BY SUSAN KATHERINE CORKRAN
I converted to Christianity at 17 years old and at the age of 21, I was confirmed in the Catholic church on Easter of 2017. I was not a “cradle Catholic” brought into my faith from a young age. Far from it—my family is predominantly atheist. My journey to religion was defined by years of personal struggle, illness and grief. I wouldn’t erase a single footstep of that journey: each mistake, each tear, each minute of loneliness eventually led me to a precious understanding of who I am and what I am meant to do with my life.
Yet there are challenges with my church for which I was not prepared. As scandal after scandal horrify the flock of the faithful and non-Catholics alike, many of us are charged with accusations of why we choose to remain. Familiar, loving faces have vanished from the pews of my parish church. Exhausted, utterly disenfranchised worshippers have stopped returning to the institution that now is synonymous in the news with child molestation.
That sheer brutality of that sentence is sickening and painful for me to write, but it must be acknowledged. My church means a thousand things for me—charity, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, love, gentleness, compassion, humility and nourishment, but there is a darker meaning that many will never be able to forget when they hear the word Catholicism. They will think of silenced children who were abused by the priests who were sworn to protect them, body and soul.
I’m furious; millions of Catholics are. I know priests who would never, ever hurt a child, yet those innocent men are now branded as pedophiles by strangers on the street who spit in their faces. The men I call “Father” and trust with my confessions, my fears and my deepest struggles are beloved to me. Hearing them called monsters breaks me in a way I can hardly articulate. There are horrific men who were shuffled around and protected in churches across the nation, and now the consequences of their unspeakable actions have fallen heavily upon the hearts of all Catholics.
We are now tasked with answering the question: “Why are you still Catholic?”
Why? Why do we go to church still? Why do we pray? Why do we keep faith in an institution that has always struggled between preaching Christ’s word and living by it?
We are Catholic because we know that our faith in God cannot be shaken by the failures of men. We are Catholic because we trust in the promises of our Lord, knowing that He will not abandon His church in her greatest hour of need. Most importantly, we are Catholic because we know that the goodness of Jesus’ sacrifice is present every day, all around the world, in every church where the Eucharist is offered. We proclaim our faith in this gift, now is the time to act on it.
“Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof—but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”
We say these words every Sunday, but how often do we consider their meaning? We are all sinners, all unworthy and all flawed in the choices we have made. But our story isn’t finished yet. In Christ, we have the hope of salvation that no scandal, no sin or atrocity can ever take away.
We are faced now with a choice to define our legacy and the world around us. Let us accept Jesus, His mercy, and His call to be more than our old, sinful selves. The Church calls us to sainthood.
Our generation must answer this call. That is why we are Catholics.