Sometimes people do terrible things. They hurt people deeply. They hurt children. They let down people who look up to them, people who trust them. They lie about what they do, and sometimes they tell the people they are hurting to lie, too.
They get away with doing those terrible things. And no one except their victims knows what they’ve done—maybe not ever, maybe not for years. Or maybe some people do know, but they don’t act on that knowledge. They hurt people, too.
Then one day the truth finally comes to light. And it’s horrible and dark and complicated. And, though there is relief in knowing the truth, it also brings with it so, so much pain. Betrayal. Anger.
Under the weight of the news of the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, it isn’t easy to see any light in the darkness. We can pray for justice and for healing and for a better future. We can try to support and advocate for victims. We can put in place policies and laws to bring about change. We should do all of that and more.
The gut instinct might be to run away from the whole problem—and maybe even the Church itself. This kind of news shakes a person’s faith in humanity, never mind in an institution. We want to believe that people are good, especially those who are people of faith, especially people who are leading our church.
Of course, the Catholic Church is more than this scandal. I say that not in defense of anyone or anything. But as saddened and confused and angry as I am by individuals, I cannot turn my back on the Church as I know it, the one Jesus founded, the one He wants to spread love and hope to all the world. As flawed as people are, the Church is still where I can be closest to Jesus.
It’s true that I can find Jesus in a thousand different ways every day. But I can only encounter Him most personally, most intimately in the Eucharist. I cannot imagine life without the Eucharist, without that mystery in which I get to take a piece of Jesus into myself and become, I hope and pray, just a little more like Him. And I can only receive Jesus in the Eucharist consecrated on the altar in the celebration of the Mass.
Still, the pain of this news is raw and real. The confusion, the sadness, the anger, the frustration, is oppressive. So I’m going to have to do what I do with any other burden I cannot carry alone.
I’m trying to turn it over to God, to ask Him to help carry it. Today I have been thinking that the grand jury report is new to me, but not to our Father in Heaven. He has known the truth. He has already been grieving and hurting with the victims and with those of us who are just realizing the extent of the abuse.
God, I have to remember, is bigger than all of this.
And, in the midst of the confusion, I also find myself running to my mother, Mary. Because she understands suffering—and watching those you care about suffer. As our mother, she also knows each of us. And she knows just what we need in this moment, whatever that may be.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.