Thursday, September 6, 2018


From the most faithful, faithful Catholic, to the vaguely nominal Catholic to the anti-Catholic it seems most people want to weigh in on the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.  If and when you are pulled in to one of these conversations, here some things to avoid:

Don’t equate (or allow others to) the faith with the sins of some (or all!) of its members.  There are two different things going on here.  The problem here is what happens when a person or group of persons DON’T follow the faith.  It is a failure of persons - not a failure of faith.  Whether you are a pope or student in 2nd grade at your local parish school, you still have free will, and concupiscence still effects you and from time to time we fail.  Sometimes spectacularly.  It is why we have the sacrament of confession for one.

Don’t defend the actions of those who did wrong.  It was a horrible thing and we should all be appalled.  “Well it’s worse in . . .” doesn’t help.  It was wrong and by our faith those who participated need to face the consequences of their actions.  One does not hate the United States because somebody abused their freedom. We still believe in the United States and in freedom, we know we just need to deal with the abuse.

Don’t deny that the Church has sinners in it.  There are 1.2 billion Catholics - more than half of all the Christians in the world.  We are Church of sinners.  Some are terribly rotten.  It is embarrassing that some of them call themselves Catholic.  But seriously - 1.2 billion people.  Yeah  - some of mess up big time.

Don’t let someone tell you that this is RESULT of the faith.  (“Just look at the Crusades!”)  I bet you can name more saints than another sinners, more great institutions than another wars.  And those things that they are able to name - how many were a result of persons running contradictory actions to the faith?

Don’t let someone tell you something that sounds fishy without backing it up.  An editorial recently (it may be blog fodder next week) stated that this is a sign that we need to get rid of priestly celibacy, as if that somehow caused it.  There was no citation, no reasoning why this move would solve all or even some of the crisis problems.  If it did, there would be none of these problems in marriages.

Don’t clump broad swaths of people into a group, “Those bishops!  Those priests!” as if they were all the same - it perpetuates what we would call in other circles prejudice or guilt by association.  It ruins the reputations of good people.

Don’t take on the sins as if they belong to the whole Catholic Church.  They belong to those who sinned.

Don’t make those who sin “the others.”  In exactly the opposite of the last point, when part of the Body of Christ is effected, the whole body is effected.  The Church needs to examine herself, make amends, do penance.  We are not islands unto ourselves.  We are one.  We take on each others victories and faults and work together as a body to both build up and purify the Church.


Kim Miller said...

Words I needed to hear today Fr Valencheck. God bless you and Fr Simone and thank you!

Anonymous said...

Well and wisely stated, Father (and btw - I think it is splendid that you have asked that the St. Michael Prayer be recited at the end of every Mass - I hope my parish does the same, or perhaps the Memorare - we *need* this.)

Every time disaster strikes in the Church, it seems the usual suspects drag out the women's ordination/married clergy position, which is very distracting, and in this particular crisis, has absolutely nothing to do with the problem nor the solution.

Being married would not have prevented those guilty of criminal and moral deviancy from striking out at their victims - worse, it would have hurt their spouses and children - and dreadfully, they may have funneled their violence and unspeakable sin toward their own families.

Writing as a woman who has spent her adult life working with women, I can assure you that, sadly, women are fully capable of deviancy, sin, and abuse of authority, as well as extremely bad judgment. Ordaining women because of the premise that grown men cannot be trusted to keep their hands to themselves is absolutely ridiculous.

Both these subjects have been addressed by the last few popes, including Pope Francis, and all have reaffirmed the wisdom of the Church and its teaching on these issues. It is off the table.

Now, we must wait for the Pope and the hierarchy to speak and act in accordance with faithful Church teaching and the moral law of God. And then perhaps we can go forward and repair the breach of Faith and trust that now exists between those guilty of horrific sin in the clergy and hierarchy, and the faithful laity and clergy. As Jesus asked of my good St. Francis - "Francis, rebuild My Church, which, as you see, has fallen into ruin!"

God bless and protect everyone at St. Sebastian, and all of our brokenhearted Church - Sue from St. B

Cyndy said...

Bertrand Russell was a strange old guy but this post reminded me of something he had written: "The life of Man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, towards a goal that few can hope to reach, and where none may tarry long. One by one, as they march, our comrades vanish form our sight, seized by the silent orders of omnipotent Death. Very brief is the time in which we can help them, in which their happiness or misery is decided. Be it ours to shed sunshine on their path, to lighten their sorrows by the balm of sympathy, to give them the pure joy of a never-tiring affection, to strengthen failing courage, to instill faith in times of despair."
I'm sure Bertrand didn't intend this to be a theological metaphor but I think it makes a good one. As Catholics, we have all chosen to take a certain path through life. Not all of us will reach the same destination but that doesn't mean we should abandon the journey.

