"Jesus wept." It is the shortest phrase in the Bible (John 11:35) and yet it is, to me, one of the most powerful.
What does it mean to weep? I typically don't say I "wept" when I'm crying tears of frustration after being pushed to the brink by my kids, or when I stub my toe so hard on the door frame, or even when I cry tears of joy. No, to me, weeping implies something much deeper. Tears from the soul, that stem from a grief no words can encompass. A sorrow so deep it cannot be contained, so deep it must be given an exit, an exit in the form of saltwater streaming down my cheeks.
And I believe He is weeping now, that His sorrow over this massive wound in my beloved Catholic Church is so deep it must have an outlet, so deep it cannot be contained.
I, like so many Catholics, am shaken to my core over the findings of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report released this week. I am gutted, heartbroken, sick, shattered, confused and, yes, mad as hell. I want to march on...I don't even know...St. Peter's Square with torches burning demanding an answer. I want to know who knew what, who covered what up, how high up does the abuse and scandal go? I want to know. As a member of this Church I call home, I deserve to know.
I believe wholeheartedly in the power of prayer. I believe prayer should be our first step, in every single circumstance. A terrorist attack overseas, a high school shooting in Florida, a police involved shooting in St. Louis. First, and always first, prayer. For the victims, for the perpetrators, for everyone involved. I know that idea is probably unpopular. What good is talking to God - usually in my head, not even out loud - going to do? But I take my model from Jesus, and Jesus prayed. He prayed a lot. He acted, of course. He healed and talked and acted (and flipped tables out of righteous anger) but first and most important, He prayed. He stayed tethered to his Father through an ongoing conversation with Him, and we simply cannot forget that.
I also believe prayer without action is futile. You can pray for a job all you want, but to offer those prayers without putting pen to paper on job applications is ridiculous. "God helps those who help themselves"; I've seen this to be true in my own life again and again. Pray AND act. PRAY and act. Pray and ACT.
We cannot simply pray for the victims of this horrific abuse. We cannot simply pray for healing for our beautiful Church. We cannot simply pray for a resolution. We can pray, and we must pray. And we also must act.
It's usually the acting that feels murky to me. What do you actually do? Who do you actually contact? What do you actually say?
I certainly don't have all the answers, but here is where I've started. I titled every email "Regarding the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report."
- I've emailed my bishop. You can copy the wording I used here (taken almost entirely from this post shared by @themerrierworld on instagram.)
- I've emailed my parish priest. You can copy the wording I used here.
- I've emailed the Director of Vocations for our diocese. You can copy the wording I used here.
- I've emailed the Vicar of Clergy for our diocese. You can copy the wording I used here.
- I've emailed the Papal Nuncio for the United States, who reports directly to the pope. You can copy the wording I used here.
I've been dialoguing with my husband and Catholic friends. Talking about the hard things, the questions we have, the ways our faith has been shaken, how we can move forward amidst such atrocities. Do not underestimate the power of community. The devil wants nothing more than to separate and divide, to make us feel as though we're alone in our sorrow, disgust and outrage. Fight his lies. There are millions of Catholics in the United States and I'd be willing to bet the vast majority feel the way I do.
I've been reminding myself that as gutted as I am, Jesus is a thousand times more so. As angry as I am, Jesus is even more. He yearns for justice more than I ever could, for healing more than I could ever imagine. No one cares about people the way He cares about people. No one wants to see His church rise from the ashes more than Him. And no one is more capable of carrying this heavy, heavy burden than He is.
Finally, let us remember what we're fighting against. It is not us versus priests or us versus bishops or even us versus policies and procedures, it is us versus evil. It is us versus evil.
And one group's hurt does not undermine another's. The victims' deep wounds do not negate the fact that all across the nation and world, righteous priests are also hurting. The priests' hurt does not negate the victims' deep wounds. Focusing on who's hurting more or whose hurt matters more does not unite us to action, it divides and weakens us. We - all of us, all across the Church - are hurting. And I believe Jesus can - and will - bear it all.
Let us rise up together. Let us use our prayers AND our actions. Let us not wait for change, let us demand it. Let us be the hands and feet of Jesus to heal these horrific wounds. Let us be the ones who say "I will not be silent. I will not sit idly by. I will stand it no more. I WILL NOT."
"We've had enough exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a thousand tongues. I see the world is rotten because of silence." St. Catherine of Siena
A few more links and posts I've resonated with, if you care to read:
This instagram post from @brickhouseinthecity was everything I wanted to express.
This instagram post from @shannonkevans
This instagram post from @themerrierworld
This instagram post from @thismessygrace
This instagram post from @findingphilothea
This "open letter from young Catholics" was spot on
Bishop Barron's call for a lay investigation.
Simcha Fisher's letter to priests.
Matt Walsh: there must be a purge in the Catholic Church.
Jenny Uebbing's essay on why she'll never leave the church.
A great article on the virtues of Catholic anger.
And if you're in the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, here are all the email addresses you need should you want to share your thoughts:
- Bishop Timothy Doherty: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fr. Dale Ehrman, Vicar of Clergy: email@example.com
- Fr. Clayton Thompson, Director of Vocations (oversees seminarians): firstname.lastname@example.org
- Papal Nuncio in the USA: email@example.com
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
UPDATE: Cardinal DiNardo's most recent statement is very encouraging, and gives me so much hope. Read it here.