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Why am I still here? In this Church, that is.

chalice

I’m just going to come right out and say it because I know some of you are probably feeling the same way and maybe even feeling guilty about it: Why am I still here? In this Church. Why? I am struggling, I mean STRUGGLING with the latest sex abuse cover-up news coming out of the Archdiocese of Chicago. As I read the news story today, I could feel my heart sinking and then hardening and then breaking. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry or scream or walk away, or possibly all three at once.

Every once in a while I hear from people on the “outside,” non-Catholics who can’t figure out why some of us stay in the face of such evil, especially when you pile more evil on top of the original evil for good measure. And sometimes – especially on days like these – I ask myself that very same question. Why am I still here? Why are any of us still here?

And I thought that today, when maybe you might be thinking the very same thing, it was time to talk about it for a few minutes, to let you know that you’re not alone and that it’s okay to feel this way. More than okay. Many of us haven’t stayed, and maybe if they – and we – had talked more openly about it, they’d still be here with us, working to change things for the better, hoping and praying for the day when those of us who had nothing to do with this horror and scandal will be free of the stain and the association and the pain, although it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever really be free.

Maybe that’s only fair. After all, look at all the children-now-adults who will never be free because of what was done to them. Look at the parents who ache and cry for what their children have suffered and who protest and yell and beg on their behalf. None of them will ever be free, and maybe part of our journey as Catholic Christians is to walk with them, to listen to them, and to stay here and fight for them, to be their voice within the Church.

I can sit here and talk until I’m blue in the face about all the great and charitable things our Church does for others, regardless of their religion or political views. I can wax poetic about the Gospels and the profound yet painfully difficult teachings of Jesus Christ and how that is the only path I would ever want to follow. I can tell myself again and again that this is my only home, with Peter’s words echoing in my head: “Lord, to whom shall we go.”

But every time another cover-up is uncovered, every time another abuse case is revealed, every time another bishop is proven to have looked away rather than acted with swift justice, I feel my core shake and my spirit whither and I ask myself in the silence of my heart: Why am I still here? And yet I am. Here, that is. Struggling. Questioning. Praying. I thought maybe we could struggle together, find strength in each other, and maybe pour our that strength and love on those who are faced with never-ending pain and heartache because of the evils perpetrated against them.

 

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21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Msgr. William Benwell #

    Normally I sign myself Anonymous or just give my first name when responding to a blog–what difference does it usually make whether readers know who I am?–but I feel like such a heart-felt and honest post deserves full disclosure. The author would know who I am, but in this case I think NSS’s readers deserve to know that this is a response from a Catholic priest of (almost) 34 years, whose job for the last decade has brought him all too close to the issue of sexual abuse by clergy.

    We priests, some might be surprised to know, are a very diverse group. I can’t speak for all of us, any more than a parent can speak for all parents or a teacher for all teachers, etc., but let me say this:

    Mary, I share your outrage, and maybe feel it even more strongly because I feel it on so many levels. I share it because what some priests and bishops have done has stained my vocation and the vocation of many men who went into the priesthood, and stayed or are staying in the priesthood, for the sole purpose of helping people live better lives by trying to be instruments of Christ for them. I share it because it does shake the faith of people (how could it not, being human as we are), good people who are needed for building something of the Kingdom of God here and now. I share the outrage because the actions of these priests and bishops stain a Church that DOES many great and charitable things for the most vulnerable and hurting among us, regardless of economic status or religious faith. And when the Church is diminished and loses support, the plight of these suffering is made even harder. I share the outrage, frankly, because a story about an Archdiocese like Chicago will garner a great deal of publicity and continue to give the impression that the sexual abuse of minors is exclusively the provenance of the Catholic Church, which is unfair and, more importantly, untrue. (As a parish priest I heard the stories of many abuse victims and in all of them the abuser was a male family member). But most of all … I am outraged because behind each of those cases in the Archdiocese of Chicago–in any case of abuse–was a innocent child whose quality of life was probably damaged forever; I’ve met too many victims in the last ten years and none of them seems to have been able to put the abuse totally behind them.

    What I don’t understand is why there is not more outrage against the sexual abuse and exploitation of minors. People say that the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is heinous, but we seem OK with our culture making our “sex symbols” younger and younger. When a bishop removes a priest from a ministry after a careful investigation of an allegation it is the bishop who is usually attacked because parishioners can’t believe their priest could have done anything wrong. I think we need to take a larger look at the society we have created. I think we need to hold bishops and diocesan officials more accountable when they make bad decisions about abusive priests. I think we need to be more supportive of bishops and diocesan officials when they make a difficult decision and remove a popular priests to avoid potential further harm to children.

    Finally, you used a quote that I was thinking of even before I got to it in your post. “Lord, to whom shall we go?’ There is nowhere we can go–no church or institution–where there will not be abuse and cover-up. Personally, I am still able to love the Church because I believe it is much more than its worst aspects. Alongside the evil (and yes, you are right to use the word evil), there is the good, so much good–not the least of the good being people like yourself who have a passion for justice and a compassionate heart and thus help others see the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness of evil acts.

    January 21, 2014
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here and for giving us a priest’s perspective. It should be a post of its own. :-)
      Mary

      January 21, 2014
    • Dennis Poust #

      Wow. Thank you for this perspective. Amen.

