…fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
Tonight, GorT attended a portion of a parish meeting to discuss the current situation that the Archdiocese*, the Catholic Church in the United States, and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole are facing. I arrived 30 minutes into the session to a packed church – hundreds of parishioners present in the pews and our three parish priests standing off the sanctuary in the aisles with microphones to get people’s questions and respond or comment.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I witnessed first hand a very passionate and heated plea from one of the men in our parish’s men’s group a few weeks ago. And our pastor relocated the meeting from our school’s auditorium to the church likely in an attempt to ensure a respectable tone is kept.
For the hour that I stayed the discourse was civil but passionate. Plenty of comments of disbelief, outrage, and consternation over the events that have taken place. The three priests were open and honest – they related their feelings with, what I can only describe as no filter. It wasn’t that they used crass language, but they were brutally honest about how they felt about the hierarchy above them, Cardinal McCarrick, and the seminaries of the past. Our pastor firmly believes that since the scandal in Boston came out back in 2002-ish, the Church has largely cleaned up the predatory, largely homosexual, group from the seminaries. He didn’t go so far as saying that it’s completely gone.
The priests all expressed disappointment and take issue with the lack of action by Cardinal Wuerl to date. One parishioner stood a spoke asking why there hasn’t been more support for Wuerl which visibly put off many of the rest of the people in the pews. In response, one priest mentioned that his greatest disappointment with Cardinal Wuerl is that he hasn’t, in some form or fashion, stood before the Archdiocese and apologized. The priest said that his lack of action doesn’t prove whether or not he is guilty of anything from poor judgement to knowingly covering up criminal behavior but it doesn’t show the courage and faith required in such a post. The only thing the Cardinal has done along these lines, said the priest, was to issue a letter to the priests which he asked to be related to the parishioners. The priest ended with saying that “I’m not doing that.”
As for the rest of the comments and questions from the pews, and not intending to diminish any of them, basically amounted to the following:
- Is the Church actively working to support and help the victims
- Is the Church going to openly address these issues and let us Catholics know what concrete steps are being taken to address what has happened and prevent future tragedies from occuring
- What should we tell our kids / What is the parish school telling the kids / etc.
There were three other sub-themes that ran through the discussions while I was there:
- There was a bit of back and forth on the homosexuality aspect. Initially, a number of parishioners characterized the problem as predatory homosexuals with an agenda. Two other parishioners responded, quite vocally, that homosexuality doesn’t mean predatory and that we shouldn’t link the two. This was eventually clarified by a well-spoken woman who pointed out that the facts are that over 80% of the abuses in the various reports were of a homosexual nature with post-pubescent males. Essentially, let’s call it what it was.**
- Many admitted that they have or are stopping giving to the Cardinal’s Appeal and some are going as far as stopping giving to our parish because a portion of the weekly basket does get shipped downtown. One rather interesting point was raised asking if there’s a way to give to a fund for the parish that doesn’t get touched. Help cover local costs, maintenance, etc. Multiple parishioners said that they’d never give Wuerl a dime as he has demonstrated bad judgement at the least, so why should we believe he is applying our money in a good way?
- Our parish priests, much like many of us, are frustrated, disappointed, aghast, and plenty of other adjectives over this situation. The problem is clearly at the Cardinal level up to and including parts within the Vatican. Our pastor believes that some of this stems from an internal political power struggle between Pope Benedict’s cadre and Pope Francis’. He also commented in passing, “if multiple Papal Nuncios raise issues to the Vatican about these problems and they go unaddressed, what should the next step be?”
Apparently there is going to be a Canonical trial of McCarrick (I’m not sure what the appropriate title is to use for him at this point). One of the priests believes the goal is to have that done before Thanksgiving. There are other steps being discussed to include some sort of lay investigatory group. We shall see.
Regardless, this issue isn’t going away any time soon. A parishioner asked the question, “when can we expect this to be resolved?” I just about snickered and whispered to a friend next to me, “Define resolved. We’re going to be dealing with this and its fallout for a decade at least.”
Maybe before I close there were two things that impressed me: (1) many people in the pews echoed that they know the hierarchy is flawed and currently corrupted but they’re staying in the Church for the Eucharist and (2) something that one of the priests said in his homily over the weekend and reiterated to some degree tonight: “I want to be a part of this Church when the Holy Spirit works to purify it”.
St. Michael the Archangel is my Confirmation Saint and as one of our Catholic Twitter friends suggested on Twitter, maybe we need to say a prayer to him:
Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls.