There are many in the various media outlets who are describing the Church as being in the crisis of the century. They are suggesting that the credibility of the papacy is on the line, and the Church is being split in two between the “orthodox” and the “liberals”. They predict a mass exodus from the pews.
I don’t think those who issue these dire predictions know Church history very well.
There are anecdotal reports of individuals saying they will never confess their sins to a priest again because they no longer believe priests are holier than them. In all honesty, I have known that priests are no holier than the laity for years. For God’s sake, I have found no one holier than my own mother (a convert to Catholicism) or my grandmother who was not baptized until she was in her 70s and remained a United Methodist after coming from the United Bretheran congregation.
Why is it that the Church survives? Because despite the sinfulness of its members, the Church possesses the Truth, and adherence to the Truth gives us freedom. Our very human nature gravitates to this Truth and freedom. Its pull is inexorable.
Christ was all about setting us free from our slavery to sin, and restoring us to our original dignity as sons and daughters of God. Where Christ is present, there is freedom. We obtain that freedom when we are obedient to the truth, not to ourselves. Those who seek the truth only in themselves find themselves enslaved to themselves and never find lasting happiness.
Despite the Church’s present turmoil due to sin and sickness, participation in ecclesial life brings happiness, freedom, and meaning. The wrenchingly painful reality of sexual abuse in the Church must be addressed. The suffering must be supported, and justice rendered. But the Church is more than the pedophiles in the ranks of clergy. The Church is the People of God coming together as God’s family around our Lord Jesus. The Church is a communion of saints in heaven. The Church is the flock of Christ, and yes, the flock includes a few Judases. The Church is an organized society of faith as willed by our Lord. The Church is the Body of Christ, broken and given for all. The Church continues Christ’s saving work on earth, and identifies with those suffering the agony of their own crucifixion. The Church is always the Church of the Resurrection.
I have found in the Catholic Church the truth which has set me free. Once I met Jesus, I dare not turn my back on him.