I Am Not Ashamed
I Am Not Ashamed
By John Mallon
"Those who commit these types of scandals are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder by destroying other people's faith in God by their terrible example. But I'm here among you to prevent something far worse for you. While those who give scandal are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder, those who take scandal—who allow scandals to destroy their faith—are guilty of spiritual suicide." —Saint Frances de Sales
Like Saint Paul, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel" of Jesus Christ. Nor am I ashamed of the Church of Jesus Christ, the Roman Catholic Church, the one true Church. Oh how politically incorrect! How "non-inclusive!" Not at all. If I didn't believe that the fullness of truth subsists in the Catholic Church, as Vatican II says, I wouldn't be a Catholic. But I've been convinced. Is that a put-down of other religions? Not at all. I pay members of other religions the same respect I expect them to pay me, that is, if they didn't believe their faith to be true why would they hold it or belong to it.
That said, I've been reading in The Boston Globe and elsewhere about Catholics saying that they are ashamed to be Catholic because of the recent scandals. I'm not ashamed of the Catholic Church in the least. The Catholic Church didn't do these things, people disobeying the Catholic Church did them. And certainly Catholic teachings are not responsible for these scandals, people disobeying Church teachings are.
All I can say to this attitude is, (and I'm sure all my priest friends will agree), if my faith depended on the sinlessness of priests I'd be in big trouble. I have known cruel and vicious priests as well as men of great kindnesses. John Geoghan, the priest at the center of the scandals when they exploded in 2002, was my parish priest when I was a child, and I saw the names of my schoolmates in the news as his victims. I am not a Catholic because of how priests behave. I've known some very holy priests, I've known some bad priests. Most are a mixture of the two like the rest of us.
So some very bad priests committed some very evil crimes against God's precious little ones. And in dealing with it, the Late Cardinal Law, by his own admission, really bungled it. So I'm supposed to let that ruin my faith? Rubbish! My faith is built upon the rock of Christ, who declared Peter to be the rock and built His Church upon him. Peter, the first Pope. Peter, who betrayed Jesus. Yes, that is my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against her. As we have seen, the gates of hell will certainly try to prevail, but don't expect me to jump ship.
If every priest—God forbid—were on the road to hell, it would still remain my responsibility not to throw in the towel and follow them there; but rather to get my soul to heaven by clinging to Christ. No one else is responsible for my salvation. I depend on priests and the Church for the sacraments to help me get there but the rest is up to me. Jesus and me. If a priest is a criminal or a pervert or a bad preacher or just plain ugly, I don't just leave and go to some other church. Catholics don't do that. I'm staying where the Eucharist is. Other Christian churches, except for the Orthodox, don't believe what we Catholics do about the Eucharist.
When Jesus Himself preached about the Eucharist (My body is real food, my blood is real drink.) a bunch of His followers quit and He didn't chase after them. When He asked the Apostles if they were leaving too, Peter, (thank God for Peter} said, "Where else are we to go? You have the words of eternal life." I have great respect for other faiths, but they don't believe all the things Catholics believe, and I believe what the Church teaches.
I am proud of my Church for her teachings on contraception. I am proud of my Church for her teachings on abortion. I am proud of my Church's teachings on sexual morality, because it gives us something to live up to not a pit to fall into. I am proud of my Church's teaching on homosexuality, not because I "hate" or "fear" people but because there's more to a person than their sexual attractions. I am proud of my Church's discipline of a celibate priesthood, because it says there's more to life than sex. I'm proud of my Church's teachings on the male-only priesthood, because priesthood is not the road to "empowerment" but to humility and service; something it's good to see men give their lives to these days.
For those who want these things there are plenty of groups who offer them with their blessing. No one is forced at gunpoint to be or remain Catholic. But I am proud of my Church for standing firm and bending the knee to Christ alone and not the loud and noisy demands of political correctness.
All priests sin. Surprise. Bishops, cardinals and popes sin too. (The Pope St. John Paul II went to confession every week, Pope Francis goes every two weeks—do you think they need to go more than you do?) Some priests commit crimes. They should be brought to justice. Some priests commit abominations and scandal. Jesus said, "Woe to him through whom scandal comes. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck." So if you think you're angry, chew on that.
Sin happens. People do it. Sin ruins lives. Sin kills. It killed Christ. He rose from the dead. Happy Easter. Jesus forgives and heals. He normally does it through His Church. And I'm not going to walk away from her. I'm with Peter. "Where else are we to go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life."
John Mallon is a Catholic writer and former contributing editor to Inside the Vatican magazine. Now retired, he lives in Oklahoma City.
I've been reading in The Boston Globe and elsewhere about Catholics saying that they are ashamed to be Catholic because of the recent scandals. I'm not ashamed of the Catholic Church in the least.