A recent Gallup poll indicates 37% of Catholics in the United States have personally questioned whether they should remain Catholic due to the recent abuse crisis. That’s up from 22% back in 2002, when Gallup polled Catholics in the face of another abuse scandal. To dive more deeply into the 2019 results, of those who attend Mass on a weekly basis, 22% say they have been questioning whether they should remain Catholic (compared to 37% of those who attend “nearly weekly/monthly” and 46% for those who “seldom/never attend” Mass).
It’s absolutely jarring to me to realize that nearly one out of every four weekly Mass-goers finds themselves questioning if they should remain Catholic in the face of the recent scandals, but it serves as a great reminder of just how damaging this has all been; first and foremost damaging to the victims and their families (two groups we should all be praying for on a daily basis), and secondarily damaging to the faithful as a whole.
When nearly one fourth of weekly Mass-goers are left questioning if they should remain in the Church founded by Christ, we are left with the realization that we have to do something to save them. They are our family, our friends, and the people we see week after week around coffee and donuts. They are the people we hold hands with during the Our Father, the ones on the receiving end of our sign of peace, and the ones standing shoulder to shoulder with us as we engage in the corporal works of mercy in our communities.
We must do something to help keep people close to the Church and the Sacraments.
So, what do we do?
First, pray. Prayer works. Pray for the victims, pray for their families, pray for those responsible for the abuse and those responsible for covering it up. Pray for everyone in the Church, those struggling to stay and those who vow to remain with the Church no matter what. Pray. Pray. Pray .
Next, be compassionate. When someone is talking about the scandal that the abuse has caused for them personally, don’t just gloss things over by saying something like “well, the Eucharist is more important than all of that” or “the Church is still the Church founded by Christ no matter what her sinful members do.” Sure, those are both true statements, but in the context of someone questioning their faith in light of the abuse scandals, they seem to downplay the seriousness of what is going on. Instead, recognize exactly how hard this is, for all of us, and explore how we can move forward, standing by each other and moving forward in spite of the atrocities that have happened.
And finally, let’s get back into those aforementioned corporal works of mercy. Let’s get back into feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, giving shelter to travelers, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying and praying for the dead. Let’s get back to what it means to be a follower of Christ in a practical way that answers His call, leads us to grow in holiness, and lets our light shine before our sisters and brothers. If they see what being Catholic means in our lives, they might just see that it means more than the hierarchy, more than the priesthood, and more than anything that could shake our faith.
Copyright 2019 Tommy Tighe