There have been numerous occasions during which I stood up and defended my Catholic faith.
One occasion that automatically comes to mind was when I went to a public school and my fourth-grade teacher told me to get the "dirt" off of my forehead in front of the class. It was Ash Wednesday, a pretty well-known Catholic holy day marking the beginning of Lent.
After some contemplation of whether or not to wipe the "dirt" off of my forehead to avoid further embarrassment, or tell my teacher it was a Catholic tradition, I chose to defend my religion, and she apologized. It was an event which proved to be monumental for me as a young Catholic, which tested my devotion and led to me standing up for what I believed in.
An entirely new test is coming to fruition. A Netflix documentary called “The Keepers” was recently released. The summary of the documentary on Netflix says the film, "examines the decade-old murder of Sister Catherine Cesnick," and the child abuse scandal which was uncovered during the investigation. Essentially, Sister Cathy confronted a priest about his child abuse scandal, and then she was found murdered, suggesting a cover-up of the abuse. This documentary has reignited a conversation about Catholic priests, child abuse and cover-ups which have been around for many decades.
This week, Pope Francis gave a press conference in Ireland where he met with eight victims of child abuse from a Catholic priest. The CNN video shows Pope Francis saying, "[…] the eight people who suffered sex abuse by figures in the Catholic Church left a 'profound mark’ on me."
He then explained the correct measures being put in place to ensure such abuse cannot happen again.
Additionally, new information recently surfaced how Pope Francis knew about the abuse allegations against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2013, but did nothing about it.
More recently, according to NBC 10’s Danielle Abreu, the Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said his office has proof the Pope would have needed to document the allegations about Cardinal Donald Wuerl according to Cardinal Law.
"Shapiro told NBC’s Today show during an interview Tuesday that the grand jury unearthed handwritten notes detailing the abuse stored in secret archives. He said clergymen were compelled by Cardinal Law to document 'all of it,' calling the policy ‘inexplicable,” Abreu explained.
More and more people are finding the strength to come forward about abuse, decades later and despite their traumas, which has been a positive trend over the past couple years thanks to movements such as #MeToo.
This new test to my faith is difficult to stand behind. While I do not believe the wrongdoings of the priests should make people question the core principles of the religion as a whole, I do think this is a time when the Catholic church should take a step back and reevaluate some policies. The church is known to have old, outdated traditions—it has only been a recent change that women can be altar servers, and women still cannot be priests.
Maybe it is time to ask why priests are doing this in the first place. What is leading them to corrupt young children? Are the rules and regulations of being a priest too restrictive to the normal sexual development of a human being? There must be a bigger reason as to why thousands of priests across numerous decades felt as if they hold the power which justifies the abuse of children.
This is not the time to point fingers about who knew what in the past, nor is it time to abandon the faith altogether. It is time to get to the root of the problem and rebuild the Catholic Church, giving it a new reputation— a reputation not involving abuse or cover-ups.
I still stand behind my faith, difficult as it may be at this time, in the hopes times such as these will unite members of the Catholic Church to conduct a real and a lasting change.