My crisis of faith


#1

I realize this is a sensitive subject, but I hope someone here will give it attention to guide me through it. I consider myself to be a good Catholic, I pray several times a day and partake in the sacrament of reconciliation before receiving communion on Sunday. I do so very happily, I’ve felt a good relationship developing between me and God as I pray and read scripture.

I have, however, ran into a serious stumbling block today. My faith has been shaken in the Church, and I’m sure many of you have had these same thoughts and so I ask for your opinion, help, and prayers.

I was looking for churches near my hometown and I came across a news article regarding a parish in my hometown. It was a story about a priest who had sexually abused children for years and according to the article it was covered up and he was replaced by another priest and the incident was not publicly acknowledged. I’ve heard of this happening before, but never at a Church I’ve actually been to. I was disheartened. Isn’t it considered that priests speak through the holy spirit when giving homilies? How could a holy person do such a thing.

I wanted to know more, and the more I found out the worse I felt. I came across a website which lists probably thousands of priests across the country who have been accused, it lists them both alphabetically and by diocese. I will spare posting the link here because I do not want anyone to feel they have violated the first commandant by viewing what might be considered anti-catholic material. The site itself isn’t so focused on the Church as it is these priests and bishops who are accused.

And now I’m confused. I pray and ask for God to strengthen my faith but I feel unsure. These many holy people abusing children? And then the bishops covering it up? How could such holy men who are considered to be descended from the apostles do this?

Please help me. Don’t be mad at me for bringing this up, I just need your help.


#2

Don’t mean to be rude, but come on. The “priest abuse scandal” has been a huge news story for years now. How did you manage to miss it? :confused:


#3

No, you’re not being rude. I’ve seen it on the news but didn’t think much. I always dismissed it as something small in some churches I’ve never heard of by a few priests. I didn’t know it was in Churches I’ve actually been to.


#4

OK, as I said, didn’t mean to be rude or dismissive.

The short answer is, priests (and anyone else) who molest kids are sinners. The Church is full of sinners, and every so often, when we’re not paying attention, the sin builds up and boils over and makes a big stinky mess that all of us have to clean up. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again, as long as the Church keeps allowing sinners to get inside.

Does that help? :wink:


#5

It does but I still feel so unconfident in the church as a whole now. :frowning: In Catholicism there is the bible and there is The Holy Catholic Church which form everything we are supposed to believe and how we live our lives, right? Well according tot his scandal, the senior members of the church might be corrupt and care more for public opinion then doing what is right and the priests, who are supposed to be close to the holy spirit are doing horrible things.


#6

dnomyaR, I once asked someone about this and this is what they told me. Since the Church has the fullness of truth, it would make sense for the devil to attack it the most, more than other churches. And what is the most effective way to attack it, and to lead people out of it, or away from it? This would probably be to attack the leaders of the Church: the priests and bishops. Priests face many temptations, I’m sure, and they have to be really strong in Christ in order to persevere and be good priests. Not all priests have such strong faith and prayer life. Some of them give in to these attacks. This does not mean that the Church does not have the truth. It just means that priests are human too, and we must pray for them.

Also, keep in mind that this happens in other churches too, and in society in general. It’s not a “Catholic Church problem”. It’s a worldwide problem. The reason we hear more about what goes on in the Catholic church, is because of the media and also because it’s a visible organization… if a Protestant pastor is found to be abusive, he can just disappear and start a new church or something. I read a report once that showed that sexual abuse happens just as much in Protestant churches, and in some cases, it happens more.

Don’t let this shake your faith in the Church, this is just what the devil would want. Just pray for the Church, pray for the priests, and be careful in choosing a parish.

God bless


#7

I had a similar ‘crisis’ when I read about some morally corrupt Popes that lived in the past. But these corrupt Popes were never able to change any doctrines. The teaching of the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit, no matter how much immorality there is within the Church. Yes, it is unfortunate that this happens. But the Church is made up of imperfect people, and some of those imperfect people are priests and bishops and even cardinals. We should trust in the Church anyway. Have you ever read about St Faustina? Jesus told her that He is pleased by her trust in His representatives, despite everything. By doing this, we are giving the devil less power. Remember, this is exactly what he wants: to lead people away from the Church by corrupting the hierarchy. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is still helping the Church though… and there are many good priests. There are more good priests than bad ones, in fact.

