Ever since “Clergy Abuse Scandal 2.0” rocked the Catholic Church last summer, it’s been a very difficult time for those of us who remain faithful parishioners. For months now, various family members, neighbors, and co-workers have asked us the same question: “With everything that’s been revealed about clergy sex abuse, how can you still go to Mass?!”
I’ve been asked that question a number of times. When someone asks me, “How can you go to Mass?” my reply is, “How can I NOT go to Mass?”
You see, there are three things I believe with all my heart. Number one, God is real. Number two, Jesus is God. And number three, Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.
If those three statements are indeed true, then I cannot NOT go to Mass, no matter what kind of horrible details emerge about predatory priests, bishops, and cardinals.
Does this mean I’m ignoring the scandal or claiming the scandal is not important? No, of course not. The scandal is one of the most disgusting things that’s ever happened.
Does this mean I’m as joyfully proud as ever to call myself a Catholic? Unfortunately, no. My faith has been shaken, and I’m often rather embarrassed these days to call myself a Catholic—especially when a well-meaning friend sincerely asks, “How can you still go to Mass?”
This is obviously a rocky time for the Church. Even before the current scandal became headline news, young adults were leaving the Church in droves. Now many others, disgusted by clerical sins and institutional coverups, are adding to the exodus.
In addition to the multitude of people leaving the Church, the Church’s credibility has pretty much evaporated. There was a time in recent memory when the Catholic Church was a beacon of morality in our culture. Those days are long gone. The Church now has become a cultural laughingstock; the epitome of hypocrisy. Nowadays, when the Church declares its position on a hot-button social issue, people accept it about as much as they accept the views of a decadent rock n’ roll star. No wait, our culture today is much more likely to follow a decadent celebrity than the Church.
So, why bother remaining a Catholic? Why bother going to Mass? Well, I’ve already mentioned why. First, God is real. As a recovering atheist, there was a time when I sincerely believed the concept of God was nothing more than a silly manmade myth. But God had other plans. He revealed Himself to me when our first child was born, and ever since, I’ve realized that I simply do not have enough blind faith to accept the fairy tale doctrines of atheism anymore. The intricate precision of the Universe, especially life on earth, requires a divine Creator.
Second, I truly believe Jesus is one in being with the Father, that is, divine. Finally, I remain a Catholic because I believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. If you read what Jesus said in John’s gospel, chapter 6, and what St. Paul taught in his first letter to the Corinthians, it becomes clear Communion is much more than a nice symbolic ceremony. The Lord is truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity, in the Eucharist. It’s the real deal.
If you read John’s gospel, chapter 6—and I strongly recommend that you do—toward the end of the passage, the apostles were confused, disgusted and demoralized (kind of like Catholics these days). When Jesus challenged them, “Do you also want to leave?” St. Peter stepped forward and said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
During these troubling times, we must cling to the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, has the words of eternal life. And the most intimate way we can be in communion with Jesus is to receive Him in the Eucharist. At Mass. In a Catholic Church.