Effie Caldarola

The crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church lumbers along.

We were still reeling from the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual misconduct and hierarchical cover-up when a disgruntled archbishop released a scathing letter calling for Pope Francis to resign. Now, many states are launching probes into diocesan files, a good thing.

Here’s the view from my pew:

A scandal within a scandal is that some people are continuing to exploit it to foster their own conservative or liberal agendas. Among our latest three popes, there are no heroes on the sex abuse issue. Let’s bring this into the light.

I’m sick of patriarchy. Jesus sent Mary of Magdala out as the “apostle to the apostles” to spread news of his resurrection. Not long after, a group of guys said, “Let’s put the little women in charge of the funeral luncheons.” It’s been downhill from there. Women need to be in decision-making positions, now.


I’m tired of clericalism. The boys’ club, Father knows best, the priest-on-a-pedestal. Let’s throw open windows at seminaries. How are these guys taught about women, sexuality, the priesthood of the faithful?

I spoke recently with a man who teaches at a college seminary. He said hopefully that in the last year or two the men he encounters are less “rigid” than in the recent past. How many of the “rigid” ones were ordained? Again, not a liberal/conservative issue.

Considering leaving? Don’t. I understand why people are angry or emotional right now. OK, maybe you need to regroup. But then come back to church. You are the church. Are the homilies stultifying, the liturgies and music discouraging? Speak up.

In my old parish in Anchorage, Alaska, an older gentleman would put his critique of that day’s homily in the collection basket every Sunday. I used to think the old man was eccentric. Now, I think he was a genius.

If you are going to vote with your feet to find a new parish, explain to the parish and your bishop why you’re moving. A relative of mine left his parish in a presidential election a few years back because homilies were all but endorsing one candidate. But he never explained why he left. Don’t miss that opportunity.

Speak up, respectfully, lovingly, civilly and constantly.

Simply dropping out can be lazy. It’s easy to slide into a Sunday morning sleep-in, followed by buying your own doughnuts. This church is worth fighting for. When the first clergy sex abuse crisis hit in the early 2000s, a friend asked me mournfully, “What happened to our church of the monks and the mystics?”

It’s still there, but we have to search for it.

Thinking of withholding donations in protest? Granted, money talks. But there are many great parishes and many great pastors. Don’t take your anger out on the good ones. All our gifts come from God, so do not use this crisis as an excuse to put a death grip on your wallet.

How much should you give? A deacon friend used to answer, “Give more.” Catholics do amazing work with the poor. Continue to donate to a good parish, and then, find a Catholic institution working on the margins — Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit Refugee Service, your own diocese’s Catholic Charities, a Catholic school serving an impoverished clientele, a home for unwed moms — and give more.

We are the body of Christ, quite literally, as St. Teresa of Avila points out. Right now, that body is bruised, broken and being taken down from a cross.

Is that the time to flee or be silent? I don’t think so.