PRESS EDITORIAL: In a ‘heart-crushing time’ of crisis, Jesus continues to inspire conflicted Catholics


The Gospel by St. Mark read in Catholic Churches worldwide on Feb. 28 proclaimed this message from Jesus: “Anyone who gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ will not, I assure you, go without a reward. But it would be better if anyone who leads astray one of these simple believers (children) were to be plunged into the sea with a great millstone fastened around his neck.”

By far, these are among the strongest words in all of the four Gospels. I truly believe that most priests reading that Gospel knew exactly how those strong words fit perfectly the crisis in today’s Catholic Church. It’s clear from the words of Jesus that any violation of children is totally tragic and should never be tolerated.

A front page article by Francis X. Rocca in the Wall Street Journal dated Feb. 25, the day after the international meeting in the Vatican with Pope Francis and cardinals and bishops, had this headline: “Pope Vows to Combat Sex Abuse but Offers Few Specifics.” Major newspapers all over the world carried basically the same headline.

The outcry across the world against the church has been devastating. All of the seven letters to the editor on the subject published on March 1 in USA Today, the most read newspaper in America, criticized the church on this issue. The very last letter summarized the other six with this one line, “Seriously, why would anyone stay Catholic?”

Not a single comment showed any support for the pope’s response to this crisis. It is truly a heart-crushing time to be a practicing Catholic in today’s church.

At least for this believer, it still is the church that Jesus Christ founded, and despite its betrayal of Gospel values over its long history, its many saints and heroes continue to inspire us as true followers of Christ. In our own parishes and neighborhoods there remain many devout Catholics. Though horrified by this present crisis, they continue to attend Sunday Mass faithfully. Some even go to daily Mass and are nourished by the Gospel and by the Eucharist, just as the apostles were at the Last Supper.

The issue of a married priesthood was not mentioned in the recent meeting in Rome. Ironically, our first  pope, St. Peter, was a married man. In the early church, many popes, bishops and priests were married. Even in today’s Catholic Church, thousands of married deacons are ministering in every corner of the world.

Also, the Catholic Church has accepted into the priesthood married men who formerly belonged to different Christian denominations. In the Orthodox Church and in the Eastern Rite, almost nine out of 10 priests are married men. Thankfully, the issue of sex abuse by clergy is almost non-existent in these groups of married men.

At the same time, celibacy is a healthy choice for some clergy members. But they keep in mind the words of Jesus regarding celibacy: “For there are different reasons why some do not marry. For some, because they were born that way. For others, because later they were made that way (eunuchs), and others do not marry because of the kingdom of Heaven. Let those accept this teaching who can do so.”

In other words, Jesus does not join celibacy to priesthood. The church did so later in its history, and many feel that was, and remains to this day, a major flaw. I recall so distinctly a wonderful prof in our seminary telling us regularly, “Gentlemen, you will be good priests to the extent you would have been good husbands and good fathers of families, had you chosen to be married. The qualities of true goodness are the same in both vocations.”

All devout Catholics pray that this current crisis is indeed a dramatic, though devastating, “teachable moment.”
Father Guy Gurath, a retired parish priest, lives in Fredonia.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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