What We Can Learn from the Church Scandals


Tragedies, heartbreak, scandals, and suffering are the road signs that either redirect us back onto that path or spur us on when we think we’ve already arrived at our destination.

Watch Brian Holdsworth’s video about how we should respond to the disappointment that is caused by the scandals and moral failures of our spiritual leaders.


We all have this innate tendency to want to see manifestations of real moral goodness in the world and so we often will find something or someone that, at least, appears to have those pure and undefiled qualities, and then we put them on a pedestal.

One example, of this, for me is past generations or cultures. It’s really easy for me to romanticize European culture prior to the latter half of the 20th century. It has just enough of that sense of familiarity of my own cultural heritage, but so much about it that is distinct from any cultural context that I’ve experienced in my life, that I can very easily fall in love with a notion about it.

And something like that process can produce in me a belief that this older civilization was this kind of incarnation of goodness. Look at how well mannered and dressed everyone was. Listen to the sophisticated music and literature that was commonplace – compared to what’s pervasive in pop music today. Look at the beautiful art and architecture they produced. I think that’s why so many of us are drawn to novels like Pride and Prejudice and tv shows like Downton Abbey that are set in these time periods.

And you can even whitewash the obvious blemishes like World Wars I and II with reveries that they were heroic adventures that produced gallantry and comradery to be envied. But if you actually pick up a history book and get the full perspective of what life was like; if you learn about the horror of those wars and the completely inadequate and irrational reasons they were started, laying bare all the grotesqueries of human nature, all of those romantic sentiments dissolve away.

The same kind of thing can happen in our relationships. When we initiate a new relationship with someone, it’s thrilling and intoxicating and it’s very easy to attribute all the good qualities you want in a relationship to this person because of the way you are feeling as things are still new.

But eventually, if you stick around long enough, you’ll come to know them for who they actually are and if it’s a real live human that you’re dating, then you’ll have to confront the fact that they’ve got issues. They aren’t perfect. They have some good qualities, but also struggles, baggage, and worse. And it’s at that point that you have to decide to either forgive them or keep looking for someone who won’t disappoint you.

That can be a really painful thing to go through because you have to come to terms with the fact that the thing you hoped for – that this person was everything you could have asked for in a significant other, is actually not coming to fruition.

Again, we have this tendency, to want to encounter manifestations of the good we know exists but struggle to find in this life. And so, we all to easily, project it onto other people, ideas, places, or even things which eventually don’t live up to that expectation.

I think something like that can be said about the scandals that Catholics are experiencing as we are faced with the shocking moral failures that our spiritual leaders – our spiritual fathers are capable of.

For so many of us, the Church has been, and continues to be a place of refuge. A place where we can feel safe, at peace, comfortable, healed, and welcomed. In short, it’s a sense of belonging to that goodness that we’re all missing.

And in a way, that’s right, but in another way, these revelations remind us that the goodness that we are looking for isn’t fully apprehended in this life. The profound sense of shock and disappointment we’re experiencing is a reminder that we can’t even look to our spiritual leaders for that goodness.

Eventually, they will disappoint too and in dramatic fashion in this case.

I think many of us are asking God why this has happened and while I don’t believe God is the cause of these things, I do believe he allows them to happen to remind us to stop looking for the good that we are grasping for in the world.

I firmly believe that this life is a pilgrimage towards that goodness but it doesn’t end until this life ends. Until then, we can’t settle for anything less and that’s what we are tempted to do every time we romanticize places, times, ideas, or people. We are tempted to stop moving towards that goodness in favour of the false conclusion that we’ve found it and can keep it and be satisfied by it in this life.

Tragedies, heartbreak, scandals, and suffering are the road signs that either redirect us back onto that path or spur us on when we think we’ve already arrived at our destination.

It reorients us back to the path, the path of pilgrimage, that we were never meant to stray from, that we are never meant to rest on for too long. We have to rally ourselves to continue to move forward until the journey is finally at an end. Because that goodness we are seeking is God and nothing else will fill our appetite for him. Everything else will leave us disappointed. Everything else is a mere idol if we let it replace God as our focal point.

So be shocked, be saddened, be disappointed, but use that as an opportunity to get back on the path of pilgrimage, to realign yourself with what is true rather than false notions of pure goodness that might be found in the world.

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  1. I was not having a good job for many years till present, but the positive side is that I became much closer to Jesus, like praying a lot, watching spiritual retreats, Listening to catholic songs etc.. Now I am thinking if I had a job I wouldn’t do all this rather being busy in life enjoying and praying for more better life.

    Thank you, Jesus


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