Remember, the truth of the teachings of the Church does not depend on the holiness of any of its members. The truth was given by Christ, and it can’t be destroyed. I agree that we should try to be holy though. We should pray for this and try our best to be good Catholics, and also pray for the clergy and the religious.


#8

I feel like I can speak to this. My father was molested by a priest. He continues to attend Mass every Sunday.

My aunt was physically assaulted by a priest and the bishop did nothing about it. She and her family left the Church.

It’s our decision how we will view the Church.

The Church is HOLY; it’s members are sinners. The worst sins that exists in the world, exists in the Church, inlcuding murder (did you see where the priest killed the nun?), adultery, fornication…everything under the sun. Satan doesn’t stand outside the door of the Church. If anything, he works harder to snare those who attend Mass.

How did the priests and bishops slip through? I couldn’t tell you. I wouldn’t want to be them when they have to face Jesus. To whom much is given, much is expected.

I helps me to view the Church as the bride of Christ, a kingdom that is in the world but not of the world. There is no sin great enough to destroy God’s kingdom. It also helps me to think of the saints within our Church. As awful as some of the sins of it’s members, the sanctity of others is absolutely astounding.

Don’t lose faith! Jesus loves his bride and all of us sinners.

Peace in Christ,
Teri


#9

First, this kind of child abuse occurs not just in the Catholic Church, but in day care centers, schools, other religious organizations, etc. Anywhere that there is an adult authority given access to children, there is always a systemic risk. It’s a national problem, and not just isolated with the Catholic Church.

Secondly, I wouldn’t put any reliance in a web site. Most web site operators posting this kind of information have an ulterior agenda.

Thirdly, in many of these situations, there is always the possibility of a “He said, she said” scenario of false accusations. A priest may be completely innocent, but be falsely accused for any host of reasons. Children may accuse falsely - It’s always a possibility.

Unfortunately, there is legitimacy to these accusations, as the Church has given formal monetary restitution to victims that have been abused. Children have been seriously harmed, and it is a real issue with serious implications.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found that 4% of all Catholic priests serving in the U.S. between 1950-2002 faced some sort of accusation of this nature. For those children that were abused, these numbers mean nothing. From a broader viewpoint, ANY percentage of abuse is too high.

By the same token, for every 100 priests, 96 have never even had a single accusation. That means that we shouldn’t paint a broad brush by labeling every priest as a likely abuser.

The U.S. Church now has a zero tolerance policy. It has adopted new training standards, and now runs criminal checks on priests, volunteers, laity, etc. You can’t even volunteer to work in a Catholic organization without having a background check completed.

It’s a sad situation, especially for the children affected. Nevertheless, awareness is improving, and the Church is taking and has taken steps to rectify the situation as best they can. It will take a long time to heal these wounds.


#10

All,

Thank you kindly for understanding. I was worried letting another Catholic know how I felt about this might somehow make me isolated. Your words were really helpful. You have helped to strengthen my faith and I will reference this topic anytime I think of the scandal. Thank you so much for understanding and helping.


#11

Sadly, the abuse scandal is a terrible problem that the Catholic Church should have addressed sooner. But, as stated above, the problem is just as bad in other denominations. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially, are going through the same thing right now. Further, the worst institution for abuse, with even higher percentages of molesters, is the public school system. NONE of this excuses it. It should ALL be dealt with, but the while the Catholic Church may have the protection of the Holy Spirit, it’s members are still sinners, including the clergy. There have been other scandals in the past, and the church has managed to repair them and survive.

If you would like to watch a good movie about how such things could happen, go see “Doubt” with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymore Hoffman. It’s very good at demonstrating the problems involved with investigating suspicions against a priest.


#12

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.