The world is a dark place these days. Just watching the news or skimming the headlines can leave you with a queasy feeling in your stomach and a sense of hopelessness. The darkness reaches into every corner of society, and this past year, it’s become painfully clear that it has poisoned organizations and relationships that used to be havens of trust. With the advent of the #MeToo movement, we saw how often mentors, coaches, etc., abuse the trust that has been placed in them and prey on those they should be protecting. And now, as if this wasn’t enough, we find out that the darkness has found its way into the Catholic Church. Of course, we’ve known about these problems for a long time, but many of us hoped that the worst was over and the culture of sexual abuse and coverup had been quashed. While some individuals and dioceses have tackled the problem head on, it is now painfully obvious that the disease was never pulled up by the roots.
For Catholics, these revelations have been devastating. Our priests, the very men who are supposed to be shepherding us, our children, our friends, have been preying on their flocks. Of course, the vast majority of priests are good men, but that doesn’t diminish the horrific crimes of these errant priests and those who have abetted them. For non-Catholics, too, these revelations should be jarring. If darkness can take root in the Catholic Church, an institution dedicated to spreading the light of Christ throughout the world, where will it not?
In times like these, it is all too easy to despair. As a Christian, though, I continue to hope. First and foremost, I place my hope in God, in His ability to bring a greater good out of a great evil. In moments like this, it can be difficult to see how anything good can possibly come of such a situation. Once in a while, though, God gives us a glimpse of light in the darkness.
For me, that glimpse came a couple weeks ago, with a letter to Pope Francis signed by over 46,000 Catholic women. In the letter, Catholic women from all walks of life respectfully, but firmly, asked the Pope to actively address the abuse crisis in the Church and, in particular, the allegations that he protected ex-Cardinal McCarrick. After stumbling upon the letter online, I realized that I had just witnessed something remarkable. Pope Francis has asked women to have “a more incisive presence in the Church,” and this letter was a response to that call. More than 46,000 women had found the strength to come together and stand up for those who have been hurt by these scandals–their children, their relatives, their friends, their fellow-parishioners, and ultimately, their Church. I couldn’t help but think of St. Catherine of Siena, who is known for her letters (which usually contained a rare mixture of saintly love and searing rebuke) and for convincing the Pope to address the scandals that were tearing the Church apart.
Obviously, women have always played an integral role in the life of the Church. In recent years, however, there has been a growing acknowledgment of the need for a stronger feminine presence in the Church and in society as a whole. So, while nothing can undo the horrible crimes committed by some priests, I take comfort in those 46,000 signatures. I pray that these women will continue to speak the truth, defend the vulnerable, and reflect the true Light that no darkness can overcome.