The pope has no answers for us. Do we really need them at this point?
The bishops he has promoted defend him and continually deflect public attention away from him and his camp. And what do we lay faithful do? We sit, we worry, we ruminate, we pray.
Is this enough?
With the hierarchy covering for themselves and their allies amid this scandal and the lower clergy without the power to implement change in this present pontifical climate, our Church leaders remain static. It seems the Church, like its lay members, as an institution (innocently and guiltily), is stalling, waiting for change to occur with a pope who has given no indication of making changes and reforms, no indication of admitting fault, no indication of stepping down.
Let us not forget what started all of this: sexual abuse of minors, adolescents, and adults alike by clergymen and the continued cover-up from the lowest to the highest levels of the Church. These victims call for us to break the static, even when it is apparent that Francis and company have no intention of acting on anyone’s behalf but their own.
The call to justice and action on behalf of the victims is loud. We all hear it.
We must act. But what can we as lay Catholics do?
Prayer and Reparation
While the pope has called for silence and prayer, Francis’s P.R.-fueled prayer life is not what I am talking about here, nor is it what we need right now.
Padre Pio said, “Prayer is the best weapon that we possess.” It is our direct line of conversation with God. Yes, we are already praying for the victims. But emphasis on incorporating prayer into your daily life, much like what Benedict of Nursia taught, makes everything we do an act of reparation for the abused and victimized. Offering little daily acts of suffering, or reparations, is a form of prayer. Our Lord Jesus Christ unites our sufferings eternally with His suffering on the cross for the salvation of our souls. By praying and offering our prayers as reparations, we unite the suffering of the victims with our own lesser sufferings, and we offer them up to Jesus Christ, Who alone can redeem His Church.
Reject Modernity (as Much as We Can)
I offer this action with a grain of salt, as I use my laptop to write this out. We all cannot be cloistered monks, giving up the modern life completely. But what we can do is reject the modernity forced upon us by secular society. There is a difference between the use of a cell phone (for the sake of comparison) and bending to societal demands on Catholic moral teaching regarding the use of contraceptives, for instance.
Rejecting modernism here does not simply mean quietly following Church teaching on the matter. Rather, it requires us to actively stick to our guns and standing up for the Church’s stance, no matter what (even leadership that undermines Church teachings). Being the voice of Jesus Christ’s Church when society will call you crazy is what sainthood is all about.
What does this have to do with the scandal at hand? In a world where the pope was hurting the Church well before this current scandal, where he undermines the Church (promoting unholy consuming of the Eucharist by adulterers, for example), doubling down on Church doctrine and being defenders of the faith is vitally important for the lay faithful. This is especially true in light of the scandal: when the Church’s leadership are outed as perpetrators of injustices against the people, the Church will require strong, saintly lay defenders of the faith moving forward.
Return to Our Roots
When a child is hurt, scared, or worried, where does he go for comfort? To the arms of his parents. The people of the Church need to run to the embrace of our Father, Jesus Christ, and our (His) mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. We need to return to our roots – namely, our Holy Family. As in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus Christ, playing the father, welcomes us with open arms, ready and willing to console the hurt His Church experiences. The best way to seek our Lord’s consolation is by getting back to the basics of our faith. Attending daily Masses on a regular basis, spending time in adoration with the Blessed Sacrament, and engaging regularly with a confessor in the Holy Sacrament of Reconciliation are all wonderful ways we can return to what makes us Catholic – and thus seek the solace we so desperately need as His damaged but unbroken Church. Additionally, attending the traditional Latin Mass returns us to our roots by transporting us to how the early fathers of the Church intended to celebrate the sacred liturgy. The Book of Revelation describes the Supper of the Lamb that is so very similar to the way the traditional Latin Mass is celebrated every Sunday. We can be active partakers in this Supper, particularly when attending the Latin Mass of our forefathers.
Lastly, being active and outspoken members of the Church can only strengthen Christ’s weakened bride. This goes beyond writing letters to our bishops, begging them to speak up. Let’s reclaim our place in the Church as its driving force. This starts with the seemingly mundane, daily activities we can take part in in our local parishes. Be a strong leader of your parish. Get involved. Join councils and committees at your parishes and in your dioceses. Be the support the victims in our own communities need.
The strength of our Church as a whole starts with you. It starts at home.
What does this have to do with the scandals we face today, right now? Pope Francis calls us as lay Catholics to lead the Church out of a scandal that he refuses to face. So be it. This is how we lead.
While the response by the Church’s leadership has been unacceptable up until now, Pope Francis may get what he asks for. He calls us to take this scandal into our own hands. Through his inaction and silence, he may be inadvertently provoking us to do just that. Take Pope Francis’s influence for what you will, but the lay faithful will be the force the Church needs to overcome this dark time. These initiatives – fervent prayer; a desire to defend Church doctrine, tradition, and values; and enabling ourselves to lead our Church on our local levels – may seem small, but the Lord moves mountains with our small actions.
Mother Teresa put it wonderfully: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” That’s what our Church needs right now. That is what we can do.