We must trust in the Lord in the midst of scandals

I understand all the human emotions; really, I do. I feel them myself. The sins involved here are despicable, unthinkable and outrageous. There has been a momentous betrayal of trust and abominable failure among who knows how many bishops, covering up hideous sins and causing more innocent people to be abused and violated.

Nevertheless, our natural revulsion to all that is not a good reason to leave Holy Mother Church. There is always sin in the Church. This is extremely distressing, but is nothing new (i.e., in terms of sinners in the Church).

The Church has always gone through peaks and valleys. G. K. Chesterton observed that “the Church has gone to the dogs five times, and in each case the dog died.”

It was the same in biblical and apostolic times, with the Corinthians and Galatians, and most of the churches mentioned in Revelation. If sin was a disproof of Catholicism, we all should have left long ago. Why wait?

Such things can’t be decided on mere emotions and disappointment and outrage. We choose a religious group and worldview to follow based on which one teaches the fullness of Christian, apostolic and biblical truth, as best as we can ascertain that by God’s grace. If we expect to find human perfection, however, we’ll never find it. That quest is doomed to failure.

Jesus Himself said, even about the Pharisees:

Matthew 23:2-3, 13 (RSV): “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. … But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.”

I’m Catholic (received into the Church in February 1991 by Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ) because I came to believe that the Catholic Church taught the fullness of Christian truth, in a way unlike any other Christian communion. I didn’t do it based on a conclusion that Catholic believers were the finest, most “on-fire” Christian disciples in the world. I still felt that evangelical Protestants “won” that “contest” hands-down.

The beauty of truth and facts is that they are what they are, and are not dependent on emotions, which are subjective and variable, and not dependent on how badly fallen human beings live up to the sublimity of the official teachings involved.

We either believe in the indefectibility of the Church or not. The Church has remained true to apostolic morality for 2,000 years (i.e., in its official teaching about what is wrong and immoral).

Sadly, sexual sin exists in every Christian denomination, and the Catholic Church is no exception. I’m very disturbed about all the scandals coming out, like any other Catholic is, or should be. But such terrible scandals should never fundamentally alter the joy and peace we feel in the Lord, and the faith that He is in control, even during the worst cycles of the Church.

It has all happened many times before, and revival eventually always followed. The worst centuries in Church history were inevitably followed by the best ones (as Fr. Hardon liked to point out).

This looks to be a time of purging in the Church. The devil is mightily active, and is taking out practicing Catholics through horrible sexual sin. He has infiltrated the Church through such particularly egregious sins, knowing that the consequences would be catastrophic.

But as always, Satan’s ultimate opponent is God, not us. We need to cleanse the Church. We’ll take a huge hit, but in the long run, the Church will survive and experience authentic revival, as she always has (since God promised it).

Dave Armstrong has been a published Catholic apologist since 1993. Dave has written or edited 48 books on apologetics, including several bestsellers. If you’d like to help keep his influential teaching apostolate going as a much-needed monthly supporter, write to Dave at [email protected]