Why remain Catholic (with so much scandal)?

Avatar

The text below has been transcribed from a video released by Word on Fire Aug. 30.

I wanted to speak to you again about this terrible crisis we’re passing through in the Church, this crisis of sexual abuse and the countenancing of it by some bishops. I know I spoke to you a couple of days ago. But what’s been striking me recently is the number of people who seem to be calling for the abandonment of the Church: “Because of this crisis, it’s time for us to leave the Church. We’ve simply had enough.”

Now, can I just say this? I totally understand people’s feelings. I share them — the feelings of anger and frustration. I get it. I get it. But can I also suggest, I think this is precisely the wrong strategy at this moment in the Church’s life. Leaving is not what we ought to be doing. What we ought to be doing is fighting.

Let me explain that with a little historical reference. One of my great heroes is Abraham Lincoln. And Lincoln of course operated politically at one of the most convulsive times in our national history, when slavery was threatening the very foundations of American democracy. Lincoln knew from the beginning of his career that the nation, as he put it, couldn’t survive half-slave and half-free. But he saw more profoundly too that slavery as an institution was repugnant to the very principles of American democracy.

Now, we can hear that in the Gettysburg Address. And in a way it’s sad that that’s become so cliché, that we all memorize it in high school. But let’s go back to those words: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Notice he’s articulating the principles that define American democracy: freedom and equality.

Then he says, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” He knew what was at stake in the war was American democracy itself. He knew that slavery was a kind of cancer that would undermine American ideals.

Now, I suppose at the time an option would have been simply to give up on the American experiment. “I’m leaving the country. I’ve had it. This thing is a disaster. I’m giving up.” But Lincoln wouldn’t take that option. In fact, he led the country down the other path toward fighting — fighting for the ideals of American democracy.

I think something similar is at stake right now. The Catholic Church, its great principles and ideals; the Catholic Church, grounded in Jesus Christ, the love of God made manifest in him in his dying and his rising; the Catholic Church, in all of its power and beauty and perfection, is indeed threatened by this terrible scourge of sexual abuse. It is indeed a blight upon the Church. It is appropriate that people feel anger, frustration.

I suppose the option is on the table: leave. “I’ve had it. The thing is just too corrupt. I’m out of here.” But see, I want to suggest everybody, that is not what is called for. Rather, what’s called for is the Lincoln option: fighting for the Church that we believe in so powerfully; seeing this blight, naming it clearly, unambiguously, but then fighting to set things right. It’s not the moment for cutting and running. It’s the moment for getting into the fight.

And you say, “Well, okay, Bishop, I get it. But how do I fight?” Look: You fight through your own righteous anger. You fight by writing a letter to your bishop, a letter to the pope. You fight by your very presence at Mass. You fight by keeping people’s feet to the fire. You fight by organizing your fellow Catholics. Fight any way you can. But you fight because you believe in the Church; you love the Church; and you realize that despite this terrible blight, it’s worth fighting for.

I totally understand people’s feelings. I share them — the feelings of anger and frustration. I get it. I get it. But can I also suggest, I think this is precisely the wrong strategy at this moment in the Church’s life. Leaving is not what we ought to be doing. What we ought to be doing is fighting.”

Keep in mind everybody, we are not Catholics because of the moral excellence of our leaders. God help us if we were. We want our leaders — indeed, we expect our leaders — to be morally excellent. But we are not Catholics because of that moral excellence. We’re Catholics because of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. We’re Catholics because of the Trinitarian love of God. We’re Catholics because of the Mystical Body of Christ. We’re Catholics because of the sacraments. We’re Catholics especially because of the Eucharist. We’re Catholics because of the Blessed Mother. We’re Catholics because of the saints. Even as leaders in the Church fail morally, the Catholic Church remains the Mystical Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ. And she’s worth fighting for.

Keep this in mind too everybody: Every baptized person is priest, prophet and king. A couple of days ago I talked about the kingly office. Can I talk now about the prophetic office? When Israel got off the rails — read the Old Testament, it happened on a regular basis: This community was meant to reflect the will of God into the world, Israel the chosen people of God, but frequently its leaders failed, frequently its people fell into sin, frequently it fell away from the Torah and the temple — what did God do? He called forth prophets: people like Jeremiah, people like Isaiah, people like Amos and Ezekiel, people like Zechariah. And they raised their voices — sometimes, yes, in very angry protest — about these corruptions within Israel.

