by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Three years after our wedding, my husband and I learned that the priest who presided at our ceremony pleaded guilty to molesting a 15-year-old boy and was in prison.
That was a hard blow, and it definitely marred the experience of looking through our wedding album.
But it didn’t affect our love for each other; and it didn’t invalidate the sacrament we received or the vows we made before God.
I know the question I’ll be asked in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report alleging sexual abuse by our clergy — because I was asked it back then:
“How can you remain a part of this corrupt organization?”
And I will tell anyone who asks, without apology, that I love the Catholic Church.
- I love the Virgin Mary who raised me in holy partnership with my mother
- I love the rosary that has been my constant source of strength in times of despair.
- I love the communion of saints and the beautiful practice of novena prayer.
- I love the universality of the Mass available to me every day; and Adoration available to me every moment of every day.
- I love the Eucharist and the incredible reverence with which Catholics receive it.
- I love the tradition, the music, the pomp and the circumstance that envelops every celebration we have.
- I love the humbling practice of confession to another human being.
- I love the solemnity of a Catholic wedding and the joy of a Catholic funeral.
- I love the fact that my church is one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world; and I love its clear, unwavering voice for social justice.
- I love the Hilaire Belloc quote “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine,” because I know the truth behind it.
And in midst of yet another scandal that seems to pollute all these things I love, I see the hand of Satan eager to rob me of my faith and push me off the road to salvation.
But I won’t let evil triumph, no matter how loathsome its methods.
I’ve learned throughout my life that I can’t change things by walking away from them. And I can’t find all the things I love about the Catholic Church anywhere else.
So I remain a member of this body of Christ, however broken, because I believe it needs my help to become healthy and whole.
It needs me to pray about my frustrations with the hierarchy of the church, to pray for healing of its abused victims; and especially to pray for the millions of good priests and sisters wounded and unjustly disgraced by this scandal.
It needs me to be part of reforms like Virtus training that have already been put in place and are remarkably successful. It needs me to advocate for more change.
So I’m here to stay, not because my church is flawless, nothing human ever can be.
I stay because this is where I encounter Christ, and I want it to be a safe and welcoming place where others can encounter him too.