Catholics Consider Next Steps in Scandal Aftermath

I stumbled across a blog post that beautifully illustrates the dichotomy of the Philadelphia Archdiocese cover up and the practice of our religion. It depicts the best and the worst of our faith.

“A Hog and Me Both,” from Millennial Catholic: Twenty Somethings Living and Working in Today’s Church

Our leadership has brutally betrayed us and I’m wondering what to do next. In good conscience how can I continue to participate in the structure of the Roman Catholic Church? By structure I mean its archdiocesan churches and organizations. I’ve lost all trust and the Church hierarchy has done nothing to regain it. Withholding the names of the suspended priests was just the latest example. Why did we have to find out from CBS? They deserve no applause for the suspensions as they were finally forced to act.

Cardinal Rigali still characterizes the suspensions as “interim measure” despite what the court has called “overwhelming evidence.” This past Sunday, a Montgomery County parish priest read a letter from one of the suspended priests after reading the latest letter from the Cardinal Rigali. How about victim’s letter? Or, better yet, the grand jury report. Every adult Catholic in this country should read it. This has happened in other diocese – L.A., Cincinnati, Boston and in the Catholic Church in Ireland and England.

How many people has the Church hierarchy pushed away from the faith with this scandal? A few friends have decided to pull their children from Catholic school after this year. Another has left the Roman Catholic Church after 12 years of Catholic school. She practiced her faith up until last week. Another is reconsidering entering the RCIA program. These people will quietly move on.

I won’t go quietly, but I’m afraid no one will listen before I’m finally gone.

21 thoughts on “Catholics Consider Next Steps in Scandal Aftermath

  1. Susan, as I’ve shared with others on your blog, I understand your frustration but no Catholic should ever conclude, “Leave the Church.” Why? Because, although there are 1000 reasons why people leave the Church, there’s never a good reason…when one understands what the Church is. Theologically speaking, leaving the Church is like deciding, “I am angry at oxygen…and so I want nothing to do with it.”

    The Catholic Church as established by God to lead, teach and sanctify, which means to “make holy via the truth of the faith and the sacraments within her”. Just as “the ark” (of Noah) was the vehicle of salvation that God gave the world, the Church is the “new ark” that God gave the world.

    We have to move beyond subjective feelings (which are, of course, VERY important). Subjective feelings, though, must follow that which is objectively true. The Catholic faith (regardless of the sins of men and the failure of leadership) is objectively true. We’ve had men and women who have failed us (as humans) for 2,000 years, but the truth of the Church herself (and her being endowed by Jesus with his infallible grace) has lasted.

    1. Matt, what you put forth is not true! The line you repeat is a PROPAGANDA LINE. None of that will stand up in a court of examination of the Word of God, or of an examination of history. First and foremost is the fact that what you state is nothing more than fables handed down and propagated by those who have a vested interest in people believing a lie.I refuse to let your false testimony go unchallenged.

  2. I think leaving the institutional Church might be a moral imperative when the leadership is this corrupt and misguided. Do you think the problem will just take care of itself? I can continue to practice my faith in Catholic non-archdiocesan venues. That is what I’m considering at this point. I can appreciate your stance and I’m certainly taking my time with this decision.

    1. I understand where you are coming from. Many Saints have challenged corrupt leadership before……..Jesus did this as a matter of fact. I think alot of home churches and underground churches may start because of this. I hear it is already starting. Also home Bible studies and cathecism.

  3. Susan, with respect, I have to share that this positions shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Church is. Don’t take this to hard, though, as most Catholics seem to lack this basic catechetical understanding. What you’re describing above is actually Protestantism, which contends (by actions, if not words), “I disagree or don’t like something and so I can simply leave and make religion or Catholicism to be what I want it to be. You have a moral imperative to stay and fight to change those things that, of course, can be changed. Corruption like this can be changed. Unchangeable teachings, like the truth of the Eucharist or purgatory, cannot be changed.

    1. Unchangeable teachings, like the truth of the Eucharist or purgatory, cannot be changed/”
      What an outlook that is! The UNEXAMINED LIFE! Matt- don’t fall for that. I have been there , done that. Way back in about 1957, I was a lapsed Catholic. I had been born and baptized Catholic and in ’57 I was about 25 years old and had fallen into many sins, stopped regular mass attendance, and was “doingmy thing” as a jazz musician in Chicago— far from my family back in Maryland. I kind of “came to my senses” and became very zealous in my new found interest in the religion of my childhood. I told my freinds that they must return to Catholicism for it was the only “TRUE CHURCH.” Well, that was ridiculous— it is not the true church at all. It is impossible to be in such contradiction to the Word ofGod and be a true church. When you cleave to the RCC you are really cleaving to something dead— the Roman empire. Rome twisted and disfigured the gospel of God and the gospel of Christ into a nightmare of false religion. You can find the truth in the bible if you leave aside every claim of Rome and study the Word for yourself. You also will be saving yourself from an eternity without Christ.

