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God's Servant First: Restoring the Church's Credibility


by Aaron Matthew Weldon

September 25, 2018

Like most Catholics, the wave of revelations of sexual abuse in the Church have overwhelmed me at times.  Although I entered the Church well after the 2002 scandals, and thus never expected perfection, I am now a father of sons, and it's not farfetched to imagine that at least one of those boys could be called by Our Lord to serve the Church as a priest.  I can't help but wonder now: what will happen if he goes to seminary?  Will he encounter a culture of exploitation and abuse, a sexual throwaway culture?

The crisis is personal for me, and not only because of my worries about my boys.

My job here at the USCCB is to help the bishops promote the Church's social teaching, particularly in the area of religious liberty.  And whether you work for the Church, in government, or are simply a Catholic citizen living out the vocation to "renew and constantly perfect the temporal order," you know that bearing witness to our Catholic faith in public life is exceedingly difficult when the institutional Church has lost so much of her credibility.  

How can we promote religious freedom for Catholic ministries in this situation?  

We can glean some wisdom from the principle that the Christian saves his or her life by being willing to lose it (see, for example, Matt 16:25).  In other words, sometimes, to get the thing you want, you have to let go a bit of the thing you want.  Many of us want to see the Church regain her credibility.  The USCCB Administrative Committee has outlined steps that move in the right direction.  Credibility is important, because we want to bear faithful witness to Jesus Christ.  At the same time, credibility is not itself a goal for Christians.  It is a fruit of our goal, which is communion with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps, then, the best way to restore the Church's credibility in public life is to renew her interior life.

Our credibility will be restored when people can encounter us, members of the body of Christ, and actually experience the presence of Christ.  But for that to happen, we have to become conformed to Christ ourselves.

How that transformation happens, or what attention to our interior lives looks like is going to be different for different people.  For my family, it's participating in Masses of reparation, fasting on ember days, and spending more time in spiritual reading.

What one does may not be the most important thing.  What is absolutely crucial, right now, is that we Catholics draw close to Jesus.  Of course, it's always good to turn one's attention to the Lord.  But in this time of crisis, we may also find that by focusing on Christ anew, we will have established a foundation for engaging public life with renewed strength.

Aaron Matthew Weldon is Program Specialist for the Office of Religious Liberty.

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