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In the Name of Jesus, We Must Save the Catholic Church

First communion in a German church. Praying children wearing traditional clothes and wooden crosses over the neck. Close-up shot.

It’s the writing exercise perhaps best left as a blank page. The journal entry you wish you could never get around to. For those who write topical for publication, it’s the column you don’t want to submit. At this point, it pretty much has to be a personal essay, because journalists and investigators have done and continue to do the hard work. More empirical evidence than will ever be needed has been gathered about child molestation/sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church. It’s an awful, mind-boggling, and seemingly intractable problem.

The only thing left for most devout Catholics is to figure out what to do.

We’ve known for ages that there were obscene pockets of sin, evil, and illegality within the church. But recent revelations from Pennsylvania codified some endemic pathology and revealed that this most extreme violation and insidious concealment is embedded in the very hierarchy of the church. All the way up to Pope Francis, if Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., is to be believed.

My reservations about the current pontiff prior to Vigano’s allegations were the same as those held by many conservative Catholics. I’m steadfast in resistance to anything that smacks of Marxism or socialism and so have been concerned about statements and positions taken by the official church and the pontiff himself since Pope Francis’s ascension. Ostensibly, you respect the title—supreme pontiff—same as you respect the office of the presidency when held by a candidate you didn’t vote for. If it is proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Pope Francis is culpable in any way for a child sexual abuse cover-up, however, I will stand by with a silent prayer of acceptance if he resigns.

At Sunday Mass, our priest speaks of “these troubled times for the church.” Encouragingly, Portland Diocese Archbishop Alexander Sample called publicly for full investigations and accountability. From a report in the Portland Oregonian:

Sample called for change. Incidents must be fully investigated, he said, and priests and bishops must be held accountable, "no matter how high this goes." Hundreds of  churchgoers clapped, interrupting Sample. 'I have outlined some concrete steps and actions which should be taken,' he continued.

Across the nation and around the world, critics and detractors of the church inveigh in degrees running from outraged concern to schadenfreude to understandable invective. Closer to home, at a family gathering, while the men talk football in the living room, a female family member cries in the kitchen, “What are we going to do?”

***

Catholics untouched by the exposed sinfulness may call upon their own memory and experiences in an attempt to recall evidence of what they never saw, never in an eternity would have suspected.