In recent days, I’ve found myself diving deeply into the drama that the Catholic Church is living in Chile amid one of the most colossal clerical sexual abuse crises ever to erupt.
It’s disgusting. It’s criminal. It’s unforgivable. It has the capacity to undermine one’s faith.
Yet time and time again, when I shared what I’ve written about it, including a 4,000-word report on a ring of homosexual predators that make the misdeeds of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick seem mild in comparison, I get messages on social media and in my email with Americans demanding I look into the fallen U.S. cardinal.
Let me share a few thoughts with you on this. We don’t normally do personal commentary at Crux, but sometimes a story becomes so big that just reporting it is not enough.
I’ve had the task in the past week to interview several Chilean men whom, as they were preparing to dedicate their lives to an institution they loved, hoping to serve the faithful in the name of a God to whom they were introduced by their families, were sexually abused at a local seminary by those tasked with their formation.
These are men who saw their bishop ignore the allegations. Men who, in June, saw Pope Francis accept the resignation of that same bishop – allegedly for matters of age, no real questions apparently asked.
I’ve been accused on Facebook of becoming a tabloid paper writer, looking into the darkest and grimiest part of the Church just for kicks, by people who know nothing about me. These are people who don’t know that I’ve thrown up more in the past week than I have in a lifetime. I’ve been accused of trying to bring the Church down by people who don’t know just how much I’ve cried in the past week.
Who don’t know just how much my faith has been tested.
I’ve cried for the victims, for the Church’s inaction, for the Communion of Saints.
Let me be clear: What McCarrick did is awful. What the hierarchy in the United States did to cover up for him is revolting.
Why on earth a man with not one, but two, legal settlements for sexual misconduct was allowed to remain a cardinal for almost two decades is something many will have to explain when they come knocking on St. Peter’s gate.
But as revolting and awful as what happened in the United States is, it kills me to know it’s not unique.
For years, a few cardinals at the Vatican tried to convince us that what happened in Boston, Ireland and Australia was an “Anglo Saxon problem,” confined to a particular culture and region. Guess what? I dove deep into the belly of the beast, and found that it isn’t so.
As distressing as the McCarrick scandal is for American Catholics who, day in and day out, struggle to be proud members of a Church founded by the Son of God who trusted in 12 men, one of whom betrayed him and 11 of whom ran away at the first sign of trouble, let me tell you, it gets worse. My story on a Chilean seminary yesterday proves that.
And it’ll get worse still.
But it will get better. It has to.
I don’t know how, when or what “better” will look like.
I do know that it will only happen when we’re capable of leaving ideologies aside.
It will happen when we leave pride aside and acknowledge that this is not the press coming after the Church. Some of us are doing what we do with the encouragement of cardinals (we hope) we can trust.
It will get better when we stop saying “everyone knew” (apparently everyone but the U.S. bishops, in McCarrick’s case, based on what they’ve claimed in public once the scandal broke) and actually do something about it.
It will get better when we, as a Church (yes, I’m a baptized Catholic, and despite the crimes and sins I heard this past week, I still went to Mass on Sunday) stop leaving it up to the “hierarchy” to fix it.
Studies tell us that anywhere between 3 to 7 percent of priests are part of the problem.
That’s a huge number.
But the number of priests, bishops, nuns, religious and popes who want to be a part of the solution is even bigger.
Find them. Support them. Be proud of them. Pray for them.
Let the rest rot in hell.