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.