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What the scandal is (re) teaching me

This isn’t the time to retreat or hunker down.

( ZoneCreative)

When a teacher was challenged by his student for relying on the “crutch” of his Christian beliefs, he replied, “And a very good crutch it is. What is your crutch?”

Lately, this story has reminded me that if our faith isn’t rooted in Jesus, his Resurrection, the Sacraments, Scripture (all of it, not just the parts we like), and what the Church has proclaimed over 2,000 years, our crutch must be some ideology, drugs/alcohol, another lord (Satan, Hitler, some religious or political leader, or movie star), work, pleasure, prestige/adulation, power/authority—what am I forgetting?

The Church has needed reformation in every age: sometimes big, sometimes small; sometimes evident, sometimes obscure. There has never been a “no need for reform” age. Though we prefer to focus on saintly and heroic clergy in times of strife (and rightly so), by all accounts most of the clergy in Henry VIII’s time went over to him, and not a few went over to the atheistic Jacobins after the French Revolution. Plus ça change

The world, the predominant culture and its directors, has been trying to destroy the Church from the start, from the outside and inside. The world has no interest in eradicating sexual promiscuity, including sexual promiscuity in the clergy, because unrestricted sexual expression is one of its sacraments. Christians—including priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes—are constantly tempted to be lionized by the world, a temptation we cannot resist without radical faith. The Palantir we keep on our desk or table, or in our hand—devices of all kinds, social media, the darkest corners of the web—tell us that faith is foolish, a waste of time; that the Church is doomed; to eat, drink, and be merry; to go with the consensus.

Catholics should be infiltrating—rather, storming—every corner of the culture with truth and beauty, and we must prepare and gird ourselves for this self-sacrificing mission. This isn’t the time to retreat or hunker down.

I’ve come to rely more on what I see, hear, and experience—the empirical evidence—than the cultural consensus, and media that take the consensus as the last word on the subject. I read that honeybees are dying off, but the new hives behind a house in the middle of my city have been swarming with bees all summer. In the 1960s and 70s, the consensus was the Church was in decent shape, when in reality—seminaries, priestly formation, lay formation—it was reeling. Ironically, priestly and lay formation in most places is much better now than then, though that’s not the consensus of the culture at large.

Only Jesus, what he did (and does) for us, what he tells us through Scripture and the Church, what he gives us in the Sacraments. That crutch. Day by day. Crisis by crisis. That’s what the scandal is (re) teaching me.

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About Thomas M. Doran 82 Articles
Thomas M. Doran is the author of the Tolkien-inspired Toward the Gleam (Ignatius Press, 2011), The Lucifer Ego, and Kataklusmos (2020). He has worked on hundreds of environmental and infrastructure projects, was president of Tetra Tech/MPS, was an adjunct professor of engineering at Lawrence Technological University, and is a member of the College of Fellows of The Engineering Society of Detroit.


  1. Good on you Mr Doran for sharing your thoughts. I loved the opening part about the teacher. It’s certainly one to remember. The present crisis seems to be moving some people closer to Jesus. Houses built on solid rock perhaps, but who need to remember, that the race has to be run to the finish. We do need to fortifie ourselves with the things you mentioned, and pray for those who are wavering.
    Stephen in Australia.

  2. Thank you, Mr Doran. Very helpful amidst these beleaguering days. It’s not just the current events, but the cumulative effect of decades of uninspired leadership. Stray voices like yours, an intense prayer life, and good books keep oil in the lamps. Keep up the good work!

  3. So get and believe what you say Mr. Doran! This recent scandal is re-teaching me too! Last time it was brought up I felt my voice could add nothing- but I see all our voices are needed to make an everlasting change!

    I will be silenced no more by any of our priest who say they have no time to listen! It is time that all priest and bishops listen with humble hearts to the cry of their people! It may be hard, and even taxing to listen to each story or criticism over and over- but it needs to be done. It may be the suffering and penance our truly holy priest are being asked to do in reparation for the sins of their brother priest! This is their Marty Dom -as all of us who may be asked to “just listen” to the abuses others have gone through by those in our Church who have sinned in a most harmful way!

  4. Just reached out to Archbishop Gregory of Atlanta. His invitation to Fr. Martin to speak shows just how much our leaders are in denial. Shameful and so very sad.

  5. The current scandal is multilayered. The highest level is clericalism, the abuse of power. Rampant homosexuality among priests and bishops fueled a clericalism that resulted in sexual and financial exploitation of Catholics. It is self-serving to restrict the conversation to abuse of minors, as the problem is much larger. The secondary victims were those faithful who were tapped to pay the settlements (with non-disclosure agreements) to the tune of what we have been told is billions of US dollars.

    Jesus said render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. The US bishops have done neither. By dropping “clerics” from the 2002 Dallas charter and substituting “priests” the bishops flushed their responsibility to protect the Church, on technicalities. They did not render to God what is God’s.

    Equally damaging, they did not render to Caesar — they did not rat out the priests and bishops who were sexually abusing, and so they rendered THEMSELVES accomplices after the fact.

    The hand of lawyers is evident in all that, not enough influence of moral theologians to shock or simply embarrass them into doing their jobs.

    We need psychological testing of all bishops and priests to deter,ime their fitness for the clerical state.

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