Pat said...

Regarding married priests as a way to avoid such scandal, people who say this have not thought deeply about this proposal. The men who perpetrated these crimes of abuse are not "marriage material." They have deep-seated problems and wounds of their souls that drove them to such actions.

I wouldn't want a daughter of mine to marry someone so that he would not have recourse to adolescent boys and young men (which describes a great majority of the victims who have come forward over the years) . . or young girls either. No thanks!

Fr. Christopher Trenta said...

A retired engineer relative of mine once described her response as an executive to a “crisis” caused by some members on a project team she headed. When the problem came to her attention, she notified her boss to the costly mis-calculations done by members of her team. While describing what happened she bravely included, “I accept responsibility for the mistake.” Her boss demurred, “But it’s not your fault! Your didn’t make the miscalculation.” She responded, “I didn’t say I was at fault, I said I take responsibility. I said this because it was my team’s project and I am the project leader.” As leader and role model to both her team and her boss, she showed great poise to take responsibility for the problem (and it’s resolution) even though she clearly didn’t cause it nor would she be held at fault for it by her boss. While in justice we should all be concerned that those at fault for the Church’s present problems are treated accordingly, we should never allow the desire to ensure the blame finger is not pointed in our direction to prevent us from accepting our clear responsibility to act as part of the solution. All of us faithful Catholics, and our friends of good will in civic life or in other denominations and religions, have the responsibility to work together to make sure these crimes and moral failures don’t happen again and that our children and others in vulnerable positions in life are well protected. And while the great majority of us Catholics truly may not be at fault, the responsibility remains ours to act now in pursuit of a just resolution which continues to include substantive care for all victims and attentive administration of the policies and procedures developed in response to these grevious situations.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree, Fr. Trenta. However, outside of praying (as Fr. V has asked of those who attend Masses at St. Sebastian, by praying the St. Michael prayer at the end of Mass, which is a fine and holy thing), and being reminded by Bishop Perez to be sure to report any unseemly behavior to the appropriate civil and Church authorities, we in the laity have received little or no leadership in this area, nor have we seen much positive and decisive action to ensure this never happens again.

Meaning no disrespect, this does *not* encourage confidence, which is why so many of us are angry and uneasy and distressed. We in the faithful laity also have the vague feeling that those respected and beloved clergy/hierarchy have played us for fools, and that we do not know whom to trust. It is as if our clergy have been wearing masks all this time, that we do not really know them.

Further, many of us have seen our parishes and schools - our spiritual homes - closed and sold in order to pay for victim settlements, and then were told we need to increase our offertory donations because there is not enough money to pay for Church institutions. And then we were told we are not doing enough to encourage vocations, and it was our fault there are not enough priests and religious to staff our remaining parishes and schools. All the while some, such as Archbishop McCarrick, had beach houses, limousines, grand homes, servants, and opulent lifestyles, we were sacrificing to support what was left of our Church institutions, while we could not even afford Catholic schooling for our children.

Respectfully, Father, knowing what went on in some seminaries, such as those patronized by Archbishop McCarrick, if I had a beloved son who told me he had a vocation, I would be horrified and frightened. Nothing would please me more than to know a child of mine would want to serve the Church, but to know that child would be exposed to evil and abuse, and perhaps the loss of his soul, by our own hierarchy and clergy is too much.

In short, we in the faithful laity and faithful clergy have borne the blame, shame, and cost of clerical abuse all these years. To know it continues, and worse, is rewarded, even after the horrors of the last round of scandals and humiliation, after we were told to trust our Church leaders that this would be prevented in future, is shocking and horrid. The only meaningful gift we in the faithful laity can give to our clergy and hierarchy is trust. To know it was so unappreciated and thoughtlessly disowned, is devastating. It will be a long time before trust can be restored.

Please be assured that most of us, I think, want desperately to defend the Church and do the right thing. We do not want to see our Church humiliated and worse, God so greatly offended. Nor do we want to see our beloved, faithful parish priests and bishops lumped in with the disgraceful and unspeakable actions of evil clergy and hierarchy.

Personally, I think what is called for is firm, truly faithful leadership in the face of this evil, and a reminder to all of us of our dependence on the mercy of God to deliver us from this catastrophe. Not silence, and not dry, cold, legalistic "statements".

I apologize for the length of this and for unloading on you, but I want you to know why many of us in the laity feel as we do, and that yes, the guilty need to answer for these dreadful offenses.

