We packed up the moving van and headed up the freeway, transplanting our family from Southern California up to the San Francisco Bay Area. We were excited about the future, sad about what we were leaving behind, and anxious about starting a new life in a new place.
One of our biggest worries was if we’d be able to find a Catholic parish that felt like home.
We were leaving a small and tight-knit parish taken care of by Norbertine canons, a lovely experience we won’t soon forget, and felt like we were heading out into the unknown.
We arrived at a parish that seemed like a great fit. There were lots of young families, a friendly atmosphere, and Mass times that made sense for us given our hectic life.
We breathed a sigh of relief.
Not long after settling into the parish, however, our world was rocked. The pastor of the parish was accused of lewd conduct, arrested in an undercover sting operation, and promptly removed from his position.
We were confused, angry, and hurt.
This parish priest baptized our second child, and even though we knew the behavior he was accused of had no impact on his ability to confect the Sacraments, it still left an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of our stomachs.
The parish was immediately split between those who were unwavering in their support, exercising a level of Christian forgiveness that was beyond what we were able to muster at the time, and those who packed up and moved to another nearby option.
We fell into the second category, joining a parish that was closer to the new home we had recently purchased, and thanks be to God our new parish felt even more like home: even more young families, a beautiful Church built in the early 1900s, and a more traditional Mass.
Shortly after we arrived, a new pastor was brought in, and he immediately took charge of the parish in a manner that inspired most of us sitting in the pews. He was the catalyst for bringing Perpetual Adoration to our chapel, bringing the altar rails out of the storage room and putting them back in place, and even starting the process of bringing the Traditional Latin Mass back once per month.
Our excitement about his arrival at our parish was soon ripped away, however, as news broke in the mainstream media that he was accused of inappropriate behavior with another adult. We sat and watched as he was promptly removed by our bishop pending an investigation.
As Catholics, we know our faith doesn’t depend on the behaviors of our priests, bishops, or even ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt when scandal comes to the one place in our lives that we expect to be scandal free.
What we are left with is the difficult journey of navigating emotions of disappointment, anger, and despair, and balancing those with the call of Jesus to live a life of radical forgiveness.
Sadly, my family is not the only one who has experienced such a journey.
One fellow Catholic on Twitter, who wished to remain anonymous, shared a similar roller coaster after facing a comparable situation at her parish.
“The anger comes with the feeling you were lied to and betrayed. Did he actually care about you and others, or was it a facade?”
As with all the various trials we face in our lives, it seems as though prayer may be the only way forward.
We need to pray for ourselves, that we remember the Church was founded by Jesus Christ and as he promised, the gates of hell will never prevail against it.
We need to pray for ourselves to be able to open our hearts to the forgiveness God calls us to, most especially during difficult times such as these.
We need to pray for our fellow parishioners, that they hold tight to their faith and never stop attending Mass or leave the Church because of the behavior of a priest or anyone else within the Church for that matter.
We need to pray for any victims associated with these types of accusations, that they will have the support they need to push through and carry on in the face of the trauma they have faced, and that they will find solace in the embrace of Jesus.
And most of all, we need to pray for our priests.
They are most assuredly under the attack of the devil and his minions more intensely than the rest of us, and our priests need our prayers to strengthen them against the temptations they face on a daily basis. The devil knows that a scandal among the priesthood is a scandal that will pull the faithful away from the Church, and because of that, it’s the page of his playbook he returns to again and again.
Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of our priests.
Through them, we experience your presence in the sacraments.
Help our priests to be strong in their vocation.
Set their souls on fire with love for your people.
Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Inspire them with the vision of your Kingdom.
Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel.
Allow them to experience joy in their ministry.
Help them to become instruments of your divine grace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest.
-from the USCCB
Full story at Angelus.