    2. I also understand what you are saying but in the past people have kept the faith alive in their homes……..just like communist china and poland. They have priests of course say mass in their homes.

  4. Matt,
    Although Susan and I have never met in person,from our email exchanges and posts on the site,we are indeed cut from the same cloth. When Susan stated “I won’t go quietly,but I am afraid no one will listen before I am gone” Is exactly how I have said to you a few times, that if I go it will be “kicking and screaming”. Obviously our faith holds deep meaning for both of us. It is easy to walk away, harder to stay.
    It is difficult to maintain any relationship when trust is broken. I feel that I have been burned so much over the years by clergy who are either directly linked to the clergy sex abuse scandals or whose arrogance has been a source of estrangement. When you add in the fact that you believe that our generation has not been properly instructed in our religion,it is sort of amazing that some of us are still here.
    What I would love to see is priests within the Archdiocese speak up and speak out. So far the outrage has been from the laity. I feel like the clergy could play a huge role in the healing that needs to take place. Not just reading letters from the Cardinal or including some thoughts about the scandal in their homily, but really take a stand. I don’t think that they realize how much support they would receive from the laity.
    And how do we fight for change within a structure where the clergy always has played the dominant role . It is frowned upon to question and challenge let alone have change take place. If you remember I told you a few months ago that I had sent one of the auxilary Bishops three emails concerning how we can improve child safety in the Archdiocese,I have still never received any response. Hard to be in a relationship when you are the only one in it.

  5. Such speaking out would be a good thing, on the part of the priests. I do think that more than a few priests think that some of the 21 are being unfairly hung out to dry…in other words, the offenses were not the grave ones…if any at all. I’m not sure if you’ve heard the Fr. Brennan on any of the talks shows, but from my quick hearing it sounds as if the accusations are seriously flawed if not outright false. There’s a theological reason why the clergy have played a dominant role (even if it has a bad, occasional side effect like this): Jesus established for the world a sacramental system of transferring his grace. Five of the seven sacraments are given to us through the priesthood, which Christ established. As well, once ordained, we Catholics believe there is an ‘ontological’ change in the man, which means “in his essence”. Even though he is a sinner like all of us, the priest is given, by Christ, a special charism to minister….just as a married couple (once they profess vows and consumate the marriage) are given a special grace. It’s called “the grace of state”–a different grace for the two primary vocations.

    This begins to explain why the clergy is “set apart” (which is model after the chosen people of the Old Testament–the Jews–who too were “set apart”). To “set something apart” means that it has a special liturgical or holy purpose.

  6. Matt, Statistically speaking (even according to the U.S. Bishops Conference) accusations are valid in more than 95 percent of the cases. I understand how it might be difficult for some of these priests to believe their colleagues and friends would be guilty of these crimes. However, it is their duty to protect the children of God (quite literally) in this case. That means they should be knowledgeable about all public information regarding these cases. Each and every priest of this diocese should read the grand jury report and reflect on it. Have you read the report? What are your impressions?

    While we agree the clergy has a holy and special purpose, I don’t believe it makes the balance offered by the laity any less important.

  7. I have not, but it is next to me here and I plan to very soon. My co-worker, who is aggressively Catholic in belief and practice, was beyond repulsed and explained that the Church’s failings here (administratively) are incredible. I just think that there is likely more to the story that we realize (of various priests…certainly not all…nor even most who are accused)…and that many of the clergy are seeing that side of the story too. Naturally, there needs to be a default position that errs on the side of potential case of abuse (although even our civil courts presume innocence). I just think…by knowing some good priests…that any hesitancy on their part is likely due to the fact that they know some of the accused well and find it hard to believe.

    In reference to the recent 21, I just heard that some of the infractions have to do with “suggestive language” and even “drinking with underage people in their orbit”…crimes far less than we hear in the soundbite culture. As well, what is never discussed (because it’s politically incorrect) is that approximately 84% of the instances are homosexual liaisons between priests and teenage boys. Although that, of course, is a disaster….It is a little different than the constant headline we hear about “pedophelia”, which is different.