With great respect to you, Fr. V, Fr. S, and all our good and holy priests -
Susan, OFS

Father Christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Father Christopher said...

Exactly! I agree with you, Sue, and believe we all need to do a better job listening to each other, especially us who are clergy to the concerns of the laity. While we can express our own personal displeasure, shock and abhorrence for what brother priests/bishops have done and failed to do, we must not shy away from the authentic expressions of pain, shock, and devastation that are being expressed by faithful Catholics and non-Catholics alike. And we need to know in a visceral way that our faithful will not be silent about these problems until the measures they continue to expect have been appropriately addressed and the needed changes actually implemented and effectively communicated. Much good has been done in Cleveland, for example. The support for vocations at all levels of our diocesan community has been quietly bearing much good result since the early 2000's. Yet much work continues to be needed universally. The stories we've heard, which are so devastating to hear, remind us all of the need for constant vigilance and proactive leadership. In addition to the prayers (Fr. V) and the alertness (Bishop Perez) mentioned, your insight about good leadership is spot on! To that end, all faithful Catholics could also proactively inform the diocese about the good and holy priests whom they think would be good candidates for leadership within the diocese or as a bishop some day. They can also inform the diocese of concerns about the clergy, even if it's how they're not-working or over-working themselves or burning themselves out. Either way it would only take a simple letter to begin. That is one way to begin to have your voice heard in the deliberations that lead to the selection of new bishops or diocesan leadership. Additionally, I would also support greater transparency in the process for how candidates are selected to become bishops. There is a lot of back and forth history that led to the process in place today, but it is perhaps due for an update, or at least needs to be more clearly communicated and understood so that every faithful Catholic can know how and when they can let their voice be heard regarding the selection of candidates.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response, Fr. Trenta.

The most important thing, I think, which has perhaps been forgotten by the hierarchy, is the salvation and protection of souls - all souls - but particularly those for which they are responsible. Not partisan politics, not trendy issues of the day, but simply, and most urgently, to lead us to Jesus and to keep us close to Him. As a Secular Franciscan, I do my best to live the Gospel and to bring the Gospel to life, in my poor imitation of St. Francis. *That*, it seems to me, is also the mission of the Church. Sadly, with few exceptions, we seldom see it in the hierarchy, although we often are blessed by hard-working, faithful, selfless priests at the parish level, at your parish and at mine.

When we in the faithful laity, and I expect, the faithful clergy, see debacles such as the "gala" which took place in May, sponsored and promoted by the Vatican and the Archdiocese of NY, which was supposedly on Catholic imagery, but which instead resulted in celebrities wearing Sacramentals and liturgical attire in a disrespectful and insulting way, it is a bit much to take. We were taught to reverence these things, and our leadership seems to think it is all a joke. Similarly, when our leadership contends that the Pope has better things to do, such as involve himself in environmental and political issues, than to tend to the victims of clerical and hierarchical abuse, not to mention liturgical and doctrinal abuse, it does little to console or to reassure us of the Church's true mission. Nor does silence. How are we to seriously defend our Faith when our hierarchy does not have our backs?

Anyway, I am sure I have taken up far too much of your time - I am well aware you are a conscientious and very fine priest, thanks be to God! I have been very uneasy and upset about this issue for quite some time, and your thoughts have been reassuring. I think the thing we all need to remember as Catholics is that considering ourselves as "liberal" or "conservative", or "traditional" or "progressive" is worthless. The only label we should aspire to is "faithful".

God bless and protect you - Sue from St. B

Pat said...

From what I understand, the abuse of "children" (pre-puberty, in particular) has been so greatly reduced since the Dallas Charter in 2002, that our children are really much safer in Catholic institutions (VIRTUS is required even for lay volunteers, for example).

The abuse of pubescent and post-pubescent minors—mostly male— is rarely mentioned, even though the bulk of the abuse has always been in that age group. And now we find that those over 18 (seminarians and young priests in particular) have also been subjected to abuse.

Yet, the Bishops have tended to remain mute on the above facts, which has allowed Catholics, non-Catholics and the media to persist in portraying the scandal as one of "pedophilia" (pre-pubescent children). It seems to me that this silence is on purpose, to hide the politically incorrect facts.

Whenever a proposal is made regarding how to "prevent further abuse," I ask myself if the proposed measure would have helped those adolescents and young adults (mainly male). I'm not convinced--yet--that they would indeed make this age group any safer. "Report the problem to the bishop (or rector or abbot ...) has been tried but has been largely unsuccessful.