Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? (Luke 5:23)
As a parishioner in the Diocese of Harrisburg for only 18 months, for me, it was Boston all over again.
I have seen this before and I know what to expect—at least I thought I did.
In 2002 when the Boston Globe news report revealed the scandal in the Catholic Church, we were In Massachusetts, living in the thick of it. People began to leave the Church in droves. Sadness and anger were palatable everywhere. Friends and neighbors, both Catholic and non-Catholic, asked me how I could remain in a Church where so much evil had taken place for so long. I defended my faith, but it was sad and exhausting, and I thought the scandal had ended.
Pennsylvania Grand Jury
Now, sixteen years later I am here, in it again, paralyzed with the knowledge that this evil is so pervasive, and it is in my Church. I have spent the days since the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report released feeling saddened, betrayed and repulsed as I begin to read the staggering claims it contains. Once again, the phone is ringing, and people are asking me what is going on with the Church and why I am defending my faith, but not the reprehensible actions of those who have betrayed so many innocents.
The roof has been blown off our Church. A hole has been opened to let in the light of Christ and expose the evil—everywhere, not just in Pennsylvania and Boston.
And so, rather than lay on our mat of despair, we must rise and walk boldly to repair our Church. As Chris Stefanik said so well in his Instagram infographic—”this is no time for weakness.”
Catholic Friends Help
So, with the help of some Catholic friends, I am spurred to action. Many of these “friends” I have never met, but they touch my spiritual journey by reminding me of the gospel of Christ in their words and actions. I am grateful for their presence in my life.
Friends like Kendra Teirney and Bonnie Engstrom and all the other Catholics with a social media presence who banded together to take action and call for 40 Days of prayer and fasting in #sackclothandashes. Though we have never met face-to-face, you inspire me to join you in this spiritual revolution.
Thank you to the friends and parishioners who packed our church in this past Sunday. I walked in expecting the pews to be empty, but they were full, and my family and I stood in the vestibule for Mass. Your presence is a gift.
Thank you to the priests in our parish for speaking so openly about the crisis and wearing vestments of purple penance to remind us of the sin that exists in our Church. As our new parochial vicar, Reverend Steven Arena said in his August 19 homily: “being the one true Church established by Christ entails the duty of being held to the highest of all standards. In which case, should there have even been only one, single, individual case of abuse in the entire 2,000-year history of the Church, throughout the whole world, that would be one too many.”
Thank you to the priests and bishops who are good shepherds of the flock. Thank you, Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, for addressing this crisis with speed and forthrightness. Thank you for your kindness to the victims.
Rise and Walk
Leah Darrow, thank you for reminding us that we must “lean deep into the mercy of Christ Jesus”. Your infographic with the words of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen about the mission of the laity, regarding our priests and bishops, inspires us to action.
In a letter to the students of Catholic University, President John Garvey addressed the crisis with his characteristic eloquence, saying: “the Church is experiencing a moment of real crisis. I encourage you to prepare yourselves to take on key roles in rebuilding Christ’s Church. Pray fervently for survivors. And pray for religious vocations; encourage men and women to consider such vocations as part of the Church’s renewal, joining the many virtuous clergy who continue to serve. And decide how you can best serve.” Thank you, President Garvey, for once again walking the walk and upholding the reputation of this truly Catholic university.
Thank you, Teresa Tomeo and Birgit Jones for reminding me once again of Jesus’ promise to us when he began to build his Church. “And I tell you, that you are Peter, and, on this rock, I will build my Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18). This promise alone sustains me daily. A promise from God. The Church will survive.
What is your role in rebuilding Christ’s Church? Prayerfully consider your personal vocation in this world and how it can help our Church.
It is my hope that one day, when this roof is repaired, and our Church is restored, it can be said of those who observe us: “And astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, “We have seen incredible things today.” (Luke 5:26)