain with the Church during dark times.
The Catholic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ not of any Particular Cleric
The Catholic Church is the Body of Christ. It is the possession of God alone and not of any one man or group of men. He entrusted the care of his Church to His Apostles and they, in turn, gave that care over to their successors and so on down until the present day. The successors of the apostles are servants of God’s flock, they do not own it. Therefore, our faith should be rooted in Christ because He is the founder of the Church and the source of apostolic authority. To put it briefly, we have faith in Christ, not in His servants. The Church is founded upon Christ, His Teaching, His Life, Death, and Resurrection. It is not founded on the moral excellence of the shepherds He has entrusted the care of His Church to.
Now, some may say, “How can a church founded by God and endowed with His authority produce such wicked prelates?” “Doesn’t that speak against the Church’s divine mandate?” The short answers to these questions are because they are sinful human beings and no. To elaborate a bit, Jesus never promised that all leaders of the Church would display moral excellence. He never even promised the apostles themselves this. Indeed, sinfulness was in the Church from the beginning starting with Judas’s betrayal of Christ which was shortly followed by Peter’s denial. What Christ did promise was that the “gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16: 17-19).” This does seem to imply, though, that the gates of Hell would try to prevail. Is it not plausible then to assume that Hell would do its worst to try and keep as many as possible from the faith?
The current crisis (and many previous ones) seems to be exactly what Jesus described in the parable of weeds and wheat (Matthew 13: 24-30). The Church has been infiltrated by evil and sin, but it does not cease to be the Church of Christ because of this infiltration. We must regain focus on Christ, our Savior, Redeemer, and Lord. Now is the time to give Him our prayers, fasting, and talents to help Him rebuild His Church. We must remember that our faith is in Him not in the weeds or the wheat found within the Church.
Arguments for Protestantism don’t Improve Because Many Clerics Have Gravely Sinned
Anyone who has viewed the comments section of articles detailing the abuse and cover-up of abuse by Catholic priests is bound to find remarks along the lines of: “Time to find a bible based church that teaches salvation through faith alone.” Such snipes can be found on various social media as well. This viewpoint is fallacious to its core. It simply does not follow that because a number of bishops and priest have been found to be morally odious individuals that the teachings of the Catholic Church are therefore false. Such opportunistic evangelists would do well to remember the words of Jesus regarding the Pharisees.
Few in history were as wicked as the Pharisees were. Indeed it is hard to top the crime of conspiring to murder God Himself. However even given what Jesus knew about the moral depravity of the Pharisees (and He knew everything) He said, “They have established themselves on the seat of Moses do what they tell you…but do not imitate their actions for they tell you one thing and do another (emphasis added) (Matthew 23: 1-3). So, knowing full well that the Pharisees had abused the divine authority that had been given to them, Jesus still affirmed that same authority while at the same time rebuking them for their moral failings. In other words, what they were teaching was true, what they were doing was gravely sinful. Does the above not describe the situation we find today with many bishops and priests?[i]
Remember the Saints
In these times it is understandable to focus on the failings of those who otherwise seemed to be pious Catholics. But we need to remember and use as examples those who lived the faith to the fullest with heroic virtue. We need to remember the example of the saints. Many of them lived in times of crisis for the Church, not unlike our own.
St. Peter Damian battled against pervasive cases of sexual immorality among the clergy of his day and St. Teresa of Avila overcame great struggle to reform the Carmelite order which had grown lax. She also produced some of the great works of Spanish literature. St. Athanasius endured multiple exiles and trials for defending the triune nature of God against many heresies and weakness plaguing the Church. And St. Peter endured crucifixion upside down for the love of Christ. In times like these, we should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We should repeat the words of St. Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life (John 6:69).”
God’s Grace is the at the Heart of Renewal
In summary, we should remain in the Catholic Church because it is the Church of Jesus Christ possessed by His authority for teaching and for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church, not sinful bishops and priests. This authority does not lose its divine mandate even when clerics betray the very teachings they issue forth. And for strength to endure these times, we ought to turn to those who persevered in similar trials. Indeed, reading the lives of the saints have been known to makes saints out of those who read them.
And lastly, we need God’s grace to help reform His Church. The work of reform is the work of every Catholic since the Church is the body of Christ. As St. Paul said (1 Corinthians 12: 12-30), no part of the body can disregard the other, they are all one body and share in each other’s joy and pain. So we must receive God’s grace in prayer, in fasting, and in the sacraments. We must use His grace to aid the rest of the body which is in need of healing and cleansing, not desertion.
[i] For information on the errors within Protestant doctrines themselves, including the famous idea of Sola Scriptura see this account by a well known Catholic apologist who converted from Protestantism https://www.amazon.com/What-Authority-Evangelical-Discovers-Tradition/dp/1586177826/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=5DZ0J32S9MMCZJWAT4AA