When my husband and I were received into the Catholic Church it was 2009. The news of the sexual abuse scandals and cover ups had broken in 2002 when we were in high school.
We knew before converting that the Church was full of sinners and that what makes it holy is not the behavior of its priests and bishops. We entered the Church with eyes wide open.
But that doesn’t make the recent allegations of abuse any less heartbreaking. I wanted to believe that anyone responsible for covering up clerical abuse was no longer in a position of authority. Tragically, the past few weeks of news have revealed that this isn’t the case.
I am angry, devastated, and heartbroken by the sins of the wolves tearing apart the Church. I weep for their victims. I rage at the betrayal, not only of the faithful but of Christ himself. I am praying and fasting as reparation to the Heart of Jesus. I am writing letters to bishops and speaking out over these crimes.
What more diabolical attack can Satan have than to tear apart the Church from the inside? It is sickening.
Just as happened in 2002, there is no doubt in my mind that many people will leave the Church over these revelations. It’s not hard to see why such betrayal at the highest levels of Church hierarchy would make many run from the pews. But I won’t be part of the exodus. Because the Church isn’t the men who have failed to protect the flock, the Church is my Mother.
When I think of “the Church” I have never visualized cardinals processing in red hats or even the Pope. I have always seen in my mind’s eye a sculpture that brought me to tears many years before I knew I would convert: Michelangelo’s Pieta.
Mary looks down at the lifeless body of the crucified Christ draped across her lap. With her right hand she tenderly holds up his chest. Her left hand is open as if gesturing towards her Son to say, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” She is beautiful. She is suffering. She is strong.
I remember studying the work in art history and my professor saying that Michelangelo’s Pieta is such a masterpiece because the proportions are believable to the viewer, and yet, in real life a grown man would be too big to be draped across a woman’s lap. Somehow, Michelangelo makes it possible.
The Blessed Mother’s legs support her son’s body and the viewer is drawn into her sorrow. It’s a foil of every Madonna and Child. Instead of a young mother proudly embracing her baby, the Pieta reveals the deepest grief a mother can know–outliving her child.
This image of Mary has always been how I visualize the Church: a Mother. She is the Mother Jesus has given to me, just as he gave me (and all the world) Our Lady as she stood at the foot at the Cross with St. John. She is suffering great sorrow because of the evil of sin: the sins of predatory priests, the bishops who protect them, the sins I carry in my own heart, the sins of all the world. And yet, she exudes faith and strength through the power of her Love.
She offers to us the only antidote to the tragedy of sin: her Son. This is the Church that I love, that offers the grace of the sacraments that strengthen me to get up each morning and face the world.
This is the Church, my Mother. In her embrace I will find Christ. And I will never leave her. To whom would I go? The words of eternal life are found no where else. No evil cleric will tear me from her loving arms.
I cling to my Mother. I run toward the Cross. I believe in the depths of my soul that the gates of Hell will not prevail against her and that as in other times of great scandal in the Church that Satan’s attempts at destruction will backfire. We will rise up to clean out the rot.
Our Mother weeps with us and for us. She offers us Jesus, our only hope. There is always room in a mother’s lap for her child because her maternal love is boundless. Now is the time to run to our Mother, to fight for her to be purified. It’s time to become saints.