The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 98: Wake Up
Well, hi friends. This week we had disturbing revelations from the Catholic Church in France, along with a contentious and somewhat surprising election here in the U.S., and all of it has me thinking on the premise of the Raised Catholic podcast. Maybe it’s this time of discerning how it all happened and how we got here, or maybe it’s the France of it all. If you listened to episode one, Notre Dame, you’ll know that I saw the fire, destruction, and slow rebuilding of that grand French cathedral as an allegory to what is happening in the global church and within us, as individual faithful. In each case, there was fire, and evident substantial damage, and the process to sift through what’s left and methodically rebuild is slow, painstaking and sometimes frustrating work. It can be hard to look around at all the muck and mess and remember to look up and try to see it all from God’s perspective.
This week is one of those frustrating weeks. A French report from last fall revealed that the number of minors who were abused in Catholic institutions from 1950 through today approaches 330,000. That’s 330,000 children in the French Church alone. Last week at a French bishops’ conference, a letter from prominent Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard was read aloud, where he admitting to abusing, some 35 years prior, a 14-year old girl. Ricard wrote that his abuse “caused in her grave and lasting consequences.” We also learned this week that French Bishop Michel Santier, who retired in 2020 citing health problems, was actually found to have been disciplined by Church officials in the wake of credible accusations of sexual abuse. The description of the abuse of two young men in the 1990s is graphic, some of it occurring in the confessional in the midst of the sacrament. In all, ten former French bishops have been implicated and are under investigation, and the transparency the faithful requires continues to be evasive. As victim advocate Olivier Savignac, said, “There are many hidden things. How many more will come out? The Church only reacts once it is up against the wall.”
Well, the sad reality of clerical abuse and coverup, along with a lack of transparency is plaguing the church all over the world, still today. The recent case of Cardinal Ricard echoes the firestorm around then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who abused youths and adults, seminarians, and young priests under his authority for years, all of this known and covered over, at least by some, for decades. McCarrick and Ricard were both elevated through the ranks during this time, wielding untold power and resources. They were both well-known public figures and were often in the press. Ricard even became a member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office which is responsible for investigating claims of abuse.
Okay, so maybe you’re thinking, yes, this is awful and also, it’s nothing new. You could be right. I’ve heard cradle Catholics say things like, “of course this would happen in the Church. Abuse happens everywhere. Broken humans won’t keep me from the Church I love. Or some will cite the statistics of abuse in places like schools, scouting groups, and even families as not necessarily an excuse for clerical abuse, but as a normalizer of sorts. But as harmful as all abuse is, there is something particularly heinous about a person who represents God abusing someone within a church community, and then the institution which professes God continually preferring to shelter the abuser over the victim. We see this in so many places, and horrifically coming out in recent cases from places like Franciscan University. And there’s something about this situation never really changing that is so deflating, frustrating, and angering to the people in the pews and to the many scores of people who have left.
Because at the same time as these revelations of abuse, the institutional church, especially here in America, seems somehow more anchored in clericalism than they were before. If you listen to some of the louder public voices, they certainly appear to be closing ranks against criticism of any kind. When they look out at the emptying churches, they say “The problem is them, not us.” They decry a lack of respect for the Eucharist, and pledge millions upon millions of church donations to educate the masses on that score. You’ll see much more about that program in the coming months, I’m sure. In this country, clergy have become more politicized, more tribal. They seek political solutions for societal problems, pouring money and influence into campaigns and elections, including this past week’s mid-term elections, claiming there is such a thing as a ‘Catholic’ vote centered around one political issue. Spoiler here, friends: there is no such thing as a Catholic vote. Jesus never told us how to vote, but as I wrote in an election day post, there are plenty of places in the Bible where Jesus does direct our action. One of those can be found in Matthew, chapter 25, where He says,
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Hmm. Well, today, I’d like to end with this. In our country, celebrity priests (by the way, this trend of celebrity among the clergy is so dangerous, friend, but that’s another podcast). Anyway, many well-known priests along with many more in the pulpits seem to have identified the enemy plaguing our society as ‘woke’ ideology. You may have heard homilies or online talks or read posts from priests about how ‘wokeism’ is ruining America or is ruining the Church. They want us to go back to a place in time where we didn’t know what we know now. And I get it, I guess. It is so much easier to preach solutions when the problem is those people out there. But looking inside, taking a humble posture, addressing the pain and disorder inside of church walls – that’s a much harder road. The origin of the word ‘woke’ as we use it today is spiritual and intellectual enlightenment, like waking from a deep sleep to see things clearly, for the first time. And this makes me think of the language Jesus often used around being ‘born again’ and I’ll link to some of those instances in the show notes for you today. People in that time did not know what Jesus was talking about, but being born again is kind of like opening your eyes, isn’t it? It’s scary to think that there was suffering we never saw before, or that systems we benefited from were inherently unjust, but isn’t it much scarier, especially after hearing the parable of the sheep and the goats, to just…stay asleep to the reality of the world that we share with our brothers and sisters? Isn’t it scarier to continue down this tribal path of ‘them and us’, where complex issues are routinely distilled down into caricature and no solutions? I don’t know. This stuff is hard, but as I look around at the Church and our country and society, at the pain we cause and the suffering we look away from, it feels like the last thing we should do is close our eyes. Friend, I think it’s about time we wake up.
Thanks so much for listening. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
God we ask for light: in our churches, our country, our society, our families, and within ourselves. Help us to see clearly and give us the energy to address our issues with love and care. We pray today for the victims of clergy abuse and for their families. We pray that with humility and your help we can somehow build a church which is safe and lifegiving for all of God’s people. We pray all of this in the name of Jesus, amen.
Okay friend, thanks so much for listening today. I’ll see you next time.
This week we discuss disturbing revelations coming out of the French Church, along with continued clericalism and politicization here in the US. When it comes to the future of the Church (and our own faith lives), maybe it’s past time we wake up to some important realities.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Podcast: Inside the Vatican: What a Prominent Cardinal’s Admission of Abuse Means for the Catholic Church in France, by America Magazine
2. Article: Diocese Confirms French Bishop Disciplined by Vatican for Sexual Abuse, by Catholic News Agency
3. Article: French Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard Admits to Abusing 14-Year Old Girl 35 Years Ago, from The Guardian
4. Article: New Allegations Charge Franciscan University Cover-Up, by Pillar Catholic
6. Song: Open My Eyes, by Jesse Manibusan
7. Song: Open The Eyes of My Heart, by Audrey Assad
8. Song: Common Ground, by Matt Maher, featuring Dee Wilson
9. Journal prompts (write a question, then listen prayerfully and write as you’re led): God, bring light to what is dark within me. In what way am I complicit in the suffering of a brother or sister? What am I blind to today that you in mercy could help me see?
10. Series: Developing Compassion for the Sexually Abused, by Beth Moore (Part One)