An open letter to my Catholic family – “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”

Posted October 19th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

Joy and peace, dear Catholic family, clergy and laity,

midnight massHow much do you love the Catholic Church?  That question comes up again as I grieve the death of a great woman, Barbara Blaine, the founder and president of SNAP (Survivors of People Abused by Priests).  Barbara never knew that she was the reason that  Lori and I asked ourselves the above question as the sex abuse crisis unfolded before our eyes in 2002.  She, unknowingly, helped us reaffirm our love for this Church of saints and sinners and get involved with finding positive solutions to the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Yes, the Church is comprised of saints and sinners which does not describe two separate categories of people but every one us who  gathers for worship at the Sunday Eucharist.  And as a church of sinners becoming saints there have been times when we Catholics were less of a light of God’s love and mercy and more of a force for darkness, as in the Church’s treatment of Jews throughout its history, the Spanish Inquisition, and the current crisis of clergy sex abuse.

guardiniA great 20th-century Catholic intellectual, Romano Guardini. who refused a cardinal’s hat offered by Pope Paul VI, wrote:

 “ The Church is the Cross on which Christ is always  crucified. One cannot separate Christ from his bloody, painful Church.” 

What Guardini apparently meant by this is that, because the Church is immersed in the affairs of human society and led by fallible humans,  she has betrayed her fidelity to Jesus and the Gospels.  Therefore, the Church will always need some church members to love her enough to bear the suffering required to guide her back to faithfulness.

I thought I was such a person, I thought that I loved the Catholic Church enough to help her become a more authentic follower of Jesus.  Thus, I, with Lori, worked to end abortion, marched against nuclear weapons, lived low-income to befriend the poor, practiced    Natural Family Planning, and raised our many children Catholic.  Early in our marriage we were honored by the Knights of Columbus in our Maryland parish as “Catholic Family of the Year.”  

But there was one issue which I avoided, one issue in which I did not want to participate: the clergy sex abuse crisis. The crisis exploded onto the national scene in 1984 in my hometown when the egregious and criminal behavior of Fr. Gilbert Gauthe was uncovered.  Lori and I had worked with Gauthe on a confirmation retreat.  He    allegedly molested over 130 boys.  I knew the bishop and his associates who protected Gauthe and failed to reach out to the victims and their families.  As new incidents of other priests abusing came out in the late 80’s and 90’s, I kept it all at distance.  I did not want to get involved.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

When Boston’s Catholic community imploded and diocesan leaders across the country were exposed for protecting clergy sexual predators, I had a “come to Jesus” moment.  I was deeply, deeply convicted that I was part of the problem because I refused to get involved.  I knew what getting “involved” would mean: demanding the truth from my friend, employer, and bishop at the risk of losing his friendship, my job, and institutional support for my work in ministry. 

mary magdalenI remember in prayer hearing Jesus asking me, “How much do you love the Church?”  I understood what He meant: someone who loves the Church must bear the suffering for helping her do the right thing.  I  realized that, so far, change in the Church had only come because of the victims who demanded change through media pressure and lawsuits.  We faithful Catholics sat in the pews and dismissed the victims / survivors as, at best, agitators who would never be satisfied and, at worst, liars. 

Lori and I discussed and prayed and agonized.  We came to this crossroads: we can walk away from the crisis, but then we must leave the Church because we as Christians could not in good faith stay in the Church and remain silent and uninvolved. 

How much do you love the Church? 

If you have not done so already, please read the article on Barbara Blaine (http://www.catholiclifeministries.org/2017/10/03/barbara-blaine-21st-century-st-joan-of-arc/ ) and get involved.  Let’s not leave it to the victims / survivors of sex abuse in the Church and their families to do our job in demanding that church leaders act in just, honest, and compassionate ways.

In the Lord,

Robert

 

 

 

2 Responses to “An open letter to my Catholic family – “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa””

  1. Michael Krainak says:

    1. I urge everyone to learn about The Keepers: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Keepers

    2. I love the catholic church (with a lower case c). My true love is for Jesus. Humans need institutions and traditions. The Catholic Church shows the best and worst of humanity. Vatican 2 was great progress in examining the teachings and origins of traditions. Unfortunately, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church does not have a means for critical examination and repair. Thus, it is aging and collapsing in the US. But…there is no viable replacement. The lay people are left to beg the clergy for more self-examination and scrutiny. The intellectualism and art of the Catholic Church is still unmatched.

    3. Narrow is the Way…and Few find it. Take up your cross and follow Jesus.

  2. Tommy Faulk says:

    Robert, thank you for your transparency and honesty. Lisa and I spoke our wedding vows facilitated by Fr. Gauthe. By the grace and mercy of God, we celebrate 40 years of marriage in November. As Lisa and I come to our 22nd year in full time pastoral ministry and just crossed our 34th year as Christians, we both recognize that we are always one decision away from “stupid”. With that said, I’ve spoken with some of the families ravaged by those actions as well as communicating with those who reported similar actions in the Boston area. The long lasting results have been well documented. Sin by it’s nature facilitates cover up. All the way back to Adam and Eve. Robert may we continue to have the courage to reveal ungodly actions as well as have a hatred for those actions. May the Lord richly bless you and Lori as you continue in the work of our Lord’s Kingdom. Blessings. Tommy