Everyone knows by now of the latest sex abuse scandals in the Church. The details are appalling, to say the least, and it’s clear that something serious must be done by the hierarchy. The question for us is, what can we, the laity, possibly do to help clean up this mess?
There are a number of things that I would suggest. First, we must pray as we’ve never prayed before. We should especially pray the daily Rosary for the good of the Church, asking God to send us virtuous leaders who will genuinely clean up the disaster left by the many bad ones. I believe that at least part of the reason for Our Lady’s continuous emphasis on the importance of the Rosary for our times is that it is a spiritual weapon that can be wielded by the faithful without any leadership from the clergy, all too many of whom are clearly not on God’s side.
Along with prayer, we should fast and make little, daily sacrifices. Our prayers are greatly strengthened when joined with sacrifices, and Our Lord Himself spoke of the efficacy of fasting in driving out evil. (Matthew 17:21)
At the same time, while our own sins are likely not as egregious as those of the perverts who have been standing in chasubles at too many of our altars, we are also sinners, and it would be pleasing to God if we would begin working in earnest to reform our own lives in order to grow in holiness. In other words, we need to become saints. For the good of the Church, for the good of society, and for the good of our families and friends, we need to achieve true holiness. That will in part involve ceasing to conform to the ways of the world around us. As G.K. Chesterton said, “it is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.”
In a world whose culture is rotten to the core, we need to be willing to be countercultural. St. Francis of Assisi provides one of many good examples of a Catholic who pushed back against the ecclesiastical and societal decay of his time by embracing a life of prayer and penance. St. Dominic was another. So was St. Clare. The thirteenth century rivalled our own for the level of corruption within the human element of the Bride of Christ. The cleansing was brought about by men and women like Francis, Dominic, Clare, and countless others who dedicated their lives to striving after holiness.
Becoming saints is the most important thing we can do to combat the perversion around us, but it’s not the only thing we should do. It’s become all too clear that the leadership in the Church will not act unless they are forced to do so. We need to insist that predators and those who protect them are held accountable and removed from positions in which they can cause harm. If we don’t do this, no one will. We can be inspired in this by the numerous saints who called out the hierarchy of their own times for failing to fulfill their Divinely appointed responsibilities.
We should also remember that abuse of the kind currently plaguing the Church happens everywhere, though that must not serve as any kind of consolation to us. It’s not good enough to simply point out that everyone else is mired in filth as well. Again, to paraphrase Chesterton, it is our business to be better than the world. We ought to see in this tragedy a chance to clean up our mess and to demonstrate to the world the proper way of rooting out vice and corruption.
Finally, it’s important to remember that the next generation of priests, bishops, and cardinals will come from within our own families. The Catholic Church doesn’t have a priestly caste into which men are born. Our future clergy are raised in the families of the Catholic laity. Our children are tomorrow’s priests and religious. We need to raise them to be saints so they can do their part in fixing the mess we’ve made for them and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
– Nicholas Kaminsky