When I made my first Communion on a sunny April day in 2005, I had never heard about the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal that dominated the news a few years earlier.
With new allegations resurfacing over the past few years, my faith in the Church hierarchy’s ability to face hard truths about itself has been challenged, but my trust in Catholicism remains.
I was eight when I received my first Communion; my priorities were simply to remember the right words to recite after receiving the Eucharist and twirl in the ivory dress my mom and I picked out. I was also excited because my favorite priest, Father Ken, would be celebrating Mass that day. He was beloved at the Catholic school I attended because he gave incredible homilies, told captivating stories and asked questions of the kids in the pews.
Fr. Ken left when I was in fifth grade, which was disappointing to us students; still, our parish received a new priest and life went on. However, during that transition and afterward, I heard unsettling stories about Fr. Ken, including the rumor that he had left because of something that had happened with a young woman. But since I didn’t know what exactly had happened, I pushed it out of my mind, doubting our beloved priest could have done something bad.
But when a news story about Fr. Ken surfaced during my freshman year in college, I could no longer ignore the truth. Fr. Ken left our parish because a woman accused him of sexual misconduct in the 1970s, when she was 16 years old and seeing him for counselling. Our Archdiocese had determined that the allegations were credible and removed him from public ministry.
My doubts about the rumors had allowed me to keep idolizing the priest who helped shape my Catholic identity and love for Jesus’ message. Upon reading the news story, my doubt vanished, disgust and anger filling its place. I have felt the same noxious sentiments resurface time and time again over the past months as headlines expose the abuse and moral corruption rampant within the Church.
Far too many Catholics have similar stories about a priest from their diocese: priests who celebrated their family weddings and funerals, who were powerful preachers and seemed to truly embody the faith, yet committed these horrible offenses.
For too long, Church leaders have attempted to minimize the scale of this issue, but given the sadly recurrent nature of the sex abuse crisis, the response of the Catholic will likely be the defining moment of Catholicism in the 21st century.
As the Vatican prepares to hold a summit next week on the sexual abuse scandal, I worry the Church might decide on a course of action that does too little too late. Yet I still choose to hope the Church will address this crisis by embracing a rigorous system for reporting and responding to sexual abuse that empowers Catholics to hold their clergy accountable.
We the Church must treat this crisis as the scourge it is without devolving into the temptation to palliate the suffering of victims or to channel anger toward partisan aims. As a Church, we should ground our response in the virtues our Catholic faith espouses. Doing so will require the fortitude to acknowledge that the Church enabled much of this abuse by neglecting to remove priests credibly accused of abuse.
Moving forward will necessitate faith in God’s power to heal and in our ability to help heal each other. Most importantly, it will demand a Churchwide commitment to promoting God’s justice on Earth by holding perpetrators accountable, ministering to victims and prioritizing the protection of the vulnerable.
Erica Lizza is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.
Into the Feminine Genius appears online every other Monday.
Source : https://www.thehoya.com/lizza-healing-church-crisis-faith/