As a Catholic, reading the news of the sex abuse report released last week inflicted an instant surge of emotions: confusion, sadness, distrust and anger. However, despite the heinous crimes of the priests who sexually abused men, women and children within the church, which then allowed such crimes to occur and reoccur, I continue to stand by my Catholic faith.
The report issued by a grand jury in Pennsylvania last Tuesday revealed that for more than 70 years, the Catholic Church concealed at least 1,000 different victims of sexual abuse by at least 300 bishops and other prominent leaders in the Catholic Church.
While the report lists 1,000 different victims, the document suggests there are far more. Those not included in the count were said to have been silenced or too fearful to report the crime, the sex abuse report said.
The sexual abuse cases are a horror alone, however, the most appalling aspect of the report was the extensive effort by the Catholic Church to conceal the fact that such events were occurring.
And it wasn’t the first time.
Sixteen years ago, the Spotlight team, a group of investigative journalists with the Boston Globe, exposed sex abuse in Boston’s Catholic Churches involving 100 priests.
After learning the details of the Pennsylvania report, the best word to describe my insurmountable emotions was betrayal – something Catholics across the world felt, too.
For days, numerous questions clouded my mind:
How could the church hide this?
How could even a single clergyman or priest commit such a disgusting crime?
Why were the victims’ voices silenced for so long?
After an unsuccessful effort to find the answers to these questions, I pushed away any thoughts of the report to solely think about my faith – the Catholic faith that has guided me throughout my life.
I thought about times of struggle when praying the rosary would give me the strength to carry on, doing the sign of the cross every time I pull out of my driveway, handing out the Eucharist, the bread that symbolizes the body of Christ, as a Eucharistic minister – a few things that only scratch the surface of what it means to be Catholic.
Through reflecting on my faith, I realized that the core beliefs of Catholicism do not support the acts of the priests who sexually abused others and the people responsible for allowing it to continue.
The Catholic faith has served as a central part of millions of lives worldwide for more than 2,000 years. Despite the institutional downfalls throughout the years, the objective of the Catholic faith has always been to better the lives of others, not bring them harm.
While the actions of the priests are inexcusable, the actions of one person, nor 300, do not define the actions of all. Those who have committed such crimes, no matter their title or status, should always be held accountable for the crimes they commit. All must remember that the sex abuse report reveals only a percentage, not the whole.
So, before blindly placing false stereotypes over priests, the church or the millions of Catholics worldwide, remember that the Catholic faith, alone, does not stand nor cater to atrocious crimes like sexual abuse.
Perpetuating a crime like this is not only inexcusable — it is unbecoming of what it means to be a Catholic.
Considering that this is the latest major allegation toward the church, it will be difficult for the Catholic Church to regain its trust. However, I suppose that is when we need faith the most.
Chaveli Guzman is a senior majoring in mass communications.