Get ready for some no-holds-barred ranting (and some language).
Really? Still here? Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This is me putting on my “atheist” hat for a moment.
Churches only have the power they’re given, i.e., the power they get from their believers. If the Catholic Church had no members, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. When the sexual abuse allegations first hit in the United States, many people did leave the Catholic Church, so many that in the town where I was born in Maine, three churches closed their doors.
To which I say, “Good. What’s keeping the rest of you there?”
Seriously. I’ve been wanting to ask this question for years. I haven’t before, because I thought it was probably rude. Now I don’t care if it is – I genuinely want to know why anyone still goes to Mass anymore.
Tradition? Turning a blind eye to the abuse because it’s too uncomfortable to look? Don’t care because it didn’t happen to you?
Or maybe you’ve “forgiven” the Church (like you have that power; only the victims do, and the Catholic God). How can you forgive child sexual abuse committed by priests abusing their power and the faith other people put in them? How can you condone the half-hearted, half-assed measures of the Church to try to make things good with the victims – commissions appointed that are subsequently ignored, etc?
The day the Catholic Church announces that it is telling its priests and bishops to cooperate fully with civil law enforcement and report any and all instances of abuse the minute they are aware of them, then I will withdraw my charges. Until then, I say to the Mass-attending Catholics out there: This is within your power to stop. The minute you stop going to church is the minute you take back the power you have given the Church. You are free to take it back whenever you want. Nothing’s stopping you from worshipping God in the privacy of your home, someone else’s home, a rented hall, wherever. And certainly, nothing’s stopping you from ceasing to give the Church money.
I appeal to you, Catholic churchgoers, ask yourselves: Why am I still going to church? What has the Catholic Church done to earn my loyalty even after all the wrongs it’s committed? And make no mistake, they are wrongs. Well, they aren’t good, are they? It wasn’t “good” for the Catholic Church to initially deny the problem and move offending priests around so the problem spread like a cancer. And it’s not “good” to create a Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and then give it no authority to instruct new bishops. If it’s not good, that only leaves one other option, doesn’t it? (Now, role-playing gamers at this point may be thinking, “But what about neutral?” Even if you want to call the Church’s behavior neutral, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement – a church, a body supposedly concerned with promoting good, behaving neutrally? Really? For everyone else who’s not a gamer, here’s an alignment chart of Doctor Who, so you have some idea of what I’m talking about. In terms of this chart, I guess I would have to call the Church’s current approach “true neutral,” even though its disregard of civil law makes me want to put it in one of the chaotic categories.)
Oh, and in case you’re thinking I’m only ranting because I’m no longer Catholic and my new faith gets a free pass, trust me, it doesn’t. If my temple screws up, I’m going to be the first one blogging about it, and if I have to leave that temple, I will.
But there’s one viewpoint I haven’t addressed yet: the ones afraid to pass judgment. The ones abdicating their rights of conscience because “only God can judge.” Let’s be completely honest here: Humans make judgments all the time. If you don’t think that’s true, let’s look at the difference between having an opinion and making a judgment. If you look closely, you’ll see there’s not much difference. Now, it’s possible to not have an opinion on something; I’m not saying it’s not. But I bet if you polled Catholic churchgoers, you’d find that the number of people genuinely not having an opinion about the child sexual abuse issue are few and far between. I mean, how can you not have an opinion? What if it was your kid that was abused? Would you have no opinion then?
So I’ll ask you again: Why are you still going to church?
If nothing else, I hope I’ve given you something to think about.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Not harsh enough? Please leave your comments below.