Public Catholic reader Pagansister asked me why I stayed Catholic in the face of 20 years of dark scandal involved deep failures on the part of the priesthood, the bishops, and as has recently come to light, the papacy going back at least to Pope Paul VI.
This column, which I wrote for the National Catholic Register, is my answer to her and also to myself.
I’ve been treading water ever since the Church sex abuse scandal started touching the Throne of Peter.
I won’t go into all the charges and countercharges of this clerical he said/he said. I’m certainly not going to try to untangle the spider’s web of what-did-the-pope-know and when-did-he-know-it and which-pope-knew-first.
I cannot do those things, either for you or for myself. Odd as this sounds, the answers to those questions aren’t the most important part of this, at least not for me and for you, as we try to learn how to walk by faith across this glacier of distrust and scandal which has shrouded our Church like a tomb.
A longtime reader of mine asked me how and why I bother to stay Catholic, given all that has happened. I told her I would write about it, but I haven’t. The reason I haven’t is that the clerical sewage just keeps pouring down on our heads. There’s no stopping point in this cacophony of tragedy to get my bearings and think through the what-nows of that question.
I can’t even feel it all. I have to keep it at an emotional distance in order to comprehend it. There is no space in this to digest things emotionally. Without that, I’m stuck at several steps away from thinking it through and arriving at a personal road map forward.
We’re being battered by unfolding scandals involving the unthinkable. The certainties of our faith are falsely portrayed, by some clergymen, as less certain than they really are.
Despite all this, I have a clear answer for my reader who asked me why I bother to stay Catholic, given what has been called the “cataclysmic moral failing” of the Church. It’s simple enough that it sounds childlike. But it’s strong enough that I am certain that I will wander and wobble across this glacier of lies and corruption without falling into a crevasse or sliding over the edge and down to my destruction.I will stay Catholic because I am Catholic, and I am Catholic because the Holy Eucharist is real. Jesus is really and truly present, under the appearances of bread and wine, and I can touch him. I can go in the middle of the night and sit with him. The Holy Eucharist, which is a part of the enduring scandal of the cross, of following an incarnate God who was an executed criminal who died a tortuous, ignoble death at the hands of corrupt priests and a cowardly politician, is the real presence of that same incarnate God in the now.