by Jeffrey van Zuiden

As the Catholic faithful, perhaps one of the toughest issues we  must answer for is the sex abuse scandal. At the very least it is certainly a touchy subject. At its very worst, it is an barrier between converts and reverts and the Church. Certainly it is among the darker moments of the Church’s history.

In writing this, I seek not to downplay the evils committed, not to cast blame away from the guilty, and certainly not deny the hurt felt by the victims. Instead, I will attempt shed some much needed light. As with much in life, outside forces with their own agendas have grossly misconstrued what we think we know about an already troubling event.


“Prosecutors in Philadelphia told jurors in opening statements that Monsignor William J. Lynn, who was in charge of reviewing complaints about abusive priests, tried to save the church from scandal by covering up child sexual abuse.”
Photo credit: Stan Honda, AP/Getty Images. Caption credit: David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times.

Since, at its very core, this is a moral issue, I would like to begin there. A future post will address the factual side of the issue.

While there is no doubt that those who committed these acts of evil, did just that, often the critics of the Church, like to cite these acts as a reason for condemning the church. Who hasn’t heard, “If these were really priests of God, how could they commit such evil?” or “If this was really Christ’s Church, how would he let such evil happen? You don’t hear about this in this other religion.”

As apologists, we need to first start with acknowledging the evil done. There is no excuse for it. Those who did it are guilty of sin. Herein lies the point.

If we were free of sin, why would we need the Church? For that matter, how can a priest be sinless, unless he is already in heaven? We are a Church for sinners. Christ made that abundantly clear. We need the Church for our salvation from sin. Should you attend Mass because you like the priest or because he is an exceptionally holy man? It is a great thing if your priest is well-liked and very holy, but that is not why we go. We go to worship God, and to receive God’s graces through the Sacraments.

The world is full of sinners. All of us, laity and clergy, are all sinners. With that, we are all equally susceptible to committing acts of evil. Think of this; if you were a demon, seeking to inflict the most harm on the faithful, why not focus your attacks on God’s priests? By corrupting a priest, you would inflict the most harm on the faith of the laity.

(Watch this space for Part Two. – Ed.)