[The elephant in the room] is making me sick. He’s also making me anxious. My newsfeed is flooded with Catholic fury. Very well-placed, extremely justified Catholic fury. The hierarchy may be imploding. I don’t know. I don’t think so, but it seems that way. As a Catholic priest, I feel besieged and helpless. I can protest and write up a social media post or homily that says the obvious along with everyone else, that my heart is broken, that this places the vast majority of faithful priests in a gethsemane not of their own making, that we condemn [the elephant] in the harshest possible terms. Or I could be more courageous and explain that we have a deeper problem, one that goes back to the 1960s and affects every aspect of the Church. I could air my grievance that, because we are willfully blind to the evils of homosexuality, its nature, and the way it operates on the basis of dominance and power, that we will never figure this out no matter how many committees and procedures we put in place.
Here’s the thing, though. I don’t want to know anything about it. I don’t read about it. I don’t scour the grand-jury reports or prurient excerpts. I simply can’t. Because of this, I don’t have a whole lot of information by which to feel that a public cri de couer is a prudent idea.
The question in my mind, though, is what are my responsibilities here? As a writer who has the ability to publish widely, as a priest with a pulpit, do people deserve an accounting of the decades of the dirt and the darkness? After which I shall make a distinction between the failures of the human beings in the Church and the immaculate, spotless Church herself? And I will solemnly explain this after I tell them what really happened in the confines of this selfsame institution, that the blessed Mother has been played for a harlot? I will tell them this and expect that they will nod their heads in understanding and return the next day as sheep to a shepherd?
The Catholic blogosphere is an artificial bubble of high-information folk. The average parishioner knows very little about it. Or do they know more than I think? If they know nothing, is it best to let the evil whimper away while we do the greater work of preaching the virtues, exploring the beauty of written and visual arts, and attending to matters that are more local and more under our control? Sometimes the evil is best left alone, or at least left to courtrooms and referred to whatever community of laborers it is whose job is to craft extraordinarily heavy millstones. In other words, the problem may best be left to the world of law and justice to be dealt with quietly and, hopefully, effectively. To those who are ignorant, perhaps it is better than way. After all, innocence and uncomplicated faith are not to be taken away from another person lightly.
My fear is that just enough information has filtered through for us all to be cynical and angry. None is quite innocent enough because too many people have already spoken up and even people who don’t pay much attention are aware that something rotten is surfacing. Maybe that’s not a bad thing that they’re aware and we should be grateful for those who alert us to the fact that there is, indeed, a massive [elephant in the room] that is sucking the air out of the living Body of Christ.
The point is, I’m confused. Should I write about this? Should we write about this? I don’t know what can be added at this point, or if this is the material of great art or introspective musing about beauty and culture. I have lots of other stuff to say on much more interesting, positive topics. But maybe this simply needs to be dealt with.
I really have nothing to say, though, and that’s the problem. I can say I love the Church. That I gave up everything to enter her mantle and I will cling to her until my fingers melt into dust. That perhaps we might want to rethink the post-Vatican II compromises we’ve all been quietly living with concerning marriage, contraception, etc…wherein we don’t change the teachings themselves but go on to steadfastly ignore them. Perhaps the [elephant] has stomped the Mass into a shambles because that’s part of [the elephant’s] modus operandi because it is ugly and it likes ugly things. Is that helpful for me to say?
Is all of this compelling subject matter for our fiction, our non-fiction, our social commentary, would I want to read a poem about this? Is it even something that ought to come up in everyday conversation? I have a lot of other things I want to talk about, I don’t want to waste my breath on this.
But here we are. What should we do?