After a couple busy weeks, I have just found time to respond to Gary Wallin’s letter to the editor concerning the Catholic Church. As I started to read his letter, the questions that came to mind were, “What is the point of this letter?” (Was his goal to drive people from the church or simply to cause ill feelings between religions?) and “Does this man have an understanding of the religion or has he ever been to a Catholic Mass?” (Has he ever asked a practicing Catholic why he or she loves the church?) I will simply give a response to his general premise on priestly abuse and a short insight on what my concept of the church is.
Firstly, I see my church as a religious FAMILY. Like our own families, this is a HUMAN institution that I believe was instituted by Jesus Christ. Is it perfect? NO, because it is HUMAN. Those of us who believe in the church are as embarrassed and horrified by priestly abuse as everyone else. We are also dismayed by the response of some bishops to cover up and hide the abuse. With this, I agree with Mr. Wallin. Does that mean we all leave the church and go somewhere else? Definitely NOT! If someone in your family does something wrong, either legally or morally, do you disband or leave your family? Or do you support that person and try to correct the issue. The impression I got (and presume Mr. Wallin wanted others to see) is to distrust all priests and any practice of the Catholic Church. What a horrible disservice to the thousands of honest, self-sacrificing, and incredibly holy MEN and WOMEN who have given their lives to the service of others as priests and religious sisters. Every field of endeavor (such as medicine, law, business, pastoral ministry, education, etc.) has some bad apples but fine, admirable people in those fields are wonderful contributors to society. Don’t judge all based on a few.
If Mr. Wallin’s goal was to embarrass Catholics to leave their church, I want to give him a few reasons some of us will be faithful to our church despite human failings, social whims, or disagreements with a priest. These are MY beliefs and I’m sure others of my faith could echo and add to them with their own thoughts. At the risk of wearing my religion on my sleeve, I feel his vicious attack needs a balanced response. I will simply touch on a few issues.
Mr. Wallin also mentioned several times the concept that it is a MALE dominated organization. I agree with this observation, but would also ask him to name many other feminine based/dominated, major, worldwide organizations or governments throughout history. There may be some examples, but they would be exceptions to the rule. Times are changing and who knows where the next decades will take the Catholic Church in this regard, but keep your perspective in the broad realm of history when citing this fact in your vicious attack on an institution you obviously don’t understand.
One concept that may make Catholicism hard for many non-Catholics to understand is that we believe in mystery-something we can’t understand, but accept on FAITH. If that makes you uncomfortable, you may as well stop reading now. I believe the Church was instituted by Christ when he charged his apostles to spread His word and expand his church. I take Jesus at his word at the Last Supper when He said, “This is my Body. This is my Blood.” He didn’t say, “This SYMBOLIZES My body and blood.”
Contrary to what I have heard some members of other faiths state about our church, we are Biblically based. If they really studied our liturgies, nearly every rite is based on and quotes Holy Scripture and our Mass is effused with scriptural references. (If it weren’t for Catholic monasteries in the Dark Ages, our scriptures could easily have been lost.) We do believe that in the course of 2000 years, wise and holy men have studied and helped to glean the meaning of the scriptures and formulated our church doctrines. This is what we mean by ‘tradition’. As in any family or other organization, traditions come from accepted practices and serious thought, but ours are simply several hundred years old and still evolving.
These are just a very few reasons I can remain faithful to my church when times get tough, rather than leaving my faith to join another, based on the popularity of the minister, youth programs, or other issues. I want to work to make my church FAMILY better. So, yes, there may be flaws in my church, but it is still the best around for me.