I’ll warrant that Heather King included this quotation in her article before the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, and certainly before Archbishop Vigano’s “Testimony” on Church corruption. What has the Catholic Church lost over the last 20 years, at least in America? We’ve lost nearly three billion dollars, certainly—money that could have been used to feed the poor and spread the Good News. But we’ve lost much more: we’ve lost “the innocence of Father Brown,” our trust in the priesthood. Could anyone imagine a little boy rushing up to a priest today, clutching his hand? I can imagine it, because some still do, but right behind that child is a panicked mother—“Jimmy, don’t talk to strangers! Especially (she would say under her breath), especially priests.” The priest whom we thought we knew in America has become a stranger, and a dangerous one at that. When even the Pope—our beloved Daddy, the Papa of all peoples—when even he seems to blithely dismiss credible allegations from the people of Chile and from his own nuncio, when even the Pope seems unwilling to protect his children—what have we left of spiritual paternity?
And yet…. I’m amazed to see how people still believe in the priesthood. I went to the medical clinic last week to get my travel shots (I’m leaving for Calcutta tonight). The honest fellow at the intake desk, after my paperwork was completed, asked me meekly to bless his cross. The nurse called me “father” with hopeful familiarity (hoping that I was not a bad priest or a stranger to her soul). The beggar on the street outside asked me for alms, expecting (hoping) I was in some way more responsible for her plight than the other passersby. As damning as the crimes of the Church have been—and the exposé will get worse before we decide to really clean our house—people still believe in the priesthood. Despite what the Supreme Court has said, we still believe in marriage. Despite fifty years of media bias, we still believe in the Catholic Church, because these things are divine sacraments. They are God’s signs to the world of His providential Fatherhood.
I am happy that at last the filth is being exposed. I am happy and I am hopeful that Our Father in Heaven will somehow keep his Sacraments from becoming completely eviscerated.