The Darkness of Scandal and the Light of Christ

Some dark things that have taken place in the Catholic Church have been brought to light this week and I’ve found it very difficult to confront it all. I don’t want to think anymore about how decades ago, some Catholic priests became manipulative predators by abusing innocent members of this Church. I don’t want to read more stories and Twitter threads about how this institution covered up those horrors. I don’t want to look at the depths of darkness that I’m associated with by calling myself a Catholic.

I’ve been angry at the Lord, at those priests who’ve done these terrible things, at those bishops who allowed them to persist by covering up their actions, at those bishops who haven’t said or done enough in response… and in that anger, there have been moments where I found myself tempted to cling to my own peace and just leave it unaddressed.

Confront the Darkness

Yet, despite that temptation, I can’t deny that the way the Catholic Church has been making headlines recently is real. And in accepting that, in all honesty I’ve been tempted to doubt my entire experience and faith in the Church. I’ve been tempted to walk away from it all — I know Jesus, so can’t I just seek Him, apart from this institutional mess? Yet, as much as that thought might come to mind, I can’t bring myself to walk away from this Church.

Why? Because this Church wasn’t established by guilty men and the Church’s goodness doesn’t rest on the goodness of their actions. The Church was established by Christ Himself, the light of the world, who came to shine in the darkness, and not be overcome by it (John 1:5). And the Church itself preaches this truth — that “all members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners. In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time” (CCC 827). The sinfulness of those humans within the Church though, doesn’t detract from its divine teachings or from the Lord’s movements of grace in the sacraments.

Even in a time like this, we can maintain bold faith in Jesus, in the goodness of the Church He established, in the goodness of the authority He established, and in His desire to defeat these dark distortions of that authority with His light.

Let Him Overcome It

I know how confusing and challenging these revelations are for those of us who love Jesus and the Church He established. So I encourage you to lean into His light, which casts out darkness and evil, now more than ever. The one who delivered Israel from Egypt, who confronted and convicted King David in his darkest moments, who welcomed the most forgotten before addressing the religious elite, who defeated death’s reign over life… He is redeeming us now — in His Church.

Here are some ways we can lean into Jesus’ light right now:

1. Allow yourself to respond freely and share that response with Him and an adult you trust — a youth minister, Core Member, teacher, parent, or counselor.
You are allowed to be angry, sad, numb, dumbfounded, confused, worried, doubtful, indifferent — whatever response (or even lack of response) the scandal stirs up in you, share that with Jesus and ask Him to help you process it with people you trust.

2. Pray for the victims of these crimes, their families, and all affected by them.
Many souls have been severely wounded because of the actions and silence of leaders in our Church. Now is the time to suffer with them, pray with and for them, and beg that Jesus our Healer would be near them.

3. Pray and fast for healing, justice, and positive action toward change in our Church.
Prayer is bolstered through sacrifice, so offer your petitions to the Lord by denying yourself in some way. Consider doing a small fast of sweets, soda, social media, or TV to physically express your reliance on God’s grace in this time.

4. Continue to know, love, and serve Jesus.
Seek Him in daily prayer, Scripture, and the sacraments. Let His love transform your heart and empower you to love as authentically He does. And then go and love the people He puts in front of you. This goodness will combat the evil that our Church has seen.

5. Pray for your bishops and priests and thank and affirm those that have served you as Christ has called them to.
Pray that those in positions of authority will use their authority honestly; and pray that those who have failed to do so would be courageous enough to step down and take steps toward reparation. Additionally, be vocal and active in expressing gratitude and affirmation to those good priests in your life — those men who have served humbly, honestly, and truly lovingly. They are the light of Christ in the darkness and, especially now, they need to be encouraged, thanked, and love for their ministry.

Jesus left us a sure way to unite our lives to His own in the sacraments, lived out in the life of the Body of Christ — His Church. We’ve seen, in a big way, how human corruption and evil distortions has existed within that Body, and we can’t ignore that. The darkness must be confronted, but always with the hope that His light has overcome it. Even the darkest, sickest, most evil sides of humanity cannot defeat the infinite love of Jesus, who is seeking to deliver us. Hold fast to faith that the the light of the world has delivered the Church that He loves, even from this.