Written By: Kristen Melia
***This is a sequel to Robert Batch's A Church In Crisis Post that was released on August 18th 2018.***
The grand jury “contained credible allegations against over three hundred predator priests. Over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the Church’s own records. We believe that the real number- of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward- is in the thousands.”
Let’s break this down. There are credible allegations against over 300 “priests.” OVER THREE HUNDRED. This is only out of six dioceses in one state. This is no minor problem. This is no longer a scenario in which we can pull the “well if you really cared about abuse against minors look into the public school statistics,” which I am guilty of saying in the past. This is a huge number. This is a BIG deal. And silence will do nothing to help. Indifference will do nothing to help. The “head down” mentality will only perpetuate this evil. After all, aren’t those approaches the reason many of these evildoers will not be prosecuted? For far too long our “leaders” looked the other way. Demonic.
**To anyone thinking it’s not right to be so upset or try and speak out over this situation, please read the report first. If you already have, then read it again. I do not believe anyone who is truly good can be informed of what one “man” did with a crucifix and holy water to an innocent, and keep quiet.
There is so much to say about this heinous reality: the devastation for the victims and their families, the acceptance of homosexuality within the priesthood, the great need for a serious purge, the support needed for our faithful priests who will be attacked for the sins of others, the list goes on. For a moment I thought I would address this issue as a martial arts instructor who teaches children and woman how to protect themselves against those wishing to impose harm. However, what I cannot get beyond is the cover up, the lack of leadership. The lack of forthrightness. The lack of commitment to good, to love, to truth. It is rampant. Leaders must lead. Silence in the face of evil is evil.
We’ve had enough exhortation to be silent. Cry out with a thousand tongues. I see the world is rotten because of silence,” St Catherine of Sienna.
Not everyone is cut out to lead and that is perfectly understandable…unless they are in a leadership role. In that case, get the proper training; seek the necessary help, or STEP ASIDE!
I have been exposed to the inner workings of parish and diocesan work since I was a child, from having various family members or friends work for a parish or school, to now having worked for a parish myself the last two years. The “nice culture,” or more accurately the “head down culture,” has always blown me away in this work. This kind of culture allows for evil to spread like wildfire. It is proof of the success of the Evil one. Bishop Barron, in addressing the hideous Cardinal McCarrick mess, rightly identified the role of the Devil in all this. He is alive and well and is surely basking in our current state, and silence of the good is his BFF. He cannot achieve such success without our obedience. He cannot do harm unless we turn from God’s Will and comply with his evil will. He must love the weakness within the church. He must sing when those working for the Church prioritize secular values such as niceness, tolerance, and ugly acts such as looking the other way. Surely he would cower if these useless values were replaced with actual Christian virtues.
Remember temperance? Fortitude? Prudence? And who can forget that one virtue so many shy away from… justice. How about faith, hope, and love? Of course I am referring to the true Christian meaning of these irreplaceable virtues, not what the world wants us to believe. Not what the Devil wants us to believe.
Love, for example, is defined by willing the good of other, as other. (Aquinas) Selflessness for another. That is, what is best, not what is easiest or most comfortable. Not what is nice. Actual love is willing what is best for others. There is no room for selfishness in this kind of love. There is no head-down-and-look-away because that is putting one’s own comfort first; it is glaringly obvious this is the preferred way as it is easier (for many). This approach is the work of the Evil one, not of the Christian. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1803-1828 for an understanding of the virtues).
Accountability is lost because love is lost. Love is lost because we have fooled ourselves into believing “nice” and “tolerant” are of utmost importance. When these foolish virtues are prioritized anything goes, from the small insignificant things to BIG deals such as the findings from the Pennsylvania report. We’re all fine if we are nice. I’ve often, far too often, heard nice as being synonymous to pastoral. “Just be nice and it will all be fine. ” What Catholic is aiming to be fine??? When was Jesus nice? Did Jesus settle for fine? Not the Jesus from the Gospel. No, Jesus was a radical; He rocked the world of every individual He encountered. Did the saints settle for nice? No. The saints surely were not appreciated by all those they met. This is apparent with words spoken such as the ones from St. Catherine of Sienna above, as well as: “the path to hell is paved by the skulls of bishops,” (St. Athanasius) and “it is far better that scandal arise than truth be suppressed,” (one of my favorites from St. Gregory the Great). These aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy sentiments, but they sure are necessary. They are not easy words to heed, but they instill accountability and encourage true love. You quote these nowadays and you are extreme or harsh.
Because this nice-head-down way is the pervasive culture that has seeped into the Church. This is where the comfort level is. Truth? No we don’t need that. Forthrightness? Forget it. When does this end? When is right upheld and wrong crushed? It ends when we stop loving ourselves above all else. When we stop thinking comfort is number one. When we stop thinking it isn’t our job to say or do something. When we start truly loving our neighbor. When we start listening to Christ.
I am disgusted about the Pennsylvania report (and in full support of every single diocese being investigated by the proper authorities). But not surprised. If dishonesty is ignored on the low end about small things in little parish and school offices throughout the nation, can you imagine what is ignored in a bishop’s office? We cannot wait for the top to change. That could take a colossal amount of time. But we can change on the bottom, and we can change today. We can pray. We can fast and offer sacrifices. We can go to confession and hold ourselves accountable for our own sins. We can be voices for truth, speaking up when something is not right, no matter how small. We can pray, everyday, every hour, for the strength to honor and live for God’s Will and not our own, as that only makes us accomplices of the Devil’s will. St. Francis of Assisi required his friars to pray the Our Father every single day (The Rule of 1221), which means they prayed everyday, “thy will be done,” we all have time for that.
May we all be inspired by St. John Bosco’s words: “The power of evil men lives on the cowardice of the good.” No more cowardice. No more head down in the face of evil, even on the smallest scale. Let’s stop upholding secular values and start arming ourselves with true Christian virtues.
I offer you the Body and Blood,
Soul and divinity
of your dearly beloved Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ
in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
About The Author
Kristen Schmelter Melia works at ICE Urban Combat as Senior instructor and leader of Youth programs and works part time at St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church as Coordinator of Elementary Religious Education. In addition, she is working towards her Master's degree in Catechetics and Evangelization from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She lives in Thousand Oaks, California with her husband of 5 years, Frankie. Together they are excitedly expecting their first child in October! She is passionate about spreading the faith and promoting Truth.