      January 21, 2014
    • BeHonest #

      Amen!

      January 22, 2014
  2. Maria Evans #

    I stay because there is also so much good in the Church. Walking away would be letting the bad spirit have its way. I often compare it to a family. Just because I am appalled by several members of that family, I can’t deny that I belong to it. The Church has had some terrible scandals over the centuries but has produced great saints at the same time. God knew what humanity was like but still became one of us.

    January 21, 2014
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Marie,
      I agree, even when I’m feeling shaken. The good outweighs the bad, and so I stay and continue to hope for better.
      Thank you for sharing here!
      Peace,
      Mary

      January 21, 2014
    • BeHonest #

      Amen! I love Catholicism it is so rich! I feel everyone has valid points and they have a right to feel and be angry! But walking away wouldn’t solve anything! I’m hoping and praying for all parties! Justice will prevail regardless of the matter…

      January 22, 2014
  3. Sally Scuderi #

    Thank you Mary and Father……all you say, I feel and agrre with. I stay because I can still do good.

    January 21, 2014
  4. Arlene Rappoccio #

    I stay because of priests like Cardinal Dolan, I stay because of priests like Msgr William Benwell, I stay because of people like you, my sister. But I stay because, I know that there is nothing perfect in this world. And if we leave, then nothing changes. We have left it to those who don’t care. We stay because we believe.

    January 21, 2014
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you, Arlene, not only for your comment but for your witness, your friendship, and your encouragement.
      Love and peace,
      Mary

      January 21, 2014
  5. I stay because “Lord, whom shall we go?” And they were sinners then just as much as we are now.

    January 21, 2014
  6. Kevin #

    I stay because if I can’t confront the demons making war (sometimes with great success) upon an institution I love, there’s no way I’ll be able to confront the demons looking to wage war upon my soul personally. Funny how that is, we can make the same rationalizations for both groups and individuals about why we shouldn’t care, or why it’s not our responsibility.

    Christ didn’t pass the buck when he saw people suffering. He identified and tried to lift that person up. I doubt I can do that, but I can at least do what I can to make their voice known, and remind people that some day, some time, the neglect has to cease.

    January 21, 2014
  7. Celeste Tesoro #

    Mary thank you for starting this important dialogue and Msgr.’s comments were so appreciated. I think many of us feel this way and it deeply saddens me. On a less global perspective my own parish is experiencing its own people not staying for other reasons. In all cases I want to cry please dont leave…lets stay and make it right!!!

    January 21, 2014
  8. I stay when I remember Jesus’ words, ” Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

    I stay because I love the Church and all the good people who have been part of my life.

    I stay because I love Jesus and this is His Body.

    January 21, 2014
  9. elizabethk #

    Have you read/seen this? — How does the liberalpress not shout this from the mountain tops?
    http://www.channel3000.com/news/middleton-teacher-placed-at-new-school-amid-controversy/-/1648/24041480/-/y6qq1mz/-/index.html

    January 21, 2014
  10. BeHonest #

    I can you I am still Catholic cause I am cradle Catholicand I believe in the Laws of the Church. Regardless if some of the people and priest choices have me smh it is not my place to judge. Or to The wrongs of people who have done wrong through out the years. And I stay grounded and defend my Faith against ignorant fall away Catholics and ignorant Protestant who think they have a say. Yes the church has done some wrong that can’t be denied or ignored. However, that has nothing to do with my walk with the faith! And til the day I die I will be Catholic defend my Faith and let people to know to stay in their lane. Especially if they don’t know all aspect of the religion. But seem to know the wrong of the Church like the back of their/my hand. The devil is truly busy, I tell you… Stay in prayer! Reading your point of views are always very refreshing. Stay Blessed my Sister in Christ!

    January 22, 2014
  11. Michele B. #

    I stay because I love all that the Church teaches to be proclaimed by God! I struggle to stay because it is difficult to find others (including priests!) to proclaim it to the fullest! Your post was spot on, Mary. And thanks to Blogs such as yours, we can be uplifted by the cyber community that reminds us that Christ already won the victory and we are fed by the beautiful truth our Church teaches. May God have mercy on us all!

    January 22, 2014
  12. ElizabethK2 #

    I stay because I want to be part of bringing the Church into a better future. I have struggled with staying due to the abuse issue and other things as well. But then I remember that I, too, am the Church and the change needs to come from within. I stay because of the much greater numbers of very good people are that part of the Church, both laity and clergy.

    January 22, 2014
  13. Christine #

    I praise God for the openness of this document and the courage of the victims who fought for justice. I thank God for NCR that publishes this information. I thank God for all the Bishops who have removed all priests with any trace of sexual abuse, and for those priest who are innocent and removed, I thank God for their willingness to suffer on behalf of this issue. I thank God for parents, victims and all who remain faithful to Christ in the midst of such sin. I thank God for priests who remain faithful in the face of such embarrassment. I pray that all will understand the innate power and role of human sexuality and treat it with the dignity that the Sacrament of Marriage provides. I pray for myself, that I, too, heal from the wounds of a sexualized culture and work to forgive, embrace and challenge all those stained by sexual addiction and all the victims of such abuse. I am a rape victim, and I am a wounded believer. We can overcome.

    January 22, 2014
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Dear Christine,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your pain, and your faith here.
      Peace and blessings,
      Mary

      January 22, 2014

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