  8. Matt
    You know that I respect your opinions but I am just not seeing where you are going with some of these statements. I know that you said that you heard about Father Brennan on the news. Take the time to read the grand jury report,please inform yourself.Father Brennan was reported by fellow clergy and religous for years about his inappropriate behavior and actions with children. Does that automatically make him guilty of these current accusations,of course not,but we are talking about a deeply troubled man who the Archdiocese knew about for years. Are you aware that he had already been suspended and not allowed to act in priestly ministry,years before his arrest last month?
    Matt do you have any idea about the abuse that can take place even with teens. I saw on one website a person referred to it as “priests who were dating boys” I do not care what the age,technically maybe not pedophilia,but sexual abuse. Do we need to split hairs about these type of things. Many times priests went after teens who had troubled family situations and became their mentors.Once they had them under their control the sexual abuse started. Any time an adult is engaging in sexual acts with someone under the age of 18 it is a crime!
    I know you have heard of some weak accusations against some priests. Do you know that one of the priests who was suspended a few weeks ago after the grand jury report ,was accused by two seperate people. They also had accounts and letters from fellow clergy about his actions with children,years before the victims came forward.The priest also failed a lie detector test. Until his name was released in the grand jury report he was a pastor of a parish and head of the parish CYO. He was only removed because Seth Williams was able to get his name and case and included it in the Grand Jury report. That is the only reason that Rigali acted on it and suspended him,if his name had not been publicly released they would have continued to turn a blind eye.
    Any priest who has very weak allegations against him can only blame the Archdiocese for not handling other cases properly. Do you know that Gina Smith the prosecutor that the Archdiocese hired,used four different tools of evaluation before recommending these priests be suspended. I am not buying that a priest cursing in front of children would have caused her to recommend suspension. The evaluation tools were both Pennsylvanaia State and Child Abuse laws and the Church’s own Essential Norms from 2002 and the code of behavior each Diocese follows. You have to remember that she cleared 8 priests during her investigations,I simply do not believe the “urban myths” that have been floating around concerning the weakness of some allegations.Might some of the 21 be found innocent,yes,but the allegations had to be more serious than cursing or having a cocktail at a party where children were present.

  9. In reading your comments, Susan, Matt, and Kathy, I felt compelled to add a few of my own.

    The main focus of my faith is and always will be Jesus Christ. During this extremely upsetting time in the Catholic Church, I have not lost this faith in Jesus or in the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I will not LET that be taken from me. What I HAVE lost is the faith in the leadership of the Catholic Church. I and my family are still attending MAss. However, I have walked out during sermons (eg.when Rigali’s initial letter was read)and will continue to do so if needed. I will not let these men keep me from the Eucharist and from the closeness that I desire for myself and my family to have with Jesus, but I will also NOT let “them” use Mass as an avenue for communicating lies and propoganda. That is NOT what JEsus intended Mass to be.

    The present issues cause me to want to investigate and delineate exactly what Christ TRULY wants for our Church and what MAN (ie. the Church hierarchy)over many,many years has decided is what THEY want for the Church. I will admit I am not an expert on Church doctrine, but I will say that I believe some of the “decisions” made by our self-elected,self-run hierarchy have been, through history, at times based rather flimsily on what the hierarchy say is what Jesus wanted. It’s THEIR interpretation, but is it really what Christ would want? For example, is the fact that Jesus happened to pick Peter as the first priest an indication that, forever, priests should only be male? I think not, because Jesus would not believe that women are inferior or less capable, not the Jesus I know.

    So, even if we still manage (and I know many are having a hard time) to believe that priests, bishops, cardinals, etc. have been given a special charism to minister, I would think we would also be “allowed” to still believe that they are men with free will open to all the sins that any other man is open to. And, sadly, many of them have committed the horrendous sin and crime of hurting children. In our country, we have a separation of Church and state, therefore, noone of any certain religion, no matter what their “level” in that religion, should be treated differently than ANY OTHER PERSON. If my neighbor is accused, with substantial evidence, of molesting a child, his family or employer does NOT have the right to do an “internal” investigation before this person is subjected to the law. Why should that be the case here? It’s ludicrous. It’s wrong.

    Is it hard to believe that some of these seemingly wonderful men, many of whom have done many “Christ-like” things could do the heinous things they are accused of? Of course it’s hard to believe. Is this the first time a criminal comes in sheep’s clothing? Absolutely NOT. Some of history’s most infamous serial killers were charming men (eg. Ted Bundy) who turned into animals with their victims. Let’s not be naive enough to think that priests whio appear to be nice men could not be capable of these crimes to children. If I were their colleague and friend, yes, it would be awful to have to think it. But, anyone with a heart has only to read the Grand Jury report (even PART of it) to transfer our empathy from the perpetrator to the victim. I don’t know how anyone could not.

