What pops into your head when I say the words: “Catholic priest”? Does a mental image of an old, crotchety man in a priest’s collar appear? Or, more recently, a pedophile?
Yes, there is a difference between the two words: “priest” and “pedophile,” as there should be. Sadly, some people have started to see them as one in the same. Unfortunately, sex scandals exist and have found their way into the public as well as into the Catholic Church.
Most recently, news of a sex scandal in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania emerged and included the stories of how some priests and bishops attempted to cover up the scandal.
As a Catholic myself, I was appalled at this news, as were many Catholics in the United States and around the world. I couldn’t believe that someone, much less Catholic priests and bishops, could commit these acts towards another person or group of people.
Many priests have responded to this scandal and are devastated by this news. The look of utter distress and heartbreak in their eyes is enough to make even the most stoic person shed a tear. Men of God falling into sin is no light matter.
However, as much as the Catholic Church attempts to address and heal from this scandal, there are those who see this event and make an improper assumption. Some people see this news and think all Catholic priests act this way and that the entire Catholic Church is corrupt.
Why should someone belong to or respect a church that has scandals? What they may not realize is that one person, or group of people, do not personally embody the collective group they represent.
If you heard about this scandal and now think Catholics are terrible and corrupt people, I can assure you they’re not. That’s like saying you hate all licorice because you don’t like black licorice.
Basing one’s opinions on a small group is considered labeling, something our society is trying to steer away from. A large group should not be defined by the harmful actions of a few of its members.
Some have decided to ridicule the Catholic Church and point out its flaws. Yes, the Catholic Church is imperfect—as well as you, and me, and the rest of the people inhabiting the earth. The world has only known one person to walk this earth that has been perfect, and he died on a cross for us.
People sin and bad situations will occur. However, running away from a problem or putting blame on others isn’t going to solve anything. Yes, the church members in the scandal should have embodied their church better. They should have honored their holy call and remembered to whom they serve.
As wrong and unjust as their acts are, assuming that all members of the Catholic Church are like them is equally as unjust.
Fr. Mike Schmitz, a Catholic priest and vlogger, makes YouTube and Facebook videos regarding Catholicism in the modern world. Recently, he made a video in response to the Pennsylvania scandal.
He comments that he received questions asking if he was angry about the situation and if he, or other priests, previously knew about the scandal. He responded that he is “absolutely angry” about the scandal and that he, and most other priests, did not know about it before its news release.
In response to the scandal Fr. Schmitz says, “I know that I’m broken and I know of the human condition. If Jesus founded the [Catholic] Church, then why would I leave even though it has corruption? I would invite you to do the same. Don’t leave the Church when things get tough. Lead the Church when things get tough. And the best way you and I can lead the Church is by becoming saints.”
Sounds daunting, doesn’t it?
As surprising as it may seem, Fr. Schmitz gives straightforward advice on how to accomplish becoming a saint. He advises, “What the Church needs is the people who are willing to be uncompromising with themselves in their pursuit of Jesus, to be courageous, to be faithful, to become holy and to lead the Church by becoming the saints that the Church needs right now.”
Personally, I’ve reflected on Fr. Schmitz’s advice and how I can go about my life as a Catholic college student in a way that appropriately reflects my faith.
I’ve concluded that the best course of action is to lead by example and to pray.
By talking to God, one can connect with Him and learn to be the best disciple of His works here on earth. While in prayer, I would ask you to pray that God will bless and heal those affected by this scandal and lead us to be good stewards of our world.
I am proud to be a Catholic. I know the world makes mistakes and that I mess up, too. But despite all of the wrongs and darkness in the world, I pray that God will help everyone do the right thing and lead us to His light.
“For if God is for us, who can be against us?” —Romans 8:31