Saint Jude Thaddeus / c. 1610-1614 / El Greco
Does it seem futile to pray for the intercession of a human man, saintly or otherwise?
Does it seem futile to pray for a hopeless cause?
Does it seem futile to pray?
In August, reports came to light of Catholic bishops’ cover-ups of decades of sexual violence perpetrated by priests. This is far from the first time transgressions of these sorts came to light; Spotlight, the 2016 Oscars Best Picture winner, was about the Boston Globe‘s investigative journalism into pedophile priests, something the paper has been reporting on since 2001.
The Catholic Church in America and abroad is no stranger to scandal. In Tuam, Ireland, it is only now that the horrors of the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home are being grasped, and attention is being called to the mass graves of infants and small children found on the property.
Lest we forget, many Catholics in positions of power colluded or were complicit with Nazis and fascists during World War II, and during the latter centuries of the second millennium, Jesuits and other religious orders featured prominently in the genocides of indigenous peoples in North and South America, Africa, and Oceania.
This seems like an indictment, or maybe more like a diatribe. I write all of this not to say that the Catholic Church sucks and is irredeemable, so much as to say, I don’t know how to defend the Church any longer when those in the Church continue to commit grievous acts.
There’s the rub—it’s not that I am here to defend the horrors committed so much as I am ashamed that I want to defend the Church. I don’t like to write about myself, or, the private aspects thereof, but this is something I can’t not write about. I was raised Catholic; I’ve made all the sacraments to my confirmation and because of that I am considered an adult in the Church. As an adult, then, I must write that I am questioning the faith and I have been for years, but as an adult I must also say I don’t want to question the Church; I want to be able to follow it blindly and continue on my way.
Isn’t that terrible? It is.
Finding fault with institutions and The Establishment™ is part of adolescence, but I am an adult now, and I am ashamed.
I am ashamed.
I am ashamed of my faith, both that I have so little faith in it and that I still have an iota of respect for it.
The Catholic Church has underwritten so many wonderful things, too: the art of the Vatican, the communion of saints, the latter half of the texts in the Bible — but it seems so paltry, so spare, compared to the awfulness perpetrated by children of the Church.
And maybe that’s it, maybe it’s the human interpretations of the divine that have soiled the Church. Maybe if we separate the pedophile from the canon law he espouses, maybe if we open our (white) eyes to the affects of colonialism and genocide on the Church in nations of the Global South, maybe then we can move forward and profess our faith once more.
Or maybe we can’t pray for St. Jude’s intercession, maybe this crisis mine, this crisis of faith, is too much.
How likely is the Church to strike down the requirement for the celibacy of priests? How likely is the Church to welcome the queer community to participate fully in the Institution of the Eucharist? How likely is the Church to allow women of the cloth? How likely is the Church to pay reparations to its victims?
Do we pray for peace, love, understanding, reconciliation, or do we act? How can we act?
And are we so lost to God that this is all a pipe dream?
So now, like many others, I am coming to terms with the grave discrepancies between what is said and what is done by something I used to believe in. Maybe unlike some others, another facet in my crisis of faith is that I want to reconcile with the Church. I want to believe in the kingdom, power, glory forever and ever, amen, but I don’t know that I can. I don’t know.
Yet I want to believe, and that is why I pray for Saint Jude’s intercession, and that is why I protest the complicity of the Bishops; that is why I am writing about this now.
God with you, if you’d like.