The Catholic Church is in crisis.
The years-long scandal involving the molestation of children by priests saw Pope Francis issue a public apology last week. Then he took a softer tone against traditional church pariahs such as divorcees and homosexuals. The pope went as far as to say he is willing to void the vow of celibacy if the priests themselves want it.
While many people see Francis as a humble reformer working to make the church more relevant to the modern world, others, including traditionalists within church hierarchy, see him as a maverick who is turning his back on long-held church doctrine and traditions. Some cardinals already have called for the pontiff to resign.
All the while, the scandals regarding sexual abuse by priests continue to become public. A Pennsylvania grand jury report alleges rampant and systemic sexual abuse of children. The report charges that some 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children over 70 years in six of the state’s eight diocese. Church officials dealt with the abuse by simply moving priests to other dioceses, which only enabled them to find new victims, the report alleges.
Many feel church officials preferred to assist and protect the accused priests instead of the people they had victimized.
Former Vatican ambassador to the United States Carlos Maria Vigano, a longtime critic of the pope, alleged that he told the pontiff of the allegations and that Francis did nothing and even aided the cover-up. The pope has refused to address the allegations.
It’s been enough to shake the faith of the many Catholics who call Northwest Ohio home.
We are reminded, however, that while many people believe those who enter the priesthood are graced by God, they remain human, and fallible.
Although they often are seen as Christ’s representatives on Earth, the church traditionally has warned against focusing too much on individual priests. The Toledo Diocese, of which most of the Catholic parishes in the Lima region belong, routinely moves priests anywhere from four to 12 years so the congregations do not become too endeared with one priest and forget their ultimate devotion should be to Jesus Christ and His teachings.
That is a message that Catholics should consider during this time of discord within the church: The primary message of the Catholic faith remains the same, regardless of any changes in church hierarchy. That message is one of love, forgiveness and a life devoted to helping others.
We trust that local clergy are spreading that message at local parishes, and are reminded that the Catholic Church has undergone crisis and change in the past. The faithful are encouraged to pray and have faith that the issues that currently affect the church will be resolved.