Yet Another Scandal In The Church…


The Church is in the news again because of a well-publicized scandal involving a high ranking clergyman. How can Catholics deal with yet another sexual abuse scandal and not lose hope and faith?

Watch Brian Holdsworth’s video commentary on his thoughts of dealing with this most recent scandal…


The Church is in the news again because of a well-publicized scandal involving a high ranking clergyman. There’s a lot that could be said about it but I’m not really interested in defending the institution from its critics or assuming that I know how to fix the problem, because I don’t.

But those in charge seem to be on top of it, after all, the many people who were covering up for this behaviour have come forward in resignation and contrition and are owning up to their responsibility.

I’m sorry, that’s not the kind of commentary I want this to be, so that will be the last sarcastic pot shot and I’m going to need you to keep me accountable for that.

Instead, I want to talk about how these kinds of revelations affect the Catholic faithful because it seems like a lot of people are struggling with their faith in light of this news.

And when people are sent into a crisis of faith like this, I think it’s worth asking why and in my own experience of seasons in which reality was contradicting my assumptions, you feel a loss of control… a loss of certainty. But ultimately, that’s actually good for you. Ideally, it should bring about a process by which your assumptions and conclusions about the world are adjusted to better reflect the actual world.

So that raises the question, do scandals like this reveal some aspect of reality that contradicts the Catholic faith as it actually is? When we find out that members, even well-respected members of our faith community are capable of deceit, abuse, and impropriety, should that lead us to the conclusion that the faith isn’t true?

Well, what do we know about the faith and the Church? We know that Jesus Christ came to rescue a fallen, broken humanity by His death and resurrection. Ok. Brokenness and fallenness in need of redemption. Scandal’s don’t contradict that description.

We know that he established a Church so that his saving grace and incarnate presence would be made available to every generation, not just the one that was kicking it when the events of the gospels took place… and this grace is meant to be a remedial measure for our brokenness and sinfulness.

Again, the presence of sin and brokenness are well established. So scandalous behaviour, shouldn’t surprise us.

We also know that he gave certain members of the Church, the apostles, divine authority to teach and forgive sins as is explicitly recorded in the Bible… and this is probably where people start to get hung-up.

How can we have faith that our bishops and cardinals (the successors of the apostles) still retain this kind of authority and mandate when they are capable of this kind of corruption?

Well, the answer to that is a bit of a mystery. How is it that God uses corrupt human beings to lead his Church? We don’t really know, but somehow he does do it.

When Pope Benedict was elected to the Papacy, during his address to the crowd in St. Peter’s square, he said, “I am comforted by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and act even with insufficient instruments.” He was obviously referring to himself.

Jesus never said that the Church would be sinless. This follows a consistent pattern in the Church’s history, because look at the Apostles themselves. He chose the most unlikely group of people to lead a movement that would change the course of human history.

The fact that God chooses insufficient instruments should reinforce our faith that he’s the one leading and sustaining his Church. If you expect your priests and bishops to be immaculate, then you’re only playing at idolatry and not real Catholic Christianity and if nothing else, occasions like this are an opportunity to recalibrate your faith so that it resembles the actual state of affairs of the militant Church.

Hilaire Belloc has one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard on this point. He said that a proof of the Church’s divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.

The Catholic Church is the longest lasting institution in Western Civilization and it’s not because of some brilliant system of governance and conspiracy. It’s the kind of thing that, as you look more into its historical record, you have to conclude that it’s a miracle that it has lasted this long. Only God could have made this possible.

So, if you expected impeccable behaviour from the Church’s members and leaders, then this scandal, as well as all the past and future scandals, should be an opportunity to tear down your idols and worship God, who, by his grace, is the sole reason for all the good that is still present within her.

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  1. Amen. We need to remember we are not perfect either. It isn’t our place to judge other leaders for their supposed role, or lack of action in scandals like this. The Church has always had imperfect leaders – some more visibly and historically poorer than others. It has also always had imperfect laity, just like us. And yet, by the miracle of God’s grace and protection, the faith – the doctrines and dogmas in the Church – have remained unaltered. There were times when it would seem significant destruction of our faith would have been inevitable – far worse than the scandal of a single cardinal, or even group of cardinals or bishops. Yet, God has protected the faith so it could be handed down to future generations.

    Our job – our call – is to believe in, live, and shine the light of Christ, knowing His truth has never changed, and never will. Christ has taught us to have faith when faith isn’t popular, clearly visible, or easy. It is our call and mission to show the world that our God is a God of mercy, grace, and hope, not fear or uncertainty. Our faith is in Him, not the leaders that may falter, fall or disappoint us from time to time. We are leaders to someone – our children, families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc – and we could just as easily disappoint them in some way. Let’s show them the strength and love of Christ rather than the fear of failure…because God never fails, and neither will His Church.

  2. Actually it is our job, to judge sin, protect and defend the innocent, and to protect and defend the Church. It’s part of our job as sharers in the “sensus fidei.” In the early church lay people rioted when bishops went astray, rejected bad bishops and elected their own, men known for real holiness of life.

