I remember a conversation I had with a peer manager a year or two before I decided to make my way back to Catholicism. This was probably 3 or 4 years ago, maybe a little longer.
We were having a lunch time conversation and the Catholic church came up. I was, at the time, not going to any church but increasingly questioning that wisdom. The fellow I was lunching with was not a Catholic.
Somehow or another, probably in response to yet another topical reference to the priestly pedophile scandal, we began talking about the Church. I made mention of my Catholic roots and brought up the notion that I was considering a return to those roots.
This fella, someone I respected, proceeded to blast Catholicism and particularly the Pope and the Bishops as corrupt power brokers who care little for the flock. His conclusions drawn by the many reports of guilty priests being moved from one diocese or locale to another and the alleged coverup of the same by those in power.
I had little to say sadly except to agree in part while stating quietly that I hoped, for the sake of faithful Catholics, some of whom were in my family, we were both wrong.
It was a painful hour for me as I could do nothing more at the time than meekly state my hope that not all in important positions in the Church were crooked.
I'm keenly aware that the attitude held by this guy then is an attitude held by many today and I'm aware that it's an attitude that may take years to dissuade.
I bring all of that to you so that I can also bring into the fray the indispensable Mark Shea and a piece he's posted called Why Bother With a Corrupt Church?
I'm a Catholic because I believe Jesus is the Son of God and that he established a Church as the sacrament of salvation--a Church composed entirely of sinful people--especially me. I don't place my faith in the personal sanctity of any bishop (though some are very good people and others are, in my view, scoundrels). I place it in Jesus to guide his Church because he is gracious to dunderheads and sinners. There is no option of escaping grave sin in this world. You meet it everywhere, including the mirror. The only option is to stick with Jesus--or not. Some people imagine you can stick with Jesus but ditch the Church. Not possible. Christ is the head and the Church is his body.
Doesn’t mean (obviously) that the Church is a bunch of perfect people. That's why we have the penitential rite in every Mass and the sacrament of confession. We sin, often gravely. But that would be true whether we are Catholic or not.
Does human sin find ways to exploit even the hierarchical structure of the Church? Of course, and the priest scandal is one example of that. Sin will exploit any conceivable structure of governance there is (which is why our democratic republic is currently transmogrifying into a Caesaroligarchic police state and empire). Again, you can't avoid the fact of human fallenness and the Church was never promised that human sin would not afflict her or her members. But the secret sauce that the Church has recourse to is the grace of God that sees her through the failures of her members (and members means everybody from Pope to dogcatcher).
So I can pick my friends, but I'm stuck with my relatives. And, frankly, I'm not so hot so who am I to sit in judgment of the whole Catholic Church? Particularly since, in addition to the vanishingly small population of abusive priests and stupid bishops, there is a rather remarkable communion of saints, living and dead, that I ignore to my great deprivation. It's like sizing up the whole apostolic band simply by the behavior of Judas. Short-sighted.
My view of the abuse scandal is straightforward. Abusive priests and bishops who endangered people with their neglect should go to jail. Unfortunately, we laypeople, who run all the courts, staff all the prisons and police, and occupy all the juries, have mostly opted not to do that. Meanwhile, the Church has spent ten years reforming itself and now has policies in place to get rid of bad guys fast (that's why all the cases you hear about are old ones). Why didn't they do it before? Partly due to sin and partly due to stupidity. Some of it was institutional CYA and criminal neglect of duty. Some of it was bishops listening to the Enlightened Voice of Expert Lay Opinion (Lawyers and psychiatrists) who said these pervs should be rehabbed and sent back to their flocks. In short, the problem was that they *didn't* listen to the Tradition, not that there is something in the Tradition that just really approves of raping children. It was sin. Not something in the soul of the Church Jesus founded. That's because no mere mortal (nope, not even the Pope or the Blessed Virgin Mary) constitutes the soul of the Church. The soul of the Church is the Holy Spirit. We trousered just get to go along for the ride. Therefore the Church can be well described in the words of Hilaire Belloc: "An institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight." I like that.
So being a Catholic doesn't mean I have to believe and profess my bishops are not sinners and fools. The whole shooting works is, after all, founded on Peter, who was, in Chesterton's fine phrase "a shuffler, a coward, and a snob--in a word, a man". The Church is a communion of sinners before it becomes a communion of saints. It is a giant house that is under perpetual renovation and is always a mess--like each of us. The only thing to commend it is that God has chosen to take up residence there. The bricks of which it is built are pathetically cracked. But God is merciful.
I recommend reading the whole thing, particularly if you're a Catholic who is staying away from the Church of late because you simply can't handle all the naysaying about her that's going on in the world.
Remember the Church is a hospital for sinners and there's always room for one more.