A lot of people are in shock and rightfully angry at the newest revelations of abuse within the Catholic Church and her hierarchy. The Grand Jury in Pennsylvania also investigated similar abuse in other institutions as well, but the primary focus is on the Catholic Church’s crimes. Some are offended by the lopsided coverage. And yet I think it simultaneously demonstrates one point and misses the same point altogether. The fact is the Catholic Church IS held to a higher standard. And the point missed is the Catholic Church, by her nature as God’s divinely founded institution, should be held to this higher standard. This betrayal of trust by those in the most powerful moral position imaginable is unspeakable and cannot be tolerated or condoned.
I come at this issue perhaps from a different perspective than most. As a therapist, I worked with victims who were abused by priests as children. It was heart-wrenching and appalling. And once the scandal of the early 2000s settled down, I never in my heart believed it had been eradicated, hence the current morass just isn’t shocking me as it is many others. Clearly, the cancer was deep and pervasive in the hierarchy. Let’s face it, this could not have happened on such a great scale without the complicity of some bishops. Many chancery officials who were involved in the cover-ups and who made decisions to move offending priests to other parishes were removed from chancery offices at the time. Some were made pastors of parishes. This disturbed me. I knew this wasn’t over. They say in political circles that sunshine is the best disinfectant. I’m forced to agree. So, it’s time to spare the sunscreen now.
Where does this leave us all at this point? Leave and join a different church? Turn from Christianity altogether? As one astute Catholic blogger recently remarked, if while on a ship on a raging sea a fire breaks out in the engine room, what would you gain by throwing yourself into the waves? Of course, leaving is not a good option. If we acknowledge the Church’s Divine Institution, then we need to root out the cancer eating away at her, recognizing her full glory will only truly shine when Christ returns in his glory.
Why I’m a Catholic Therapist
Despite all the shortcomings and bad press about the Catholic Church, being a Catholic therapist is my identity. In 2001 when I founded CatholicTherapists.com, I saw a need for therapists who could apply the truths of our faith and integrate the sacramental life to achieve true healing on all levels. Our patron is St. John the Baptist who said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” Being put out of business by a lack of need for our services was and continues to be our goal.
What I Learned From My Clients
My courageous clients who walked this road of suffering and recovery from their abuse taught me a lot. Whereas so many turned away from the Church (and understandably so), these clients sought out “Catholic” therapy. Despite the betrayal they suffered, despite their disillusionment with the Church and even how the Church handled the crisis, they had an instinctive sense that their healing could only come from their “mother,” God’s church upon earth. They yearned for their Bishop to reach out, to apologize, to welcome and comfort them. The diocese did pay for their therapy but they also faced diocesan legal speak and a somewhat “CYA” response, yet they persevered in their faith and healing journey. I can’t say for sure if I’d have had their courage if I were sitting in the opposite chair.
Saved by the Faith
You see, when the rubber hits the road, it’s only faith which saves us; the faith that’s persevered century after century, despite the imperfect and sometimes evil people among the Church’s ranks. And it’s the Truth which sets us free.
Sure, psychological expertise helps and is needed, but only God can heal such deep wounds and free us from such a profound prison of suffering and shame. And in what may seem the ultimate irony, he still works through this imperfect Church which he established by means of her sacraments, and yes, her priests. A therapeutic approach without this understanding simply won’t fully heal wounds which are not only psychological but deeply spiritual in nature.
God is remarkable in infinite ways. But how he turns evil to good is clearly the most astonishing. The death of God on the cross is what gave life to the world. Joseph in the Old Testament was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery. He later spent time in jail falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit. And through his trials God saved the Jewish people from famine. His brothers meant it for evil. God clearly meant it for good.
Even this latest round of revelations, as bad as it appears (and it IS bad and perhaps even worse is yet to come) will be an instrument of good in the long run. Many assert things are getting worse but we’re actually now seeing the evil that has been. Now there is a chance to correct it. The first round wasn’t obviously enough.
What’s Our Role?
As Catholic friends, lay leaders, or Catholic therapists within the Church, we need to be present to those who are hurting, and to others who are angry and disillusioned. But we must speak the truth. We need to learn, understand, and hold fast to the true faith—the infallible teachings of the Catholic Church. One of Saint John Paul II’s greatest gifts to the Church is the Catechism. It contains the clear and official teaching which has been passed down for centuries directly from the apostles. The impulse that denies any of these truths in order to be kind, to keep up with the times, or to be popular must be recognized for the demon it is.
We’re treading on the edge of a dangerous precipice. With the sexual revolution and its sweeping changes, society has been left reeling and clearly the Church is seriously wounded. Although corruption exists in so many other realms today, both within the church and without, it’s sexual improprieties and perversions which are at the heart of the Church’s woes and so many others. Hollywood, government, politicians, and school systems are all falling beneath the weight of the pernicious lie that anything goes when it comes to sexuality.
As Catholic Christians we need to extricate ourselves from this trap of false and misplaced compassion. Proclaim the truth. Prepare for battle.
The gates of hell will not prevail against the true Church. This is a mission statement. It implies action. It implies that we, members of his body must push against the gates of hell—the lies and impurities of the world- and win souls for Christ. It’s the Church which will ultimately liberate souls…but only when we return to proclaiming the truth in its entirety. So let’s get started…