A friend sent me an article, an op-ed piece, by the man who stood up in the middle of Mass recently to confront his priest about how to move on from the abuse scandal in the Catholic church. It’s worth a read here. I had seen mention of it on Twitter.
While I have some admiration for a person who could do this, interrupt Mass, challenge his priest, after I read the op-ed, I realized I did not share this man’s opinion about what comes next. He asserts that people should stop going to Mass, and “It is wrong to support the church.”
But he doesn’t offer anything else.
Just: Stop going to church.
He has given up on the idea that the church can be reformed. He is taking his family and walking away.
And that is a valid choice for him. I am sure he will not be the only Catholic to make that choice in the wake of the abuse scandal and the coverups.
I am not going to walk away — or at least not just yet. I am continuing to struggle, I won’t lie. Time may prove Mr. Nathaniel correct, and the church may not be able to reform itself. It may continue to bluster and obfuscate. And if that proves to be the case, then my choice becomes more clear.
But I’m not leaving without trying to have an influence.
Michael is due to receive First Holy Communion this spring, and Flora is due to be confirmed. I want to give them the opportunity to receive these sacraments.
The Gospel reading for this week reveals a community in crisis. Some of Jesus’s followers turn away from him as he starts to preach the good news about receiving eternal life — by partaking of the communion of faith. Last week, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” This week he says, “No one can come to the Father except through me.”
As disciples leave, Jesus turns to his apostles. “Are you going to leave, too?” He asks. And Peter says, “To whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life.” (Source)
If I decide to stop going to church, what do I do, where do I go? A church without a Eucharist? A church without a Pope? Yes, the death and resurrection of Christ is the center of all Christian religions. But only Catholicism has the transubstantiated Eucharist. (I’m willing to hear arguments against the papacy, but I will meet you with great skepticism. I recognize these men are, only, ultimately, men — flawed and weak, learned and holy. Changes need to be made, but I’m not sure I’m on board with ending the papacy.)
So! What’s next for me? I will continue to attend weekly Mass, and receive the Eucharist. I will sign my children up for CCD, and continue to educate them in our faith at home.
There is a good woman I know via social media. She has been such an example to me as a Catholic woman, and wife and mother. She has started a campaign to advocate for change in the Catholic church, and I am going to join her in her efforts.
She has founded The Siena Project, named after St. Catherine of Siena, who declared, “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”
If you feel the need to leave the church, I understand. But if you are like me, and struggling and want to stay but DO SOMETHING, then I encourage you to check out Miriel’s project and participate. I know Mr. Nathaniel is not alone, and I hope that I am not alone either.
ETA: The priest at the 7 p.m. mass I attended last night with my children addressed this head on. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Many of you sitting here tonight are struggling. Are you going to stay in the church, or are you going to leave? I understand, and I encourage you to pray.” He acknowledges, as do many of us, that the church as an institution has lost its moral authority.
All I have to say is that we, the people in the pews, have to hold the church accountable. If the church does not provide transparent changes, it truly cannot stand as an institution. Time will tell.