Horrific, atrocious, sickening, and appalling. These are words people around the nation are using to describe the recent scandal at a University: an ex-assistant football coach had sex toys sent to his University office, took pictures of his genitals in the White House, and worst of all, has outstanding domestic abuse charges disregarded by the coaching staff. The discussion is making waves throughout the country, in and outside the college football scene.
People are acknowledging the monstrosity and calling for action. Collegiate athletics do not endorse these awful actions, the individuals in the scandals are the perpetrators. So come kickoff Saturday, everybody will still be watching their favorite college teams.
Another scandal. Other sex abuses revealed. These within our very Mother Church. Archbishops and clergy with sexual abuse charges. The same words apply: horrific, atrocious, sickening, and appalling. The awful gravity of this stinks, reeks of grotesque manipulation and Satan.
Yes, the same words apply, however this situation within our very Church is different and, in the words of Law and Order SVU, “especially heinous.” Because this is the Catholic Church. Sexual abuse goes against everything that the Church proclaims and practices and these men were supposed to shepherd us and protect us from evil as best they could. And then some allowed it.
Are you enraged? Me too.
Feel betrayed? Sorrowful? Me too.
Hurting for the survivors? Me too… and much more.
Unfortunately, the tragedy does not stop with the abuse victims themselves. These horrific findings affect us all, because we are one body of Christ. And some of our brothers and sisters, maybe even you dear reader, feel that they can longer be a part of this Church because of the abuses coming to the light. How can I be a part of a Church that let this happen?
I’ll say it again.
Some of our brothers and sisters are leaving.
This too is a tragedy, and we should address it.
The Church is a human organization, like any other, run by human beings who are capable of great good and also evil. This NEVER excuses or justifies something egregiously horrible as sexual abuse. So we acknowledge, the Church is a human organization, but it's not a sports team. It is the body of Christ. When sexual abuse is covered up by people within the Church, we have been betrayed by the very institution that should be our one guaranteed safe space on this earth. Some men called to proclaim the Gospel and model it abused their power and this hurts. This pierces.
How are we responding? What are we doing about these sins and hurts within our Mother Church? How should, or even can, we respond?
Today my friend asked me, “Did they address the scandals in mass at that Church you went to?”
“Nope, they didn’t."
She responded, “they didn’t at mine either. I am incensed!” Definition of incensed: very angry, enraged.
Her next words: “We should be doing something! We should be talking about this.”
Yes, we should be talking. Because words are powerful. When we speak about something, put words to an event, we bring it to the light. And we need light right now to shine in this darkness. Sin wants to hide from the light. Satan wants us to sweep the evils we do or say or see under the table. This can even happen when we are in the Father’s house.
When we speak about something, put words to an event, we bring it to the light. And we need light right now to shine in this darkness.
In the Gospels, when Jesus encountered people making a mockery of His Father’s house, Jesus flipped tables. He did not waste time, to come back next week or next year to resolve it. He addressed the evil right then and there. Jesus made a whip and used it. And He didn’t flip tables for fun. People were making a mockery of His Father’s house. He was irate. He felt betrayed. Do these scandals not make a mockery of our Church today? Do they not make us feel betrayed?
So what can we do? How can we, as members of this beautiful and broken body that is the Catholic Church, flip over those tables and bring these sins to the light?
I simply have a starting point to offer: words.
Words. They have power. Words lead us to Christ or away from the Author of Life. We can manipulate them for good or for evil.
How do people come to know God? His Word. Both Incarnate and revealed in the Gospels.
Words. They captivate us, motivate us, reveal truth to us. Words are the way in which we transmit the messages of God, of His mercy and love, and the way we communicate with each other, the way we apologize and offer forgiveness.
Words. The currency for rapid news consumption. The only reason you are hearing my voice right now. Words. What are they doing for you in this moment? What words can you use to start conversations that are authentic and real and reveal God’s love and mercy in the midst of these atrocities?
Start a word revolution. Call out the evil and injustice and speak on the goodness of Mother Church amidst its brokenness. Talk about it on a local level so that we can address it in our communities and also universally as the Catholic (aka universal) Church. Speak about it so that people hear what the Church is actually about: healing and mercy and upholding the dignity of every human being. The body of Christ does not stand for cover ups or saving face. The body of Christ stands for justice, mercy, and love.
The body of Christ does not stand for cover ups or saving face. The body of Christ stands for justice, mercy, and love.
In our tech-savvy, uber connected world, sometimes it’s easy to forget about the local level. Have a conversation in person with someone about this crisis. Write a letter to your pastor or Bishop.
Speak up locally so we make sure this never happens again and that people know, to be Catholic means to fight for the truth, even when it is hard to say. To be Catholic means to be a part of a broken and beautiful family. This is not a crisis of faith but a crisis of sin, and that has been the story of human history. Nothing new, but this time the blows are severe.
This is not a crisis of faith but a crisis of sin, and that has been the story of human history.
If you feel like it is impossible to see the beauty in the midst of this ugliness, I hear you. But I promise that our God is so much bigger than this moment. The Catholic faith is so much more than a collar, a building, or the Vatican. The Catholic faith is Jesus Christ gasping for breath, dying for love of you, pierced on a cross. The Church exists to help you draw close to Him, that you may have eternal happiness with Christ. Know that and take courage.
The Church wants and needs your voice. Let’s speak up and start conversations.
So what can we do, sister? Use our words.
Ready to use your words but not sure where to start?
The Siena Project created templates for letters to clergy. Check them out here.