As a Catholic, I have viewed the sexual abuse scandal currently engulfing the Roman Catholic Church with great distress.
In Boston, John Geoghan is now accused of molesting more than 130 people while he was a priest, and he has been found guilty on at least one charge relating to the accusations.
Despite having strong evidence of Geoghan’s wrongdoing for years, the Archdiocese of Boston and Cardinal Bernard Law transferred Geoghan from parish to parish. And Law is still the head of the archdiocese, despite calls for his resignation based on his handling of the Geoghan situation and other cases involving abuse by priests.
The scandal, unfortunately, is not limited to Boston –more examples of priestly abuse and cover-ups by the church are coming to light from around the country and around the world.
Frankly, I haven’t known how to respond to the devastating news reported every day in the morning paper. So I was quite relieved and pleased to hear the Rev. Robert Beloin, Yale’s Roman Catholic chaplain, address the controversy during his Sunday homily at St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel.
Beloin began by condemning the actions of the priests who sexually abused minors as sinful betrayals of the sacred trust placed in the priests by the church and parishioners.
But Beloin also emphasized the way the Catholic Church is, like any individual, holy and sinful –sometimes noble and good, at other times distressingly corrupt.
Beloin mentioned the Second Vatican Council’s statement that the church constantly needs reform, and I believe reform is a good that may come out of the current scandal. The church must not attempt to hide the sins of its priests, and it must enact wide-ranging changes to prevent future sexual abuse and act swiftly to end it if it does occur.
But for right now, where does this scandal leave the church, and where does it leave my fellow Catholics and me?
I agree with Beloin that even the egregious misdeeds of some priests and bishops are not a reason to abandon the Catholic Church. The church, while imperfect, is far more than the sins of a few of its representatives.
Throughout the church’s history, its sins have included not only the individual transgressions of church officials but also such dramatic corruptions of Catholicism as the Inquisition.
But these atrocities should not obscure the church’s unchanged message of love, the good the church has done by taking a leading role in social justice issues, and the profound spiritual guidance and community the church has given to millions of people.
I’m glad Beloin had the courage and wisdom to confront the crisis the church is facing. There are many good priests like Beloin, and the Catholic Church must rally around these true spiritual leaders as it continues to strive to represent God in this world.
Although the scandal makes me ashamed of some of the church’s past actions, it does not make me ashamed to be a Catholic. And under the guidance of leaders like Beloin, I look forward to seeing the church continue constantly to reform and make me ever prouder to be a Catholic.
Matthew Matera is a junior in Trumbull College. He is a news editor of the Yale Daily News.