You’re a prophet. Every one of you listening to me right now who is baptized into Jesus Christ is a prophet. Raise your voice! Prophets didn’t cut and run when Israel was in trouble; the prophets spoke out. That’s all of our responsibility, all of us who bear the prophetic charism.

Perhaps a last thought here. I said it a couple of days ago, I’ll say it again. Whom are we fighting for? We’re not fighting primarily to save our institutions. See, I’m with my old mentor Cardinal George of happy memory. In the last talk he ever gave to all the priests of Chicago, he said, “Remember, at the beginning of the Church, there were no parishes. There were no schools, hospitals, institutions. There were evangelists,” he reminded us. “There were proclaimers of the word.” But the point was the Church does not depend ultimately on institutions. We’re not fighting primarily for that aspect of the Church’s life. We are fighting for the victims of these terrible crimes. We’re fighting for people who were sexually assaulted, sexually abused. If we cut and run precisely at this challenging time, who will be the prophetic voice on behalf of these victims?

So that’s my little cri de coeur, everybody — my cry from the heart. I get it. I get the frustration people feel. I share it. But this is not the moment to abandon the Church. This is the moment to fight for the Church.

COMING UP: What will be your faith legacy?

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

By Deacon Jim Parrilli

The Catholic Foundation invites you to experience the joy of giving now and beyond your lifetime.

When you choose to give, you choose to love and that creates profound joy. The Catholic Foundation is here to help you consider making gifts that will keep giving… gifts that will support the Kingdom of God.

In the sixth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, he reminds us, “So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.”

The Archdiocese of Denver established The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado in 1998 to be legally separate and distinct from the archdiocese, with the intent and sole purpose of supporting our Catholic community financially for generations to come.

The Catholic Foundation gathers and grows assets to ensure that a strong, vibrant, and faithful Catholic community will always be right there at your parish and throughout the entire archdiocese.

What does this have to do with your end-of-year charitable gifting? Gifting into The Catholic Foundation gives you the ease and flexibility of opportunities that no other institution can match.

The Catholic Foundation facilitates giving to the Church using funds and opportunities, such as Donor Advised Funds and Planned Gifts from Your Estate. They accept stocks, insurance policies, IRAs, real estate and nearly any viable asset to promote the Gospel message, transform lives and give glory to God.

When you give through The Catholic Foundation, you can designate support to a specific Catholic entity, like parishes, schools, ministries, seminaries, or other charitable causes. Enjoy peace of mind knowing you will partner with a company that adheres to Catholic teachings, honors faith-based priorities, and upholds the standards of Morally-Responsible Investment Policy in accord with the USCCB.

Matthew 19:29 says: “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

Each one of us is different with different circumstances, backgrounds, and financial responsibilities. And it is up to us to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us.

Popular asset vehicles that The Catholic Foundation clients consider include:
• Bequest: Simply include language in your Will to specify a gift to be made – either as a dollar amount or a percentage of assets.
• Special Gifts: Leave charitable gifts of real estate, stocks, bonds or other assets.
• Trust or Annuity: Create a Trust or Annuity to provide lifetime income for you or a loved one and then pass remaining assets to charity.
• Life Insurance: If you are maintaining coverage that you or your family no longer need, just change the beneficiary – or gift the paid-up policy now.
• Retirement Plan Assets, IRA: You may indicate a charitable organization as the beneficiary of your retirement account. Call if you want to hear how to avoid taxes on your IRA.

Another way to support Catholic causes is through a Donor Advised Account. Here’s how it works:
• Start your account at The Catholic Foundation with a simple agreement that can be completed in minutes.
• Add assets to your account as an individual, family or corporation – or transfer assets from another foundation or donor advised fund.
• Recommend charitable gift distributions to Catholic parishes, schools, seminaries, apostolates or other nonprofit organizations.
• Receive special tax advantages and an immediate charitable tax deduction for each contribution to your account.

Prudent planning starts with just a conversation. Please call 303-468-9885 and ask for Lisa, Jean or Deacon Steve to discuss the many investment options available to support what matters most to you or visit them at thecatholicfoundation.com.