This is going to be a difficult question for me to explain, but it is one I am increasingly struggling to answer myself or justify to others.
I’m a masters student, and my main topic for the past year has been the history of the Catholic Church over the past century. I’ve been preparing for this for some time, reading and reviewing works by Catholic, Protestant, Communist and Secular scholars alike.
As I’m sure we all know, a huge portion of the history of the modern church, especially for the past twenty years has been dominated by the incessant non-stop revelation of horrific abuses by the Catholic Church, cleric and layman alike. Canada, Australia, Ireland, France, America; there isn’t a country upon the earth that the Catholic Church operates within that hasn’t experienced a terrible abuse of trust and power.
I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail about the cases like that of Philomena Lee or St Vincents Orphanage in Newfoundland and the Catholic Church’s response to it, but we all know how it has been portrayed by the media and what the secular public thinks about it. The non-Catholics on my course started out as uninterested in the Catholic Church, but by now insult it and show an active dislike of it, being “evil”, “corrupt” and “malevolent, a threat to freedom” and view it with barely concealed hate.
And what bothers me is…I’m struggling myself to disagree with them.
I know the Catholic Church is the one Church founded by God, and that the real presence of Christ can only be found within it. I also know we cannot judge the Church y the actions of a few…But it’s not just a few. I’ve tried as hard as I can to remain unbiased in my research but from the very beginning the Church leadership has been held by some of the most petty (Stephen VI), vindictive (Urban VI), cruel (Innocent IV), treacherous(Benedict IX) and tyrannical (Pius IX) men to have ever walked the face of the earth.
My question is this…If the Catholic Church is the source of all truth and the body of Christ upon earth, why has it been such a corrupt and destructive force in the world for so long and so prone to abuse? Certainly today in areas like healthcare it is a great source of good but even still…The Irish adoption scandals, the Australian boys school rapes and vilification of the victims, opposition to abolishing slavery…
I keep trying to tell myself that this is Gods will, and this is his chosen tool for our salvation…But at the same time it’s hypocritical, woefully inefficient and all too often seems to be the personal sledgehammer for whichever Roman or European ruler had the most money to fling around. Forget testing us, it feels almost as if many of the people the Church has been charged to aid have been actively persecuted and tortured by it and like that Ugandan Cardinal promoting the “death to the LGBT” legislation proves in some cases still is *.
I want to see good in it, and in my thesis I am trying hard to portray it in the best possible light. But there are so many things I can’t even begin to justify, it feels almost like a futile effort. As a Catholic I can’t write an essay against the Church, but the deeper I go the more true more of the accusations against it appear to be true.
I need help, reassurance…I don’t even know, maybe a shrink would help. I’m trying not to be resentful or emotional on the matter, as any historian should be but It is taking me a great deal of continual effort to not actually dislike the Church as an organization, I’m struggling to see it as anything but rotten to the core at the moment, but I don’t want to.
Any advice? Thank you*