Defending the Church in her hour of need – two guiding principles
Our beloved Catholic Church is facing the worst crisis in 500 years. Clergy sexual abuse, rampant sexual immorality, and cover-up by Church authorities: it adds up to a Church deeply in need of reform. We are waiting anxiously to see what the hierarchy decides to do. But we have no control over their actions, and indeed, they are divided among themselves. So what can we as laity do to help our mother in her hour of need?
I have been on the forefront of defending the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, and human sexuality for the past decade. In my opinion, the laity can and must do two things.
First, we must make it our business to work for justice for the victims of clergy sexual abuse. No excuse-making. “But the Protestants and public schools have as much abuse as we do.” Perhaps true, but not relevant. The only relevant fact is our commitment to getting our own house in order. That includes: justice for the victims, and punishment for the perpetrators, including those who covered up. Justice also includes protection and support for innocent clergy.
Second, we must make it our business to proclaim the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, and human sexuality in our own sphere of influence. This is directly relevant to the current crisis. If the clergy had lived up to Church teaching, including the 6th Commandment and their vows of celibacy, none of the abuse would ever have happened.
I will go further and say: the world desperately needs to hear the Church’s timeless message. We need not apologize for our beliefs. Sexual self-command, lifelong married love, and the need of children for their parents: These teachings are good, decent, and life-giving.
We now know why we have heard so little from the clergy: too many of them are morally compromised. Others are under the thumb of corrupt superiors.
The only way we can be sure the world hears the Church’s teaching is for us, the laity, to deliver that message ourselves.
Please note: these are guiding principles, not a detailed program. Each person will implement these principles in his own unique way, depending on vocation, location, and the season of life. The mother of school children will have a very different role than an attorney at the peak of his career. Both are different from a college student or a young professional beginning her first job. But every one of these people may be needed to address a situation in a local school or church. Every one of them can spread the message of lifelong, life-giving love.
If we make excuses for ourselves or the Church, we are going to look bad, and make the Church look bad. If we act like “business as usual,” we are going to die in an empty church. More importantly, the Lord will ask each one of us for an accounting of how we handle ourselves in this great crisis.
If on the other hand, we faithful Catholics conduct ourselves with dignity and integrity and charity, we will pull our Church through this crisis. We will expose and correct evils that should have been addressed long ago. We will create room for a genuine flourishing of the Gospel. Our neighbors will be drawn to us.
In other words, this is our chance to become saints. We can be crusaders for the truth like
St. Athanasius and authentic reformers like St. Teresa of Avila. Let’s not drop the ball.
JENNIFER ROBACK MORSE, PH.D. is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, which equips people to defend traditional Christian sexual morality. She is the author of The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along.