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Keeping Faith despite a crisis in the Church

Professor Janet Smith, Professor of Moral Theology at the Sacred Heart Major seminary in Detroit, explains why our Faith matters more than ever amid the abuse crisis

The sex-abuse scandal has led many to lose their Faith, and as we learn more about the extent and nature of the corruption, many more will be tempted to leave. Those of us who are ‘red-pilled’ need to be cautious about how much we share with those who are not ‘red-pilled.’

The expression refers to a moment in the 1999 film The Matrix wherein the main character chooses to take a pill that will wake him up to reality no matter how ‘gritty and painful’ (Urban Dictionary) that reality might be.



Those of us who have delved into the sex-abuse crisis, who read the daily onslaught of dispiriting (to speak mildly) articles about scandals of sexual misconduct and cover-up in the Church, who have watched the documentaries and read the books, are red-pilled to the extent that there is almost no sordid scenario about the Church in the last two centuries that would surprise us—although we still struggle with the realisation that our beloved Church has been led by such nefarious men.

The Catholics who, as yet, are not red-pilled get their news almost entirely from the secular media, which has little interest in the current crisis.



They don’t read the Catholic media and ‘exposé’ books, especially those on the fringes that report the most sensational reports, reports like those told by Leon Podles in his book Sacrilege. Many have come to realise these stories have not been sensationalised.

Those who are red-pilled seem like alarmists to those who are not. We know so much that others don’t know. Others—as we did at one time—think it disrespectful to suspect that a large number of bishops are not at all interested in getting at the truth behind case of Theodore McCarrick, the US cardinal who was laicised amid child abuse accusations.

Nor are they interested in ridding their dioceses of priests who break their vows. They still think, ‘If only we could persuade the bishops to do this or that, all would be well.’


Fixing the problem

But some of us have become convinced that we cannot expect the bishops to fix the problem as, in many cases, the problem has spread to senior levels of the hierarchy.

One of the ‘red-pilling’ techniques I use is to point out that if a healthy adult learns of another adult sexually abusing a child, the first emotional reaction is visceral and often violent.

Have we seen any evidence that bishops respond in that way? Rather, their first thought seems in some cases to be: “Oh, that poor priest; his life is ruined,” or “Poor me, now I have another mess on my hands.”



The response to the victim seems to be that he is largely an annoyance. Yes, Church policies often say one thing, but their actions don’t always correspond.

I often have to be careful about how much and what I tell the seminarians I teach.

Recently a seminarian said to me: “We want to know if the bishops will have our backs when we get ordained.”

I assumed he had in mind if someone made false accusations against them, or if they gave homilies defending controversial truths of the Faith, would the bishops support them?

Quite spontaneously, I said, ‘No.’ Immediately I felt bad because I never want to say something that might derail a vocation.



But then I thought: “He needs to know the truth— this is the Church to which he intends to dedicate himself.”

A priest to whom I told this story said the bishops have not had our backs in a long time.

How sad, that young men know that bishops have gone to great lengths to cover up for child abusers and to protect vow-breaking priests, but these same bishops will throw faithful priests under the bus if some wealthy parishioner doesn’t like the amount of Latin in the Mass. That conversation haunted me for days.

Recently I had dinner with several young men in a religious order. To my astonishment, when I said the seminaries in the 1970s and 1980s were homosexual hothouses, one of the older members among my dinner companions confirmed with a loud: “Everyone knew!”

This consecrated Religious entered a diocesan seminary in 1989 and said there were only four such institutions in the United States he was willing to enter.


Dedicated to the priesthood

I was impressed and pleased that he was willing to be so open with seminarians, for it was clear that, in spite of what he knew, he was dedicated to his priesthood.

The same could be said about the entire group I had dinner with that evening—they seemed to believe that God had called them to the priesthood at this time and that he has chosen these men for this time.

Yes, the truth about our Church is going to disappoint, depress and demoralise us, and more so the more ‘red-pilled’ we get, but we cannot let these dismal truths derail us.

We are living in the time God chose for us. We must be determined to embrace our Faith all the more and let nothing deprive us of the most precious gift we have: our Faith.


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