Until recently, I had always thought of myself as a “joyful Catholic”. Unfortunately, recent events have left me feeling angry, betrayed, heartbroken, and yes, maybe a touch bitter. I have read with growing revulsion and depression all the latest news coming out about former Cardinal McCarrick, Pennsylvania and most recently the widespread coverup by church hierarchy which now appears to include Pope Francis. I am devastated.
Our family has somewhat of a personal connection to McCarrick. He was our archbishop for several years. He also presided over or attended many of the profession of vows and ordinations of a religious order we have been closely connected to. In fact, I have many photos that I took in which he posed with the religious sisters after they had made their First Professions. My stomach churns at the thought. So yes, my initial response to these latest scandals is righteous anger and I firmly feel that is not a wrong emotion to feel at having been so betrayed by Church leadership. I don’t want to remain an angry, bitter Catholic. I must take steps to move on.
I’ve read all sorts of responses to the present plight. Many are calling for inquests, resignations, withholding of funds, protests of the USCCB at their yearly meeting, etc. One voice I’ve noticed has been largely silent, and that is the voice of the Domestic Church. As mothers, fathers, and families what can we do to ensure these atrocities against our children and against our Church do not continue?
First of all, we need to move past the emotions of anger and fear. I’ll honestly say, I still feel pretty insecure about my little guys ever entering seminary. I know I need to get past that fearfulness. God willing and with His grace, I know I will.
Right now the Church needs our prayers more than ever. This crisis has all the hallmarks of a satanic attack on Mother Church. As a family, pray for her. Pray for her protection. Pray for her healing, Pray for her purity. Pray for justice. As part of this you might choose a penance or sacrifice to make as reparation on behalf of the Church.
Pray for the victims. I can not even imagine what they have gone through and what pain they must be in. Pray most especially for their healing.
Pray for those who have betrayed the Church and her teachings. This is a tough one, but we are called to pray for our enemies. Pray that those who’ve broken faith by ignoring, shuffling, hiding, and lying will finally do what is right and holy and bring light, truth, and healing to the Church.
Pray for your own bishop and priests, that they may remain courageous and faithful to the Church and their vows of celibacy. I still believe most of our priests and bishops are good holy men. They need our prayers and encouragement more than ever.
Pray for wisdom and fortitude, because we are going to need it when speaking to our children and answering the questions of our non-Catholic family and friends.
How do we discuss such a delicate issue with our children? As a parent, I have only addressed the scandals with my older children who have either already heard the news or who were likely to hear it. We need to be honest and let them know we are angry, hurt, and disgusted. We also need to reassure them that we do not put our faith in men but in Christ. Popes, cardinals, bishops are not the Church and she will survive this trial as she has survived countless others. Finally, we should remind our children why we are Catholic in the first place. The Church is the one true Church, founded by Christ and the gates of hell will not prevail against her.
Just as we need to address the shocking events with our older children, many of us may also need to answer the questions of those outside our faith. Once again, acknowledge the sinfulness and your own personal ire and disappointment. Remain firm in defending the Church as a whole and your commitment to remaining Catholic. Express hope that the Church will address the root causes of the depravity and will make some serious changes that will protect children, teens, and seminarians from now on.
In the future, how do we parents protect our children?
First of all, we need to be wise and prudent parents. We should never leave our children in the company of a lone adult who is not immediate family. I know this sounds extreme, but the one thing I was most taken aback by was that McCarrick and others were so completely trusted by the families of their victims that they thought nothing of allowing their children to be in the abuser’s company alone. This was a tragic and avoidable mistake.
Secondly, listen to your child. If they come to you with questions or concerns about an adult or other authority figure, hear them out. Ask questions and take what they tell you seriously. Many of the victims reached out and were not listened to, which is absolutely heart-breaking.
It’s so important to teach your children appropriate boundaries with adults and authority figures. Sadly, we need to have these conversations at younger ages than ever before and I, for one, hate that we have to impinge on their innocence in this way but it has become a necessity. Elizabeth Foss wrote an excellent article addressing this need in light of the recent disgrace. I highly recommend reading her article and following her sage advice.
Finally, we can turn to the sacraments and pray for the protection of our children’s innocence. As a family, make a practice of frequent confession and try to attend Mass at least one extra day a week. Pray continually for the protection of your children’s innocence, especially imploring the intercession of their guardian angels. We have been given a very precious and important gift in being parents and it is our responsibility to protect and defend them to the best of our abilities.
A final action item for the Domestic Church relates to our diocesan bishops. I believe we have a duty to write our bishops, expressing our dismay and concerns regarding the recent news about the immorality of McCarrick, the abuses in Pennsylvania, and the rumors that many in the USCCB and Church hierarchy knew, remained silent, and did nothing. Ask your bishop how he intends to respond and if he will make it a priority to address the crisis in November at the annual conference. In closing let him know you are praying for him and all the Church.
For whatever reason, God is allowing this tribulation to come to a head. We must remain firm and cling to our Faith in this time of trial. Holy Mother Church will survive. We have Christ’s word for it. Pray. Do Penance. Take Courage. Remain in Hope.