The Catholic Church reels, battered and broken. Many Catholics must ask themselves why they stay.
Last week, a jury found George Pell guilty of the sexual abuse of two children. That came as no surprise to many Catholics. Our poor church staggers under the weight of many heinous crimes and coverups by clergy, religious and the hierarchy.
Palpable sadness washes over ordinary Catholics who still take our places in the pews. We choose to stay. However, as a ‘cradle-Catholic’ (baptised as a baby and brought up as a Catholic) I’m shocked, bewildered and angry.
Abuse of power
The abuse of power by a male-dominated institution over victims and their families appals me. I denounce the weak attempts to buy victims off with paltry sums of money. Balance this with perpetrators in Courts of Law. Ostentatious and expensive lawyers argue their cases. Where does that money come from?
No one talks openly about the scandals. Perhaps the clergy think they can push away atrocities by keeping silent. A herd of elephants in our places of worship. As well, when people do talk, opinion is divided. I have written more in another blog.
Cognitive dissonance abounds because people’s beliefs and ideas about the church have been deeply challenged. We experience difficulty when we try to make sense of the evidence in front of us because it conflicts with what we ‘know’.
In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. A situation triggers discomfort when a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by the person. Wikipedia
Why do I stay in the Catholic Church?
- Years ago, I lost confidence in the top-heavy management and authority exercised by patriarchal bishops and priests. But I still experience solidarity with the kind, generous and loving people who make up the bulk of the Church.
- We are a pilgrim people walking a spiritual path, nurturing each other as a community of believers as we seek ‘truth, wisdom and beauty’.
- The Church is a human institution with all the fragility and sinfulness of such institutions. But, as my dear friend, the late Father Jim O’Brien, often said, ‘This is the Church Jesus left us.’
- In times of personal sorrow and pain, my faith comforts and sustains me. It leads to personal and spiritual growth. With the Church in turmoil, I sense a parallel process in the heart of the Church and in my own soul, leading to further growth.
- I concur with Francis Sullivan. He says: ‘I have benefited by being raised as a Catholic and being involved in social and spiritual apostolates of the Church. I have found the wisdom of the teaching and spiritual tradition a rich source of inspiration, information and discernment.’
- The catechism, learned by rote, consolidated my childhood faith. In addition, the heavy threat of sin and punishment hung over me. However, my mature faith and the Gospel teachings learned in the Catholic Church lead me to find love and abundance in my day-to-day life. I am nurtured by the Sacraments.
- Scandals battered the Church in the past. Then, reconciliation came about through the actions and faith of the laity. We should stay, because the laity will one day offset the power of the clergy as the Church renews itself.
Too often I take my faith and values for granted but I felt compelled to think and write about my deep need to stay connected to the Catholic Church. A soul-searching experience! With St Peter, challenged by Jesus, I would ask, ‘Lord, to whom should I go?’
I welcome comments, as always.