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The Church is not a club I decided to join. Nor is it something I can decide to leave.

In some sense, I feel that not even the institutional Church can decide that I should leave or that I have left I need mediation, and the flaws in the various forms of ecclesial and ecclesiastical mediation remind me of my own flaws — the ones I know and the ones I do not even want to know. The abuse crisis is pushing us to rethink many aspects in the life of the Church, and even our theology…. In the abuse crisis we have discovered a cancer in the Church.

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It is up to us to find a cure for it and do everything possible for the victims and survivors. We do not know what kind of Church there will be after this, but we must assume that it will probably get worse before it gets better. Still, I am not among those who are torn over whether to leave or stay in the Church.

I do not stay because I have decided to stay in the Church. His comments were published September 24, in the French Catholic journal LaCroix and are available online here. What is harder to understand is why this would suddenly hit home…now, sixteen years after the scandal broke wide open in Boston. The Pennsylvania grand-jury report, as horrible as the details are, does not provide any evidence that sexual abuse continues to be epidemic in the church. On the contrary, only two credible accusations were reported after , and both cases were turned over to law enforcement…. At the time, bishops were no better at dealing with these predators than headmasters or Scout leaders, although there is good evidence that major improvements occurred during the s, and that the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was a turning point Those facts are no consolation for the thousands of people who were abused, but neither do they support [the] conclusion that the institution as a whole is repulsive and filled with repulsive people.

I am not trying to excuse what happened in the church. There is no excuse for it.


Priesthood a greater love

Nor am I opposed to further investigations by secular authorities. One day I was waxing poetical about the church in the presence of my maternal grandfather, who had been educated by the Jesuits at Boston College High School and Boston College. He warned me in a vague but unmistakable way about the clergy and the church.

Skepticism is warranted. How can we justify staying? I think the answer is similar to the one you might give when asked to justify allegiance to the United States of America, a nation founded as a slave state and established by the virtual annihilation of its native population, a country that killed several million Vietnamese in an unprovoked and unjust war and now threatens the peace of the entire world by putting nuclear weapons in the hands of a clearly repulsive and disturbed individual.

You stay in the church, despite its sins, because you long for what it proposes about the nature and destiny of human life to be true as well. Paul Baumann is former editor and currently senior writer for Commonweal Magazine. His comments appeared in an article published online September 23, here. Baumann was responding to an article by Damon Linker in This Week, available here.

Letter from a Region in My Mind

Carretto wrote a book…called I Sought and I Found… [which] combines his deep love for his faith and his church with his refusal to not turn a blind eye to the very real faults of Christians and the churches. At one point in the book he gives voice to something which might be described as an Ode to the Church. How you have made me suffer much and yet owe much to you. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence. You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness. No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even though not completely you.

Then, too — where would I go? To build another church? No, I am old enough to know that I am no better than others. Many people have left the church because it has scandalized them through its habitual sins, blind spots, defensiveness, self-serving nature, and arrogance. For many, this scandal seems too huge to digest. To the scandalized, it can be a challenge to not miss the forest for the trees, to not miss seeing that, in the church, frailty and sin, while real, tragic, and scandalous, never eclipse the superabundant, life-giving grace of God.

Ron Rolheiser is a nationally syndicated Catholic writer and author.

The full text of this column, released for publication on September 3, , is available online here. Jesus was crucified between two thieves. The crosses were all painted with the same brush. Beyond our apologies, all of us, clergy and laity alike, are invited to do something for the church right now, namely, help carry this scandal as Jesus did.

Clergy Sexual Abuse and Clericalism

Indignantly separating ourselves morally from this sin is not the way of Jesus and the cross. Like Mary standing under the cross, we must not replicate the anger and darkness of the moment so as to give it back in kind.

Seasons of Thoreau

Sometimes darkness just has its hour. Sometimes all we can do is put our mouths to the dust … and pray … and wait. Knowing that, at some future time, the stone will again roll away from the tomb. The full text of this column, released for publication on August 27, , is available online here. For many of us, the current presidency represents a broader national moment of anger and division, a resurgence of pettiness and hatred, a loss of thoughtfulness and magnanimity.

And now, the stomach-churning news of new tales of sexual abuse. Frankly, it has left some of us wondering how to put one foot in front of the other. As it turns out, the Catholic tradition has some advice to offer. Do your work. At a moment when our attention ricochets constantly from one crisis to the next, this is a lot harder than it sounds.

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If you are teaching, teach. If you are organizing, organize. If you are farming, farm. Attend to your own unique calling with patience and care.

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We are all relying on you to do your own part well. Rest from your work. Reclaim evening as a time when, tired from the day, you give yourself over to these things. Eat well. Remember feast days in your home with fanfare and with sweets. Cook the food, and tell the stories, slowly. Have mercy. On the ones who have hurt you, sure. And on the people around you who need you to see them and care for them. But on yourself, too. Even as we demand accountability, we can continue to seek the mind of Christ.

If we come to imitatie it fully, mercy will be our natural state. There is still no better habit to form yourself in this way than the habit of the communal liturgy of the Eucharist. Meet a friend for a beer. Or a dance party. Or a long walk. The work of love is part of your work, too. None of this is meant to advise that you put on rose-colored glasses.

There very well may be even worse news coming. And you may be called to to do something about it. Whether politically or ecclesially, there may be very hard work of questioning and accountability to come.