It is not surprising to any Catholic to hear that the Catholic Church is at one of its lowest points in its 2000+ year history. The sexual abuse of children in Pope Francis’s home country of Argentina is currently breaking forth this year. Argentina follows with the similar revelations of many other Catholic communities around the world.
Many Catholics wonder “When will this horrific news end?” Considering that the average victim of sexual abuse takes 30 years to report childhood sexual abuse; and the abuse of children takes place around 12 years of age; and the Catholic Church began to really implement changes in 2002; this horrific news should begin to cease in the United States around 2044. That’s the bad news. It’s not over yet.
Because the Catholic Church is in such a sad state of affairs, there are all kinds of people who have all kinds of solutions and changes that they want to implement in order to bring healing and openness to the Church. This blog post addresses some of these controversial issues.
What is the good news? The good news is still the Gospel message of God’s unending mercy and forgiveness. It is my personal opinion that sexual abuse by Catholic clergy was the continuation of their own experiences of childhood sexual abuse. Abusers were abused.
Next, ignorance on behalf of Catholic leaders (i.e. bishops) perpetuated and prolonged the abuse. Seminary formation today takes seriously the psychological health of potential clergy. That’s good news. The scientific fields of biology and psychology have made significant leaps in the past 30 years. This allows victims to find healing. Healed victims do not perpetuate abuse. That’s good news. With increased knowledge of the human psyche, the Catholic bishops become educated and less ignorant. That’s good news.
So, what will a “healed” Catholic Church look like in 2050? In a healthy Catholic Church, everyone will be a “C” student. What do I mean by this?
Well, a “C” student recognizes their need for God’s grace. Every Catholic Saint intimately knew their total dependence on God’s gift of grace. The Catholic Saints were really “C” students who cooperated with the gift of God’s grace to such a degree that God made them look like “A” students. The Saints knew that they did not deserve that gift of amazing grace acting in their lives; however, they humbly accepted the gift with gratitude and allowed the glory of God to shine forth in their lives.
In general, the self-made “A” student places their trust in their own abilities. This kind of “A” student does not understand God’s gift of grace. This kind of “A” student strives to be “holy” on their own strength and power. An “A” student may set unrealistic expectations for themselves and crash if they do not meet those expectations. An “A” student becomes an “F” student when they crash – which is really a blessing of God’s grace acting in their lives.
The Catholic Church of my childhood was filled with clergy sexual abuse. The beautiful architecture of the Catholic Churches and the elegant clergy robes all looked like an “A” student. The bishops made sure that the Church looked like an “A” student. The bishops trusted in their own strength and power. Today, we see the results. We see the “F” student.
In terms of Catholic theology, what does a “C” student look like? Well, a “C” student is the single mother who has a baby out of wedlock but chooses to either give birth to that baby and raise that child in the Church, or give that child up for adoption.
A “C” student is a humble priest who acknowledges his own sexual attraction (either heterosexual or homosexual) and seeks counseling to discern the best path for his future instead of reacting impulsively on whatever “feels right.”
Some “C” students are the married couples who are able to grow in charity and mercy together over a life time of mishaps and mutual frustrations.
A “C” student is the single adult who may long to be married, but does not dwell on this lonely emptiness. Instead they find ways to give of themselves creatively and freely while waiting for God to reveal His will for their life.
What is the difference between the “C” student and the “A” student? The “C” student humbly seeks God’s will by acknowledging their humanity; thus being transformed by grace into an “A” student. The self-made “A” student denies God’s gift of grace and trusts in themselves.
In terms of Catholic theology, the controversial topics of homosexual unions and abortion will always get an “F.” There is simply no way around these issues. This will not change just like men will not become pregnant and give birth.
The Catholic Church will not stray from Natural Law because of popular opinions. We must recall that in the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church there are Catholic Saints who were “F” students who grew to become “C” students, and then “A” students, because they were open to cooperating with the gift of God’s grace.
In terms of homosexuality this DOES NOT mean that a homosexual person becomes heterosexual in order to be “healed.” Such thinking is totally abusive and disrespectful of the person and the way God made them. Imagine a person who has been in a bad accident and suddenly becomes a quadriplegic. Imagine that this person goes on living with the ability to cognitively communicate and relate to others much like they did before the accident, but without the use of the rest of their body. This is a terribly heavy cross to carry in life. This is the celibate calling for any homosexual person in the Catholic Church.
This rather harsh reality is the identity of Catholicism. Women will not be ordained as priests in the Catholic Church. Homosexual unions will not be recognized as marriages in the Catholic Church. Elective abortions will always be seen as ending a vulnerable life. It is pointless to try to change these aspects of Catholicism just like one cannot go to the grocery store and expect to buy a car.
Other controversial issues may indeed see some changes. There maybe more married Catholic priests in 2050. The responsible use of hormone medications for hormonal imbalances will be respected as appropriate self-care for women. Children will be honored as the most precious gift of life given from a loving, life-giving God. Finally, the greatest gift of grace that will come from the horrific history of childhood sexual by Catholic clergy will be that the Catholic Church will come to honor the lives of children more than any other faith tradition in all of history. This is the good news!