The drive to church this past Sunday seemed longer than normal. I live in the Diocese of Greensburg, one of those featured in the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s report on the sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests and covered up by Catholic bishops.
Our kids happily – or perhaps more not unhappily – sat in the back of the car. As we drove, my wife and I talked about how difficult it is to keep going in the wake of yet another sex abuse crisis, another failure of those who are supposed to be leaders in the church. Priests had abused over 1,000 children. Bishops had covered it up, preferring to protect their reputation over victims. It is an abuse that was exposed, not by internal reflection and the desire to confess, but initially by the Boston Globe in 2002 and now by the Attorney General in Pennsylvania. Chile just had to reckon with it, and Pope Francis will have to deal with it in his upcoming trip to Ireland. These abuses are perhaps the grossest failure of leadership in the church, but they are just the worst of a whole litany of failures of leadership. From subordinating the Catholic faith to political culture wars in the United States to the covering up of the activities of Cardinal McCarrick.
However, my wife and I are both born, baptized, and confirmed Catholics. We both believe in the triune God, the God that is love and was incarnate in the person of Jesus. We believe in the Holy Spirit that has been sent into the world. We believe in the sacraments and the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” church. We believe we should love God and neighbor, and we struggle to do both. We both have graduate degrees in theology, so our faith is supported intellectually. Perhaps most importantly, we have raised all of our kids in the faith. All have been baptized, and all are currently altar servers.
Yet, it was a struggle getting to mass. I was stuck between two questions. As faithful and committed Catholics, why were we going to church? And, as faithful and committed Catholics, how can we stay away from church? I came up with lots of answers to both of these questions, but none of them convinced me. And, if I couldn’t convince myself, how was I to hand on the faith to my children?
So, in this post, I ask you, as faithful Catholics and in the midst of the latest sex abuse scandal, amidst the latest failure of the leadership of the Catholic church, why are you still going to church? Or why are you going to stop going to church?