By: Angelo R. Catalano
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – As a devout Roman Catholic, I’m extremely disappointed in my Church. My mother is a first-generation Sicilian immigrant who grew up on a small farm in Southern Italy and came to the United States with her family when she was just 8 years old. My father grew up in a Polish-American household from the West Side of Buffalo. I come from a long line of Catholic families who have all witnessed transformations within the Church throughout the years. This scandal is one of those transformations which has greatly affected myself and my family because of our faithful background.
However, I always have to remind myself that this is an institution that is run by human beings, who as we all know, are not perfect. There’s an outstanding quote that I read from an article on Catholic Exchange by Stephen Beale who said the following: “For any institution to survive such extreme vicissitudes of vice and virtue over the course of two thousand years would be extraordinary. For an institution to not only endure, but to flourish is truly miraculous.” I appreciate Mr. Beale’s statement because he understands that the Church is the oldest institution in the entire world and has faced enormous challenges throughout the ages due to human error. I repeatedly have to remind myself that like any other institution, this one also has awful scandals perpetrated by wicked people who won’t get away with their actions.
I am aware that there are wonderful priests out there who are equally horrified and extremely disheartened with this scandal. I talk to my local priests quite a bit and I know that they’re struggling to get through this as well, and all of them have been speaking out against this injustice since the beginning. Donations are declining in some parishes and good priests are being affected. Withholding strongly needed offertories only hurts our parishes because they rely on each and every one of us to carry on the ministry of Christ. I don’t want to see any parish close due to a lack of funds and it pains me to hear that they are. A possible solution that I heard is to have the parishioner direct where they want their money to go. For example, they could ask for it to go to outreach programs or maintenance for the Church and, to add an extra layer of public accountability, parish officials could release public expense reports.
This scandal is a transformation for the reason that it is forcing the Church to call into question the practices of it’s clergy that many of them have held for decades. Bishops have a duty to their diocese, their priests and the local Parishes, yet many don’t believe they should be held accountable by the public. Clericalism was defined by Pope Francis as the mentality that some bishops and priests hold that make them feel above the laity.
According to an article in the Catholic News Agency, Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota stated at the Sexual Abuse Crisis Summit held in Rome over the past weekend, that “We [bishops] often proceed like the hirelings who, on seeing the wolf coming, flee and leave the flock unprotected.” Bishops are charged with the duty to tend to their flock and this involves taking accusations seriously – not sweeping them under the rug. It seems to me that bishops nowadays run their diocese like CEOs of major corporations instead of humble shepherds. This mentality only hurts our bishop’s connections to the laity, and it is high time that they realize that we also have a stake in this situation because of its effects on our parishes.
I know this scandal has greatly damaged the reputation of the Catholic Church, but I also realize that we as the laity have to support our Church through thick and thin. The sick actions of some priests should not hurt our personal faith. We should pray for and support the victims of sexual abuse as much as we can and we should ally ourselves with good priests who are also disgusted by these scandals. With a united Church we can overcome this culture of clericalism and with this culture’s dissolution, we can create a stronger Church as a result.