Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Taking on the challenge to restore confidence in the Church

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published September 6, 2018  | En Español

As you might imagine, I’ve received lots of recommendations over the past month on what I must do to respond to the current crisis. This advice has ranged from livid e-mails and written responses to the more serene but deeply felt suggestions about how to change the Church’s approach to calling our leadership to greater accountability and integrity.

I am grateful for all of these observations—even those that may be hard to read—because they represent the genuine concerns of very honest people. They come from people who still have sincere feelings for our Church.

What distresses me far more are the shrugged shoulders and the knowing glances of people who long ago have abandoned any confidence in the Church, its leadership, our Catholic faith, or any organized religion.

The dismissive silence of countless millions of former Catholics is my greatest source of pain.

We have all heard about the abandonment of the Church by millions of young people during the past few decades. They are now being joined by some lifelong practicing Catholics who have been scandalized and angered by the recent revelations of behavior by church officials and leaders. These revelations have frequently just proven to be too much for many faithful Catholics to bear.

People who are angry and disappointed still may harbor hope that things can change. They want things to change. Then there are the people who silently ignore this moment since they have long ago abandoned interest in anything that the Church says, believes or does. This breaks my heart. These folks must become our most important field for evangelization, and they must remain in our prayers.

Over the past month, my prayer repeatedly has led me to reconsider Matthew’s passage (Mt 5:13-16):

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

“Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.

“Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

Too many of us in church leadership have become insipid and tasteless because of the way some of us have treated the people of the Church—most especially the little ones. Some of us should be thrown out and trampled underfoot. Nevertheless, the rest of us need to attempt to answer the Lord’s challenge of finding ways to restore our salty flavor—not the savor of the Gospel or of the Church’s faith—but of our service to the People of God.

Some might suggest that this is simply impossible—and perhaps for some that is, in fact, the case. However, for those who—even in righteous anger—still hold their Catholic faith dear and important, we must try to find a way to reconcile with them.

I also continue to take some comfort in the passage from Luke (1:37): “For nothing is impossible for God.”