Letter: Catholics are realistic about Church and its failings


To the editor:

As an area Catholic, I read with interest the plans of the administrators of the Diocese of Springfield for sessions with the laity to discuss sexual abuse within the Catholic church. I wonder if this is necessary. No one, least of all members of the Catholic laity, could be unaware of the failure of our ministers and administrators in this regard.

There are two ways of looking at these failures. Broadly speaking, it's uncontroversial to point out that humankind is subject to ignominious lapses of the will and intellect. This is true, I think, whether we choose to call it original sin or something else. We all stand, sooner or later, in need of forgiveness and rehabilitation.

On the other hand, hierarchical religious organizations such as the Catholic Church have a tradition of addressing these falls from grace head on. They aim, with admirable humility for the most part, to create, maintain, and administer a sort of savings bank of God's grace, such that absolution of sin is a liquid asset, ready to hand. Phrases like the "economy of salvation," and the "dispensation of grace" drive the point home.

Church officials seem to be worrying out loud that the faith of the laity is being undermined by media attention to Catholic clerical failures in Pennsylvania and Illinois. It's almost as if they seek to avoid a run on the bank — to forestall a withdrawal of funds, as it were. But, if the news media have been reporting what the people need to hear, I don't conceive of that reporting, or the reception of that reporting, as a problem in itself.

Catholics come to church with eyes open. We do come for God's grace, but we don't come expecting that grace to be administered by perfect human beings.

Robert M. Kelly,




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