Get Behind Us, Satan: On Scandal in the Church

I really don’t want to be writing about this. But here we go.

If you’ve been following Catholic news, a grand jury released a report today detailing the horrendous extent of sex abuse cases of over 300 priests and over 1000 victims across several dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania. It’s the latest in a series of more and more stories of abuse and cover ups in the Church coming to light, after those abused by McCarrick recently came forward, too.

Like I said, I don’t want to write about this! And I had planned to write something else today but when the Lord puts words on my heart, I really don’t have any other option other than to get them out.

Maybe I don’t have any authority to be writing on this because I’ve only been Catholic four years and I’m only a laywoman. But I love the Lord and my faith and my Church and I see her suffering under the weight of the Cross of clergy sex abuse and I have to do something.

I’ve been watching Twitter today, reading parts of the grand jury’s report and the tweets of those live-tweeting the Attorney General’s press conference and it makes me absolutely sick. And angry. Sick for what the victims have endured in silence for so many years, and especially now that the statute of limitations has run out for many of the cases. Angry that those entrusted with souls selfishly and diabolically led those souls to ruin. Enraged, even, that some of those given the title of “priest” would violate their priestly promises in such horrendous ways.

To those who have been hurt by sexual abuse, I am so sorry. My saying that probably means nothing. I cannot even begin to fathom the betrayal, hurt, pain, etc. endured at the hands of abusive priests and then the compounding pain of it being kept silent for so, so long. The central heartbreak of all of this is the victims who were so violently taken advantage of by people they were told to trust, and by people who were continuously placed in positions that allowed them to groom and abuse. I am so sorry.

It is so frustrating to think of how long this cycle of abuse, this network of abuse, even, was allowed to go on. People protecting each other, bishops re-assigning priests to different parishes or different diocese despite previous allegations… the amount of rot that was exposed to light today is really astounding. And my fear is that it runs even deeper, and the situation will get even worse before it gets better.

I cannot write on what needs to be done because that is far outside the realm of my expertise and knowledge. But there are people who do know, who have good ideas about how to make it easier to report abuse and get dangerous people out of enabling situations. I do think this should involve the laity and women religious for the sake of accountability, however. It’s time to stop dragging our feet on this. For the sake of those whose lives have been literally ruined or ended because they’ve been driven to suicide because of abuse and for the future generations of Catholics, there can be no more sitting on the sidelines while this continues on in the shadows.

Get Behind Us, Satan

When I face temptation, I often say what Jesus said in Matthew 16: “Get behind me, Satan” as in get out, get away, and don’t stand between me and the truth, me and Jesus Christ. I think we as a Church must say that now. The work of these scandals is the work of Satan, by men who have, in their sin, given themselves over to him in the most vile manner. Of course Satan wants to try to bring down the Church that Christ founded. And he wants to do it by making a mockery of the holy priesthood, which represents the priesthood of Christ. And as always, he’s using sexual sin as a way to further pervert and distort the truth about human sexuality.

To this entire mess, I say, Satan, get behind us. Get behind the faithful of the Church, the ones who are pursuing Christ’s heart, both lay and religious. Get behind us because the wheels are coming off of this disaster and scandal in the Church. I say we continue these investigations. Let’s bust this whole thing wide open so there are no more secrets in the Church. No more abusers sent away quietly, no more credible allegations swept under the rug to protect others or to save face. Let’s pursue transparency, thorough and objective investigations, and a swift, just response to all credible allegations.

Of course we need further investigation into other places where this has gone on, as in Pennsylvania. More prayers and devotions in reparation for the sins of the clergy. Maybe even public penance by those who were complicit, or by bishops who want to show they are SERIOUS about addressing this properly. For sure, though, LOTS of people need to start talking about who knew what, and when; and mass resignations should probably follow. It will probably get even uglier and more painful. But the truth will continue coming to light; and that is when justice can truly be served and healing can begin.

Pray for Our Priests

Another thing about this that breaks my heart is how all of this affects the good and holy priests out there. And trust me, they are out there. I hate that this makes so many people assume terrible things about all Catholic priests.

Perhaps this is what the other Apostles felt like when they realized Judas, one of them, had betrayed the Lord. One of their own brothers had sold his soul, and put the events of Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion into motion.

The truth is that there are priests out there that love Jesus Christ and His Church with every fiber of their being; there are SO MANY amazing men serving their flocks selflessly in all things. They spend long hours in the confessional, even longer hours counseling their parishioners, anointing the sick, and in general practicing an incredibly holy selflessness in service to their people. This is an opportunity to pray even more earnestly for our priests, and for more and more good and holy priests.

Why I Will Never Leave

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. | John 6:66-69

Yet another heartbreaking thing about all this is that so many people will turn from the Church. So many, perhaps those on the fringes of the faith already, will shut the door entirely because of the scandals plaguing the Church. And I weep for all the hurtful and untrue things that others have already said, or will say, about the faith and about faithful Catholics.

So let me briefly explain why I will never leave the Catholic Church, no matter what. I will never leave the Catholic faith for the same reason I first converted to it: It. Is. True.

I think this is where Protestants and non-Christians get confused. When I was Protestant, if I didn’t like something a pastor said or how he preached or his view of the Bible, I’d just pick up and leave and go to a different Church.

But I didn’t join the Catholic Church because of the fallible people in it. I didn’t join it for the priests, for the laity, or any of that. I became Catholic because I came to realize that this is the Church that Christ founded; and in it, and ONLY IT, He becomes really and truly present for us in the Holy Eucharist at every Mass.

The scandals are horrifying, disappointing, and enraging. But that is not the Catholic faith. Those terrible men who abused children are not the Catholic faith — in fact, they took advantage of the Catholic faith and used it for their disgusting ends. So I pray for all of us to stay close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary when being Catholic is especially difficult.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Pray for Us

It’s not a coincidence that this report on such savagery, diabolic selfishness, and heinous abuse in the Church was released on the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe. If you’re not familiar with him, he was a priest and a martyr of the Holocaust who gave his life at Auschwitz so a father would be spared.

He was a priest who gave his life so that others may live. A priest who gave us an incredible example of self-sacrificial love, modeling that of Jesus Christ’s. May we ask his intercession for all the good and holy priests of the Church that they remain steadfast in service to their Bride.


One thought on “Get Behind Us, Satan: On Scandal in the Church

  1. John Gorby says:

    Thank you, Sarah Coffey for writing about this! It’s very sad that this goes on in the Church! Satan get behind me or Go Away Satan are words I use often and will continue to use as long as Satan wants to get involved. Peace be with you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s