As I opened my email today I was immediately notified that the Rockville Diocese of Long Island, NY voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 protection under the US bankruptcy code. The cause: the financial cost of defending against legal claims for damages against the Priests and Religious of the Diocese for sexual abuse of minors. Filing for Chapter 11 is a legal move that allows distressed companies to protect financial assets and preserve ongoing operations in the long run. Essentially the assets owned by a company filing for Chapter 11 are measured against claims against the company and settlements are reached that allows the company to reopen at a later date.
The Diocese of Rockville notes in the announcement that since parishes and schools are separate legal entities, the Chapter 11 filing will not affect the assets held by individual schools and churches within the Diocese. The Diocese also makes clear that no ongoing parish offertories, or contributions to the Diocese will be a part of the bankruptcy financial settlements and therefore will be protected.
Personally, I am disgusted and sickened by the US Catholic Church’s response to the predatory sexual abuse unleashed by Priests and Religious, who were then protected by the Church. Perhaps you feel the same. I take no personal comfort in the assertion by the Diocese that individual schools and parishes will not suffer financially as it is highly likely that the Rockville Diocese crammed-down liquid assets into the individual schools and churches just before filing Chapter 11 in order to ensure protection for those liquid assets during the bankruptcy proceedings. I also find it malodorous that the Diocese is making it clear that all offerings and contributions will be separated and protected from the bankruptcy proceedings. So the message from the Diocese is clear; “Keep your checks coming! We’ve protected ours by distributing assets to numerous legal entities, so the coast is clear for you to keep sending us more money.” Talk about self serving! Where is the concern for the need for reparations for the crimes that were committed and the harm that was perpetuated upon innocent children? Tragically, our church is more concerned about its own financial well being and power than it is about following its own teachings on moral and ethical absolutes. Sounds like the Sadducees and Pharisees of Christ’s time doesn’t it?
I could go on, but ultimately the situation leads to the overriding question of; can I remain a member of a church that harbored predatory pedophiles, covered up for them, refuses to take complete moral responsibility for their transgressions, and then, when caught, hides behind the legal machinations of the secular society which it preyed upon in order to protect its material wealth? How can I go to the confessional and openly confess my deepest darkest sins to a morally bankrupt church that has not repented of its own transgressions?
For me, the answer lies in trust in God. Not in His church. Jesus tells us plainly in Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” He did not say that the church would be perfect or that it would not suffer some very dark hours. In fact, the troubles of today are not the first time the Catholic Church has gone wildly astray.
However dark the problems within the magisterium might seem today, God has a plan, and all is in His omnipotent care. Humanity gets into serious trouble when we begin to think God doesn’t know what He is doing, or we begin to try to help Him carry out His plan. The Bible and church history is loaded with such examples. Abraham and Sarah, as faithful as they were, could not help themselves when God told them that Abraham would be the forefather of a nation whose numbers would be greater than the grains of sand. Recognizing that Sarah was well beyond child bearing age, Abraham, presumably with Sarah’s consent, fathered a child through their slave Hannah. The Son we know as Ishmael along with his mother, Hannah, was eventually driven from the family into the desert when God took Abraham aside and explained that his heir would in fact come through Sarah, as nothing is impossible for God. While Abraham might have had faith, he did not exhibit trust that God could do what God set out to do. Jonah, King David, Moses, the Apostles, and numerous other bible figures, all share in a lack of trust that God can bring about, on His own terms, what He intends to bring about. We all fall into the trap of thinking God needs a little help from us in carrying out His plan. The big trouble really starts when we step in to do what we think God has overlooked or, worse, cannot do. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Protestant reformation were all very dark hours for the church. In each case, our lack of trust that God would correct the wrongs led to compounded problems and disastrous results.
Roll forward to today’s crisis in the magisterium; as much as I am sickened by what has happened, continues to happen, and continues to be covered up and manipulated by various legal and financial machinations, I am choosing to trust that God is equally repulsed by what has happened and will not rest until the wrongs are rectified and justice is restored. He has given us His promise. I do not know how He will make this all come about, but I do believe He can do it. My part is to simply trust in His promise and to trust that taking things into my own hands, by leaving the Church, will only prove my distrust in God, which, in the end, can only lead, as history has shown, to more disastrous results.