The level of chaos and crisis in the church now is overwhelming, and it only promises to increase. I have been thinking, praying, and reading through a lot of what’s out there, and I want to provide a mini-series of thought on the matter. This consists of three posts:
5 Things To Do During the Crisis
With all the negativity and even the reality that there is little we can do in the face of some of this evil (read my post here about why this is the case), I want to talk about some things we can do.
1. Stay Catholic. The Body of Christ, the Church, is a reality far greater than any of these sick old (and young) men who are “anti-Christs.” That’s the point- they are anti-Christs. They are a reason to cling even more closely to Christ and his Church. Whether or not the “hierarchy” has the testicles to send these disgraces into isolation to pray and do penance far away from the faithful until they die, the Church is more than them. Jesus Christ is Lord. He is with his people, and God is close to us in our suffering. There have always been bad priests, bad bishops, and bad popes. None of that has changed the reality that this is the Church established by Christ 2000 years ago, or his presence in our world. Stay close to Jesus, his Church, and his priests and bishops who seek virtue.
A priest friend of mine counseled me to be careful about how much I say in these posts because of the lukewarm Catholics sitting on the fence who may leave the church. I am writing for the lukewarm Catholics sitting on the fence who may not realize it’s ok to be pissed off, call a spade a spade, smoke out the evil in our midst, and yet remain Catholic at the same time. I hope and pray that if people feel the church is dead, the will realize it’s because of some of the people in the church, not the Church herself.
2. Pray and Fast. You may have heard of an Extinction Level Event, well, we are in the midst of a Biblical Level Event. If God wills to allow us to get through this crisis without returning to earth Himself, generations ahead will look back at this time like we look back on the French Revolution, the Reformation, the split of 1054, or even the early Roman persecutions. This is a time that has been prophesied in multiple places and times, and history is writing a perfectly reasonable narrative.
Therefore, as in the bible, and in every one of those great epochal shifts mentioned above, we must pray and fast. We must submit ourselves in trust to our Father in Heaven who loves and takes care of us.
We must call on St. Joseph. St. Joseph is going to show up in a new way for our time. There is a necessary development of theology that is occurring, related to a purification of our understanding of marriage and family. The Church will appreciate anew the holy marriage of Mary and Joseph that brought forth the Incarnation, God Enfleshed, into this world, and particularly the role of Jesus’s real earthly father. Joseph was the father of Jesus by marriage, not by flesh, but a father nonetheless. We need Jesus, and we have his father through Baptism to help us get to him. We need Joseph because he was a real man who showed us what real masculinity looks like. Our Bishops need him, our priests need him, and we need him. St. Joseph’s official titles of Protector of the Church (his bride), and Terror of Demons are particularly important right now. Pray to him.
3. Withhold Money From the Church. Some people may not like this, but I believe that one complicating factor contributing to the brokenness in the hierarchy is an obsession with funding. Everything is about money. Everything may be about “works of mercy,” “serving the poor,” and “ministry,” but really it’s about money. If the Church runs out of money, as it should since it has gushed hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and hush money, what’s the worst that will happen? Ministries will close down. Churches will close down. Some bishops who don’t already will have to learn how to live simple, poor lives without their own drivers and palaces. Priest meetings will have to happen at monasteries and retreat centers with soup and salad instead of resorts and hotels with fine wine and filet mignon. Besides that, Catholic Charities won’t get funded. Hospitals may shut down. Orphanages and elderly homes will close.
I say, “Good!” These places are disgraces to the Catholic faith, not because of what they are, but because of what they cover up. Works of Mercy that emanate from such a decrepit organization are not worthy to bear the name. Refer to my post on 5 Things to Know. Virtue is not the standard. Celibacy is impotent. The hierarchy has failed us and it only adds salt to the wound to pretend that the Church is doing something good through these “ministries.” Furthermore, most of these ministries are deeply flawed. Catholic Charities in most dioceses resemble nothing of Catholic orthodoxy. They should be shut down. I will happily drive 45 minutes to an outpost chapel with a faithful priest on fire with the Theology of the Body and a deep life of prayerful union with Christ, and plunge deep into my pockets to feed the poor and clothe the naked directly myself as Christ taught me.
Bishops hold out benchmarks for their priests to raise a certain amount of money. They are expected to contribute to capital campaigns through their parishes. They are expected to read the letter from the Bishop. In many dioceses I know of personally, priests are consistently quick to read letters from the Bishop when it concerns raising money, but barely a word is written, nor a visit conducted from the Bishop for anything else. Most parishes are lucky if the Bishop breezes through for a Confirmation. The scary part is, most priests feel the same absence as the parishioners! Keep your money. Feed the poor yourself. Find a charity you connect with and tithe. Just don’t give it to the church until something dramatic changes.
One caveat to discern: There is a precept of the Church that, “The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.” (CCC 2043) There is no further elaboration on what this means in particular, especially in a situation like this. I don’t have an answer for everyone on how to rectify this tension, but the precept is listed along with attending Sunday Mass and receiving Eucharist and Confession once a year. I think we probably owe much more due diligence before sending our contributions anywhere.
4. Speak Up. Every impotent statement from a Bishop I’ve read so far (all of them) has said to “speak out.” They are calling for “victims of abuse” to speak out. This is a given. If you’ve been abused, speak out. If you need help, write me and I will personally see to it that you get the help you need to speak out. But the problem doesn’t end with abuse. We’ve all suffered at the hands of priests who don’t live lives of virtue. If your priest acts like a jerk, tell him. If your priest puts people down that work for him, don’t turn and look the other way. If your priest puts everyone to sleep during his homily, tell him to step his game up. If you can’t find a single piece of evidence that your priest prays, ask him. This is part of rejecting “clericalism.” A lot of people are saying the clericalism needs to stop in our church. Well, laity, we are enabling it. Just because some priests like to think they are better human beings simply for being priests doesn’t mean we need to acquiesce. The truth, as expressed by St. Augustine, is that priests are first our brothers and second our priests. Out of love for them, we need to treat them as brothers.
This is also what needs to happen when there is a narcissistic system in place. As I discussed in my previous article, the narcissism amongst some of the hierarchy breeds a system of fear that trickles down to the laity. The only way to overcome this is to courageously risk the pushback and speak up when there is an injustice.
Don’t get me wrong- the office of the priesthood is something to hold in high reverence. It is precisely because of the reverence due to the office of the priesthood that I am writing so bluntly about the men who are disgracing it. Reverence the office, and call the man to conversion. One of the works of mercy, after all, is correcting the sinner. Being a priest doesn’t make a sinner exempt from our correction. Just because they think it does doesn’t mean we have to agree.
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any sin, you who are spiritual should recall him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:1-2)
“My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19)”
5. Support the Good Priests. There are plenty of them. You know them. They’ve changed your life. They’ve witnessed the Gospel to you, made Jesus come alive, and given you an anchor in the storms of life. They are suffering deeply now, more than most of us. Now, more than ever, they need us. They have been suffering for decades from the evil that is only now becoming illuminated for the rest of the church. The good men in the priesthood who desire virtue and real fraternity have been starved for a long time. They’ve been wounded by their bishops and brother priests who failed them as fathers and who sought to protect themselves in the Dallas Charter of 2002 and continue to protect themselves now with their disgraceful statements.
Support good bishops also. This is more difficult to discern, especially with the revelation that any bishop who was a bishop in 1985 was warned about the evil in the Church and what needed to be done to correct it. I know my bishop is a good man and has worked to correct the mess left to him by his predecessors and brothers. I know there are other good bishops out there. I can’t even imagine how much more they are suffering. Pray for them. Send them a note. Send them some word of encouragement.