Andres is a college student currently studying Music in Combination with Computer Science at the University of Florida.
Growing up in a traditional Cuban-American household, I pretty much had no choice but to be Catholic in order to avoid conflict with my parents. In addition, I was still learning about different perspectives in the world so it wasn’t like I had the ability to decide for myself if I really liked the Church or not. As time went on and I became educated, it grew on me and I decided to go through with my confirmation.
Fast forward a few years later, and now I see myself questioning and doubting my beliefs while in College. It’s here that I learn about new perspectives that I had never thought about and personal experiences that make me evaluate how I see the Catholic Church. Combine this with the sex abuse scandals and I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Is Catholicism still worth it?”
In short, yes. I personally disagree with how the Church leadership has handled such scandals, but it doesn’t mean that I should abandon my way of life. If Catholics don’t band together and demand change, then who will? Who will hold the morally corrupted priests accountable if we just sit idly by pretending that nothing is wrong?
We have a duty to hold our leadership accountable because we are all part of this Church together. After all, a Church is a community and we have a responsibility to address the problems before us.
One of the main issues I had when realizing how bad these scandals truly are, is the lack of channels for Catholics to voice their concerns to Church leadership. Or, at the very least, the lack of communication as to how one should go about voicing concerns. To my luck, I found out through a friend that the Archdiocese of Miami has a monthly community event called, “Theology-on-Tap.”
The events are held at a local brewery here in Miami and the Church invites people to come speak about any topic and usually there is a Q&A afterwards. My very first time going, I went with some friends because Archbishop Thomas Wenski was coming to speak. Excited at the opportunity to ask a representative of the Church leadership about what is being done to prevent future sex abuse incidents, I decided that I would go despite my original reservations.
I honestly can’t recall what Archbishop Wenski spoke about in great detail because I was focused on what kinds of questions I would get to ask him. Of the tid bits that I remember, he was speaking about how relationships with chaste are not as common in our society anymore. When he finished, he then opened the floor for questions about his talk or any topic.
My interest had peaked in what he had spoken about regarding exercising chaste in your relationships and I wanted to know if that’s what drives the Church to believe that homosexuality is wrong. During my time in College, I struggled with trying to be a Catholic 100% and yet also be great friends with people that just happen to be homosexual. I didn’t hate them or dislike them, I just struggled with trying to fit the beliefs of the Church with my beliefs.
I asked the Archbishop how young Catholics going through college can navigate these situations. His response was that I should advise my friends to exercise chaste in their relationships. I thought it was a fair answer, but at the same time, it didn’t satisfy me for some reason. I felt like the answer was not as in depth as I had wanted it, but I guess he didn’t want to use up too much time for specific questions.
Some more questions were asked, but the one that really mattered to me was the question that another gentleman posed. He asked, “What is the Church doing to prevent future sex abuse scandals from happening and protecting Catholic children from abuse?” Archbishop Wenski sat for a moment and thought about his response. He then explained that the Church has already implemented new safe guards to lower the risk of future incidents from occurring and that there were changes made to the education process for future priests.
At first glance, I was satisfied with the response. It seemed like the Church has put in place measures to protect Catholics from any corrupted priests, or nuns, who might be looking to harm people for their own gain. However, after speaking with my friends, I realized that the response was not as good as it should have been. It seemed entirely reactionary to future incidents and it was not a proactive approach to the situation. In fact, more abuse scandals surfaced after the event and it was evident that there were still layers to peel away.
As if seemingly hearing our prayers, Pope Francis recently issued a law requiring all priests and nuns to notify the church if they have any, “well-founded belief that there is abuse.”1 This is an example of something I had wanted Archbishop Wenski to tell us, but I guess it wasn’t his place to say.
Truth be told, there is a lack of trust that the Church is currently going through, but I believe that the Church leadership is finally taking the right steps toward rebuilding that trust. I think that within the next 5 years, we’ll see the growth of the Church again a sort of religious enlightenment. This of course all depends on whether we, as Catholics, continue to make sure that our Church leadership knows about our concerns and we truly exemplify Jesus in everything we do.
1 - https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/pope-francis-issues-groundbreaking-law-requiring-priests-nuns-report-sex-n1003651
© 2019 Andres Danilo Martinez