    Our Church needs fixing…BADLY. And it will not come unless our hierarchy stops being focused on maintaining power and starts to realize that the only way to survive is to come clean with the people (and the authorities). The laity want so badly to have a good relationship with and trust in the leaders of the Church, but the leaders just keep doing exactly what pushes us further away. Stand up and be MEN of GOD. Do the RIGHT THING! MAKE GOOD CHOICES! Isn’t that what we tell our children?

    I firmly believe that Jesus’ heart is broken over this. He is surely saddened anytime we, as sinners, make bad choices here on Earth, especially those that hurt others. I feel that he is aching for our leaders to do what is right and for the RIGHT reasons with good conscience, not because they are pushed into a corner.Has he already lovingly forgiven? Of course he has, just as we forgive our children when they make poor choices. But do I believe that Christ would also feel that we have to do penance for our sins. YES. Just as we painfully but lovingly discipline our children, I can’t help believing that Jesus would want these men to admit their crimes and accept their discipline. That’s how they and everyone can truly be healed

    1. I appreciate your honest and sincere post Jackie; however, reading it I was moved to say that at bottom- the problem is that too many Catholic people are not willing to expend the effort to examine just what they “believe in” about the Catholic Church. It does take time and effort. i don’t know why i am like I am— I have to know the truth, and so I have devoted a lot of effort and time to finding out the truth. It is not “brain surgery” to learn the history of “Romanism.” The sad, terrible,horrific story is there for anyone who will look for it.

      Start here:
      Bryan Ross is a professional history teacher and also a bible scholar and pastor.
      This is my web site:

  10. Beautifully written. I couldn’t agree more. However, my question still remains. How do we ensure change and the safety of children? What can we do to impress upon our leadership that the cover up was intolerable? They haven’t indicated a real willingness to change in their actions – only in words. We must find a way as laity to work within our faith to create this change. I’m losing hope that it’s possible.

  11. That’s exactly where I’m, stuck, Susan. And the words do not always seem sincere and are often from lawyers. I am hoping that the impending court cases will be the start. Just as the Judge took no nonsense from Fr. Brennan the other day, I can only hope that more of that will follow. And I wish, though I’m not sure how to make it happen, that the national news would pick this up more strongly. I believe this would be a huge investigative piece if one of them could crack it. Unfortunately, I do not have too much confidence that the hierarchy will just listen to us, the laity. I think the Archdiocese needs to be sideswiped. Sadly, I think it needs to crumble before it can be fixed.
    And where does that leave us? Where does that leave our children who have grown up in the Catholic schools and where does that leave the teachers and principals in the schools that work so hard? I don’t know, but I’ll keep praying.

  12. Hello ladies, due to non-stop running, I’ll reply just to Kathy’s comments above for now and then Jackie’s later. Regarding Kathy’s response, you said, “I’m not seeing where you are going with this.”

    In short, I’m not going anywhere beyond just making sure we allow for the possibility that there are forces at work here that, from the get-go, are not friendly to the Church…simply because of who the Church is and what she stands for (unshakable morality…in its doctrine, if not in its practice). In other words, although I agree that each and every instance of breaking the law should be prosecuted to the highest extent of the law, I want to make sure that we’re not TOO eager to throw the Church or our priests under the bus….after all, the Catholic Church is the one and only church that God himself (in the flesh) established and His means of salvation in the world yesterday, today, and tomorrow. NOTE: THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS CANNOT BE SAVED, NOR THAT THEIR CHURCHES DO NOT POSSESS TRUTH. I am not saying that…nor does the Catholic Church teach that.

    I’m simply saying, Let’s find out the truth…respond accordingly…but not go off the deep end by concluding that, ergo, I must now leave the Church. This is exactly what the devil would want because the Church, theologically speaking, is the bride of Christ, his primary means of sanctification in the world.

    I will read the report…and will like be near-vomit upon reading it…but as a Catholic who understands WHAT THE CHURCH IS IN HER ESSENCE have no doubt that, thanks to God’s grace, I’ll view this as another example of the human fraility of the Church…and will then again marvel how God continues to preserve the Church–as He has done with the countless other abominations that have been carried out by members of the Church, including the heirarchy, over the past 2,000 years.

  13. Wow susan – Amazing reading these comments from way back in March before we had even met in person. The site has come along way since then!

  14. I read a beautiful story of chinese farmers going to the fields at night in the dark and bringing the Eucharist out from under a stone so all the villagers could adore Jesus Christ because a Chinese priest only came to them once a month to say mass. We don’t need fancy cathredral or churches……….we just need Jesus. I think home churches while a thing of the past will increase in number. My grandparents had mass in their houses before their church was built. I think Christian Religious freedom is slowly going to be lost……….I think we are headed this way. Because of the abuses in and out of the church.

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