If one mayor in the United States is accused of taking money from the town treasury, would you then assume that every mayor is going to steal money?
I’d hope not, but a similar situation is happening within the Catholic Church.
When the first reports of alleged sexual abuse came out against priests from the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis, specifically against St. Thomas professor and priest the Rev. Michael Keating, many of my friends and acquaintances approached me, asking what I thought about the whole situation.
I’m not a Catholic Studies major or minor, but I consider myself a member of the Catholic community on campus. To be honest, I didn’t know what to say at first. My initial response was that it must all be lies, that all of the accusations were false.
Over the next couple of days, I took a step back. Instead of expressing my opinion, I listened to what others had to say. I was taken aback to hear many of my classmates saying this was just another example of why they don’t agree with the church, or saying they weren’t surprised by the situation.
I challenged a couple of them, asking if they’d ever met Keating. They couldn’t recall, but remembered seeing him in passing one or two times.
What I gathered was that people were using the lawsuit as their reasoning behind why they don’t trust the Catholic Church.
The church is not perfect. In fact, the Catholic Catechism teaches that we are a “Church of sinners.” While priests lead their parishes, they too are human. Like all people, they sin. Contrary to what some might think, priests are not perfect.
Surely, these accusations are troubling. As a child, we look up to parents and siblings, thinking they can do no wrong. The first time we witness an older sibling sneaking out or find out that our parents had some wild nights in college, we feel confused and disappointed with the people we held to a higher standard and trusted.
Like many others in the church, I look to priests and their lifestyle of faith and devotion for an example. As we grow up and grow in faith, priests become role models. When they do something that doesn’t fit the high expectations we hold them to, it can be disconcerting.
Yes, we are troubled by the terrible crimes some priests are accused or guilty of, but our faith is not in priests directly. Priests are human representatives of something much bigger than any of us. The core of what Catholics believe isn’t crashing down; the same God and same values of doing good, caring for others and seeking truth still guide us. We can still hope that despite priests’ human weakness and vices, that they can guide us through the difficulties of life.
For now, we just have to wait for a conclusion and hopefully, closure. We can keep those involved in our thoughts and prayers. Like St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan said in an email to the St. Thomas community, these people include the woman, her family and Keating.
Caroline Rode can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.