Hi, My Name Is Joe, and I'm A Recovering Catholic

05/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


My name is Joe.

I am a recovering Catholic.

Sometimes I post this online and I get responses along the lines of, "How can you question the one true church like this?"

Luke 17:2

It would be better for such a person to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round the neck than to be the downfall of a single one of these little ones

(from, since we're talking about Catholicism)

I am in no way advocating dropping pedophiles from the Ben Franklin Bridge with weighted collars (although YouTube videos of this would go viral real fast). But after reading and seeing the scandals involving the Church and its history of covering up this behavior, should there be more people fitted for millstones?

What was once called an American issue has jumped the pond to Ireland and is now exploding in the Pope's Bavarian Archdiocese. But it's not new; this stuff has gone on for decades. There is a complete disconnect from reality here. Papal infallibility, I think not.

What needs to be done?

I don't have a clue how to heal those injured by collar and cassock. The emotional distress of being duped by authority figures who asked for trust -- no, demanded it -- creates fissures in the psyche that psychologists could study for a lifetime. And not just in the victim; the pain ripples through families and can be just as devastating.

In our society, we seem to think that throwing money at a problem is a solution. Those offended can sue, we say, but then we'd see the even uglier dance of the Church defending itself in court. The Church's pretzel logic, intended to somehow excuse those who put themselves on a pedestal from being brought down, does nothing. In fact, it is even more offensive to see the guilty circle the wagons and hunker down into their siege mentality.

Is God already punishing the Church for these indiscretions? How many vocations are being sought these days? When you drive by the sprawling St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on the border of Philadelphia, you realize that this institution houses just a handful of men. (As alterboys, we were given the chef's tour of the place and told that its underground hallways were the longest in the world prior to the building of the Pentagon.)

The Church, if it wants to start following the spirit of the Gospels, needs to apologize publicly and start selling its possessions. What good is this prime real estate on the Main Line doing those who have been wronged? What about the Vatican Museum with its gold chalices and world-class art and artifacts? If they cannot bring themselves to sell the stuff in the family attic, rent it to people for life. But if Christianity is about spirituality, then we don't need the material goods. This is about the credibility.

A larger set of questions begins to assert itself.

Those who stay in the Church will still need ministering by the good priests who remain. Since vocations have dropped through the floor, who will replace the retiring priests? Do we import them? From where? This pedophile issue is global.

As St. Paul wrote to Titus about being an elder:

The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to organize everything that still had to be done and appoint elders in every town, in the way that I told you, that is, each of them must be a man of irreproachable character, husband of one wife, and his children must be believers and not liable to be charged with disorderly conduct or insubordination. The presiding elder has to be irreproachable since he is God's representative: never arrogant or hot-tempered, nor a heavy drinker or violent, nor avaricious; but hospitable and a lover of goodness; sensible, upright, devout and self-controlled ( Titus 1:5-8).

Hmm. St. Paul is telling the early church to use family men as leaders. Maybe it is time to get back to our roots as Christians. Family men as priests, why not? Most Eastern Rite and Protestant Churches do it. Even St. Peter had a mother-in-law.

And what about Peter's mother-in-law? Don't you think she would make a good priest? Maybe once we get some of these folks who are not based in reality out of positions of power in the Church, we can get some clear-thinking people in to take on the elder role (i.e., bishops and cardinals).

This issue is first about the Church owning up to the damage done. How it handles this will determine whether the Church has the level of credibility it owes the next generations.

The Church can continue to be stubborn and admit nothing. It can live outside the teachings of the Gospels and use the logic of the Pharisees to defend itself while injecting itself into the political discourse wherever it wants. It can use its might to slow down health care reform or push for its pro-life agenda. It will do so as a large political organization and a courted political group.

And I can continue to be a recovering Catholic.