GOTTA BE A PONY HERE SOMEWHERE
It’s tough being a Catholic these days.
It seems that every time you pick up a newspaper or turn on the news, there’s another story of priestly pedophilia and a subsequent cover-up by a bishop or cardinal. Or another story about the Vatican excommunicating a priest for having the audacity to suggest that the Catholic Church should ordain women to the priesthood.
Today, for example, the New York Times ran a story (“The Priest That Preyed”) on the Op Ed page by Daniel A. Olivas, who wrote a fictionalized account of a pedophile priest in the L.A diocese who was transferred 15 times from parish to parish by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony. The Cardinal himself was finally relieved of his duties after a long, sordid history of covering up these and other criminal acts. None of these incidents are fictional, by the way, they’re all too real.
Thank God for the news media which is bringing these abuses and criminal acts to light, painful as it is to read about them. Without that public spotlight, the cover-ups in all likelihood would have continued, sad to say. By the way, it’s not just the secular media. Commonweal and the National Catholic Reporter, for example, excellent publications by Catholic laymen, have been in the forefront of reporting these stories, no holds barred.
It’s no wonder Catholics are leaving the Church in droves. I am told that if the number of ex-Catholics in the U.S. were to form a separate denomination, it would be among the largest, if not the largest Christian denomination in the U.S.
So, what about those of us who continue to hang in there, despite it all, and who see signs of hope in all this mess? What does this say of our intelligence? Sometimes, I think of myself as the little boy in Ronald Reagan’s oft-told story about the two brothers, one a hard core pessimist and the other an incurable optimist. The parents ask a psychiatrist to test the boys. In the first test, when the doctor shows the pessimist a roomful of toys, the boy breaks into tears saying that all he will do is end up breaking these toys. Next, he takes the optimist into a room full of manure. The little boy claps his hands in glee, climbs up on the pile, and starts digging. When the psychiatrist asks him what on earth he is doing, the boy looks down with a big smile on his face and says, “There’s just got be to a pony in here somewhere.”
For those of us who continue to maintain a sense of hope, that hope is not based on the expectation of any large-scale Vatican reform. The top layer of the Catholic Church has been too badly corrupted and the faster it disintegrates and goes away the better. Sic semper tyrannis. But underneath that top layer is a vibrant “catholic” church carrying out the work of the Gospel in parishes, hospitals, and schools as well soup kitchens, shelters for the homeless and for battered and abused women, and refugee camps throughout the world. They are caring for the sick and disabled, lifting up the poor, comforting the afflicted, and teaching youngsters in our inner cities and impoverished communities across the globe who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance at a good life.
They’re my “pony,” the best part of this broken and dysfunctional spiritual family that I was born into. They need my continued support and encouragement, and I can’t for the life of me give up on them.