The Catholic Church has come under increasing pressure from horrific scandals. It is completely understandable that so many people shy away from church or just want to get out and leave. The cover-ups initiated and then perpetuated by the leaders of the church tend to drive people away or, if they have left, keep them away. The good that the Catholic Church has done and is doing becomes unrecognizable or lost in all the negativity and the result is that the Catholic Church is subject to scathing criticism, dislike and is experiencing an increase in the “nones.”
Never mind that the Catholic Church has always been, is and will be in the future the advocate for human well-being. Historically, and to this day, the Catholic Church as an organization is one of the largest contributors to foster charity, goodwill and faith based on reason in the world. That good message seems to get lost.
I often wonder at how many different programs the Catholic Church helps to support. So, rather than wonder, I took a look at my little state of Rhode Island. Specifically, I tried to find out what kind of impact our Diocese has on our community? How many different charitable organizations our Dioceses helps? How far does the Diocese reach in serving Rhode Island?
I was somewhat taken aback and pleased with what I discovered while talking with people, reading RI Catholic publications, examining the Diocese of Providence web page and personally taking part in a program sponsored by the Diocese. I was encouraged to see not just the variety of programs, but to what extent the Catholic Church is involved with its community. I honestly didn’t think the Catholic Church encompassed that much; that was my own ignorance.
As noted on its web page the Diocese consists of 178 individual corporations representing parishes, offices and agencies. There are 364 priests, 91 deacons, 368 sisters and 66 brothers under its purview. There are 11700 children in Diocesan related elementary and secondary schools. Providence College and Salve Regina University help serve the higher education needs of the geographic area and are also part of the Diocese of Providence community.
I counted over 29 social service programs the Diocese funds either totally or partially. These programs serve literally thousands in Rhode Island and not only Catholics. You don’t have to be a Catholic to participate in these programs; you have to be in need! The programs range from child care and shelters for families, to respite programs for caregivers of the elderly and sickly, to a myriad of multi-cultural programs from immigration services to settlement programs, a host of life and family well-being programs such as pregnancy help, post-abortion and end-of-life issues. Bereavement and HIV/AIDS support groups are also initiated and conducted by the Diocese. That’s just a small sample of what our singular little Diocese of Providence is engaged in the social services arena.
Health Care needs are addressed through Our Lady of Fatima Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital for Specialty Care Medical Center. Diocese Hospital Ministries coordinates various hospital chaplaincy teams to all the hospitals in the state and many nursing homes. Pastoral care is provided to the hospitalized and elderly throughout the state.
The Diocese, which serves such a small state with only about 1 million residents, is involved in a pretty impressive array of spiritual, educational, social and health care programs. An organization can talk about kindness and goodness, but it's another matter all together when they engage themselves in activities that are based on kindness and goodness.
Now, extrapolate or generalize all of these actions that our Diocese participates in to the whole of the United States, then to the Americas and Canada, then to other continents where Catholics are practicing and you might get an inkling as to the magnitude of the good that the Catholic Church participates in. It is sad indeed, that the bright light of the media would focus so much attention on the scandals and give very short notice or no notice to the good. Just as the indignant synagogue leader gave in Luke’s Gospel (13:11-17)! Or as Jesus himself describes in Mathew’s Gospel (11:16-20) noting the criticism that John the Baptist and he himself experienced in his day. To critics of the Catholic Church, then as well as now, the glass is always half empty.
There is nothing that can dissuade me from being a Roman Catholic. Jesus is my Savior and this Church is His legacy. I pray for those clergy who have abused their sacred privilege and I especially pray for their victims. I agree with Bishop Robert Barron, now is not the time to run, rather it is the time to stand your ground. We can do this by ratcheting up the love we have for Jesus by our own actions. Stay, don’t leave, and in fact, if you have shied away come back home and get more involved.
This church is over 2000 years old and it has had its bad popes, priests, clergy, heretics and schisms, but that is not the essence of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church with all its short comings is still something very much worth fighting for, and being a part of, because of its foundational and on going significance to western civilization in the fields of art, music, architecture, science, law, economics, morality and its historical and continuous contributions to basic human rights (Woods, 2011) and most importantly, its origin. Jesus built this church on the rock who was Peter and the Apostles. If Jesus had not build this church, everything He said, did and stood for would have passed away in the dust of time and much of Western Civilization, as we now know it, would not have happened. Instead, the exact opposite has happened.
The Catholic Church as an institution has survived, thrived, grown tremendously and universally because its primary roots are based on the way, the truth and the life. Love is willing the good of another; the Catholic Church is and always has been about love. God is love, Jesus is our Savior and this Church is His legacy because He is love; He is God. There is never a time to leave the Catholic Church that God Himself founded! Our goal is to evangelize His Gospel message through His Church, in His Church and with His Church. Many of the “nones” who have returned to the Catholic Church say the intense longing for the Holy Eucharist is the number one reason why they have returned. Again, stay, don’t leave, and in fact, if you have been away come home, the Holy Eucharist is still here waiting for you. You have never not been welcomed!