The Church's Deeper Failure


A reader writes:

I’ve been following the sex-abuse scandal(s) in the press and on your blog for quite some time and would like to share with you a story that, for me, captures the real failure of the Catholic Church.

My grandfather, a devout Catholic who attended Mass every morning at 7 am, died late in the afternoon on Easter Sunday after a brief, unexpected illness. While he was truly at peace with the coming end, for our family those few days (Holy Week) were filled with sadness and uncertainty.

Early Sunday morning, my mother and some of her sisters were invited to attend Easter Mass in the hospital chapel. They did so gratefully. During the homily, rather than offer words of comfort and hope, the priest launched into a tirade about how the Church was under attack from those looking to destroy it, how the Pope must be protected at all costs, how the birth control pill destroyed American society and threatens the future of the Church because Catholic women are not having enough children, and how Evangelical Christians must be supported and revered because they alone are trying to save the unborn.

Not one word of his homily was dedicated to the physical or emotional pain of the hospital’s patients and their families. 

One can possibly argue the merits of the man’s statements, depending on a particular point of view; no defense can be made, however, of the choice of time and place to make them.

Here was a family facing the loss of the only parent they’ve known for forty years, looking to the Church for compassion and strength, for kindness and the promise of renewal. And this priest turned his back on their suffering, more concerned with defending the Church hierarchy than with ministering to those in need. I was first appalled, then deeply saddened when my mother recounted the priest’s words.

Though not particularly religious myself, I respect the significant role of the Catholic faith in my grandfather’s life and his death. And I saw firsthand the great comfort it offered my family as he slipped away. Their faith deserved better than this priest’s pathetic revisionism.

There is no comparison between the tone-deaf homily of this priest and the crimes committed against the children at the heart of this tragedy. But his message underscores the central failure of the Catholic Church. The Vatican, in an effort to protect it’s own interests and influence, lost sight of the mission to tend to the faithful. It was the responsibility of the Church to protect those children; instead, it protected the men who abused them.