Cheap Seats 2018
The Imperfections - 08/22
By Rich Trzupek
Grim news out of Pennsylvania last week. Another apparent sexual abuse scandal and apparent attempts to cover up the scandal by its hierarchy rocked the Catholic Church. Sadly, we seem to have seen a quantum increase in sexual abuse reports in recent years, from places of dubious moral character like Hollywood, to places that are held to a much higher moral standard, like Rome.
As a proud and practicing Catholic, I am of course distressed by this latest example of my church’s human failings. At the same time, I understand that my church is a human institution and, like all human institutions, is subject to the human failings and the fragility of the people who comprise its congregation and leadership.
I don’t expect my church to be perfect. Indeed, if I believed it to be perfect, then it would have no need of my active participation. As it stands, I believe that I am an active participant in a movement that – while flawed as is any human interaction – is overwhelmingly a force for good in a troubled world. I am an active Catholic because I want to make my church better, not because I believe my church is a perfect hang out.
We apply the same principle to many other parts of our lives. We affiliate ourselves with a particular political party, even though every party has suffered scandal and scoundrels. We love our families, though rare is the family that does not include at least one person whom causes us distress or embarrassment. We possess the ability, in other words, to see past the failings of the few – in any context – and appreciate the greater good of the many. More importantly, we are able to comprehend the tremendous good that the forms the foundation of the mission of the many in any institution dedicated to improving and advancing our shared existence.
More is expected of religion than other institutions. I understand why. Religion attempts to answer the most profound questions of all: Why are we here?; Where did we come from?; Where are we going? Those questions define existence. They are a hell of a lot more significant in the grand scheme of things than whether the political candidate you chose to support will raise or lower your property taxes while demanding more or less accountability from the school district that receives that income.
I believe that it is precisely because humans, at their core, know that questions of faith are so important and meaningful that their natural instinct as time goes on is to dismiss all religions as “superstition.” It’s far easier to wave off the profound questions as either unimportant, or matters that reason and science will eventually solve, than it is to consider the uncomfortable possibility that a Power beyond our understanding might be trying to send us a message.
In my considered opinion, the Catholic Church is, and always has been, an overwhelming force for good in a troubled world. In my opinion, the Catholic Church has been delivering important messages about a portion of existence we mere mortals can’t comprehend in this life. I deplore the church’s mistakes, its unjust prosecutions and persecutions, and its misuse of the considerable power it wields and has wielded.
But, for all of that, I would draw your attention to one Catholic institution that my parish – Holy Family Catholic Community in Inverness – introduced to me this Sunday: “Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos” – in English: “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”, or “NPH.”
NPH was founded in 1954 by an American priest by the name of Father William Wasson. Father Wasson took in a poor, starving Mexican boy accused of stealing from the poor box in a village church. He helped this improvised child, and scores like him. The organization he founded, NPH, has provided succor and support to over 21,000 poor children in Latin American nations who desperately needed help.
I do not, for a moment, disparage or discount the pain and suffering of the children who were hurt and betrayed in Pennsylvania. We can, and we must, do better. But – at the same time – I am immensely proud of the healing and inclusive work that Catholic organizations like NPH and Catholic Charities are engaged in.