    Clericalism has neutered the laity, and the clergy practice of “mental reservation” (lying without calling it lying) keeps us ignorant of the real nature of the sins being perpetrated and covered up. Read the book Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, based on investigative reports of the actual things done to victims, written to give the victims a real voice. That is if you can get through it, I read partway and had to put it down. It details the depraved, graphic and violent sexual crimes that often left victims bloodied and at times needing surgery, crimes which bishops in press releases euphemistically call “fondling” and “inappropriate touching.” Victims grew up emotionally maimed and some committed suicide, and most are still bound from speaking by confidentiality agreements signed by their cowed parents.

    The time for easy “forgiveness” is past. Remember Jesus used a whip and reserved his harshest words for sinful, hypocritical priests. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed because of such priests. It’s time we laity – ones who truly love Jesus and our Church – to stand up and hold our bishops accountable, for they are ALL guilty of coverup, and more of them than we realize have committed the same exact sexual sins, including some of the seemingly most conservative and orthodox ones. (And that doesn’t even begin to address the problem of heterosexual priests sleeping with women, another soul-killing sin apparently widespread in the Church.)

    If you don’t believe me, read Rod Dreher’s blog at the American Conservative, he is posting a lot of letters and testimonies of victims, and of angered GOOD priests who feel badly betrayed by their bishops. And read OnePeterFive, they are doing the same. Especially read the comments. This is a disgrace to Jesus in the tabernacle, consecrated by distributed by filthy hands who have never been held to account for their crimes. If the bishops won’t hold them accountable – or repent resign if they’re one of them – we MUST, for the sake of Jesus and the Church.

  3. Our faith is not in principalities and powers. Our faith is in God. We follow Jesus Christ and the Church He founded… its a necessary bonus to have good priests still to bring us the Blessed Eucharist and keep us fed.

    • Is the Roman Church really the church Jesus founded? It is hard to believe that the monarchical model is what He had in mind.

      • Hey, Henry, if you knew what the Bible says then you’d be Catholic. Jesus was in the line of David (a monarch, duh!) and appointed Peter as his Chief Steward (what today we’d call Prime Minister or Vicar).

        P.S. What’s with your “Roman Church” crack, Henry? What have you got against the Byzantine Catholics, the Melkites, etc.? Just say “Catholic Church”, she is the universal Church and not limited to one place.

  4. In as much as I do agree that God sustain his church through time and history, the clergies have remained unrepented. I said so to mean that going through seminary should not be a criterion for priesthood. Because anyone who fancies priesthood can pretend to arrive there without a repentance heart but a head full of knowledge. We understand so many priests have become so socialized with the world outside the church that their choices & those of friends come first. We know some priests stay late nights at parties of friends, go to secret clubs i;e gay parties. Brian when a priest purpose does these continually, he is not a priest. Now you talk alot about weakness of the human person, penances and God mercies. As a Catholic and a devout christian. The richness of God mercies is made manifest for a mournful heart who will not go back to such sins and if he does its only accidental. Catholic weekly confession or penance is for accidental sins not for perpetual sinners and acceptable to God only when promise not to do so again. And so when confessions become habitual its no more confession whether for priests or laity

  5. literally the Church has been scandalized since before Christ and even after.. Even in the bible it continuously says in each book, that there will be scandal in our faith, scandal in this world. We’ve known there was scandal in the Church since before 1500 A.D. Even Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Joan of Arc knew there were scandals in the Church. Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Joan of Arc and Saint Jean Marie Vianney, pray for us.

  6. The Roman Catholic Church developed from the eighth century onwards, as it centralised itself around a monarchical papacy, based on a particular interpretation of Matthew 16:18.

    The present pains are a product of a false ecclesiology. The tragedy is that there is no-one in the west who can speak with moral authority.

    The Catholic Church is more than Rome’s dominion.

    • I must tell you that you are wrong, Henry Law. You appear to be repeating a Protestant “false ecclesiology” but which one I’m not sure, there are so many different and mutually incompatible Protestant beliefs.

  7. The lord told us in the bible wat is hidden will come out there is no room in the Catholic Church for evil time will tell all this is not just in ar church this is in all faths it saddened me to say but I do believe if these men ar guilty there never wanted to be priests in the beginning stood before god and said there would follow god I think the best thing there can do is step down themselves and prove there innocence

  8. I have trouble even responding to this post. While I agree with what is said, I see at the same time a rising heresy in the church. We have clergy who teach against the basics of Catholic and Christian faith. I think this abuse will be found to be even more widely practiced. I read that abuse in Latin America is just starting to come to light.

    It seems to me that Catholics that wish to remain faithful will in a way need to depend more on a personal relationship with Christ to navigate their way through the church. The Church really has not entirely addressed the SSA issue. We are in a political climate that makes dealing with that a problem. We must realize though, the Church has always been opposed to the world. In America we seem particularly afraid to address sexual immorality. It seems some want to accept social morality as the new norm.

  9. I have no problem accepting the fact that all people are sinners. However, this situation involves innocent children who will possibly turn away from the faith because of the trauma inflicted upon them. Another instance that bothers me is that most offenders not only go unpunished by the church and local authorities, most are relocated to another parish where the disturbing, shocking violation against children begins again. I think that those guilty can be forgiven while the perpetrators are serving time in prison after being defrocked. Again, these violations aren’t against just anyone in the church. They are against innocent children who should be protected by the church rather than the church protecting the offending clergy.


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