The failure of the Catholic Church

Liverpool’s Metropolitan Christ the King Cathedral, 10March2015, Photo: Anthony Moretti

I was raised Catholic, and my faith still matters to me. But my anger directed at the men — who took a vow to honor the faith and lead the flock here on Earth — responsible for the sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. and the deaths of Indigenous children in Canada is palpable.

I find it indefensible that vulnerable people were preyed upon by men who repeatedly sinned and were allowed to remain in their positions of power. This is a situation where the cover up and the crime are both disgusting. Some men committed these horrific acts and other men refused to do the right thing.

Men (like women) are fallible, and I’d be Exhibit A in demonstrating that fact. But I can state with 100% honesty that no sin I’ve committed comes close to what has unfolded in the Church’s most recent scandals.

I remember one of my favorite priests, Fr. Gregory Coiro, who taught my senior year religion class in high school, telling my classmates and me that we must always consider whether the sinner was, for lack of a better word, sick and unable to understand the effects of what he or she had done. I also remember him saying that forgiveness was one of the greatest virtues any person possessed.

Fr. Greg was right then, and he’s right now. (Sadly, he passed a few years ago, and I was glad to have had a final conversation or two with him some 30 years after I had graduated from St. Francis High School. I got to tell him “thank you” for contributing to making me the [albeit imperfect] man I’ve become.) If I accept that some (all?) of the men who did what they did were sick, I still have to ask why they were allowed to stay close to people who were as vulnerable as the deer in the headlights.

In my career — and granted higher education is a more open society than the world in which priests live — there would be no way a group of people could continue to do what these priests did for as long as they did. The key word there is “group.” I’m well aware of the disgusting human being a former Penn State assistant football coach is, and I’m equally aware of the disgusting human being a former Penn State head coach is; the former was the predator, and the latter didn’t do what was necessary to get the him as far away from children as possible. The same depth of anger can be directed at gymnastics coaches and others who have been identified as evil. But in all those cases, a small number of people engaged in these acts or covered them up.

A much larger group of priests knew of the sexual abuse taking place throughout the U.S. — including at my beloved high school, and it happened when I was there — and about the treatment of Indigenous children in Canada. I risk cliche when I say these men had a higher calling than football or gymnastics coaches.

They failed miserably.

The attempts made by too many holy men at dismissing what took place in the U.S. might be repeated in Canada. It should surprise no one if feet dragging and other efforts at derailing a thorough accounting of the sins of the past are displayed.

And for many Catholics, this one included, the anger would only get worse.

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