Pope Francis leaves at the end of the final session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 27. CNS photo/Fabio Frustaci, EPA

Speaking Out: Don't try to make me feel better

By  Speaking Out, Michael Romen
  • January 18, 2019

I can’t stand it when someone says, “I believe in Jesus, not people.” 

It’s a sentiment that has come up when I’m speaking with people about scandals and traumas within the Church. It’s meant to be consoling — people are flawed and broken, and the only person we can trust totally is Christ. Usually, this sentiment is followed by an assurance that all actions will face justice and the Church will push through these horrors like it has throughout history.

Stop trying to make me feel better.

It’s true that our faith should never fall on any individual other than Christ. Jesus comes first — that much is obvious — but we can’t separate Christ from His people. Every Mass, we profess our belief in the “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church,” so anything that causes division makes me angry.

It’s because I believe in God’s people that I won’t tolerate a dismissive attitude towards our human shortcomings. That kind of rhetoric encourages the belief that the clergy can’t be trusted, that good and faithful people are a rare exception. It’s implicit, but it becomes a crutch that enables any kind of sin. 

I have been blessed to know men who are now in seminary and it is for their sake that I’m infuriated by this dismissive attitude toward scandal and tragedy. 

The irony of the sex abuse scandals is that the two seminarians I know are even more of an inspiration to me because they understood what they were signing up for — not a life of glory or comfort, but one of suspicion and persecution because of the sins of those in power. The next generation of priests will have to grit their teeth and serve a people who are suspicious of the Church. Despite the scandals, these seminarians continue to embrace their vocation and commit themselves to the Lord. 

I remember following the Youth Synod months ago and seeing opportunistic clerics leap at the chance to “modernize” Church teachings. The youth are constantly used as justification for bringing contradiction and confusion into the Church. And for those people I know who experience same-sex attractions, trying to discover the Catholic faith is made unnecessarily complicated because of prelates who contradict Church teaching by words or actions. 

I remember speaking with a seminarian and how angry we both were. 

Even now, with the conclave of bishops scheduled to take place in February, statements from high-ranking officials emphasize that moral failures won’t be solved with changes in infrastructure. True. However, it is precisely the broken systems of accountability that allowed bishops and higher to cover up these horrible crimes. 

So in response: Let me be angry. A serious injustice needs to be righted. 

Obviously, bringing the corrupt into full human justice is the first step. The next is to restore our faith in our Lord through His faithful people.

 (Romen, 24, is a third-year English and Classics student at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.)

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