Letter to a Suffering Church by Bishop Robert Barron won’t be on anyone’s recreational reading list for summer vacation. It isn’t a lot of fun and there isn’t a plot any fiction writer would claim.
It is occasionally shocking and a bit raw in places. Bishop Barron writes honestly, directly, with unapologetic emotion.
Nobody will read this book for fun or entertainment. Some may read it because they think they should. Many will read it because there is a question eating at them; given all the scandal in the Church today why should I be a Catholic?
Because he is such a lucid thinker and writer, Bishop Barron answers this question in a little book of a hundred pages. He insists this is no time to leave the Church, but understands why many feel so discouraged. He pulls no punches in pointing out the obvious truth of Catholic history:
- The membership of the Church has included horrible sinners from the very start.
- Some of the worse sinners have been Popes.
- Sexual abuse of males, females, young and old, has been a periodic and persistent problem.
- The truth of our faith doesn’t become invalid because many of us fail miserably to live up to its ideal.
- The current crisis may be the worst crisis faced by the Church in North America but the global Church has faced worse.
- For things to be fixed will require heroic holiness, faith, and action by the laity.
Given all of this, I expect many of you – like me – have slumped out of bed on a Sunday morning of late and wondered why bother to attend Mass? There is so much that is not Christian about the Church, right?
I feel like a politician I once heard explain why he was leaving a political party that had dramatically changed its ideology. As he told it, he wasn’t leaving the party because it had already left him.
And, yes, there have been moments when I have felt that the Church has left me. Oh, ME of little faith!
Corrupt and evil politicians ruin governments and nations. Dishonest business leaders ruin companies. Cheaters turn champion sports teams into losers.
Yet, every sort of nitwit, scoundrel, adulterer, sexual predator, thief, and liar over 2,000 years has not been able to topple the Church.
Bishop Barron gives the simple answer to the question “why stay”: the Eucharist. That really is enough but there is more.
When Jesus saw many of his followers discouraging, leaving because his teachings were too difficult, the Lord asked his disciples if they would also leave. Peter gave the answer that we all must give: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the word of eternal life.”
I’m going to follow Bishop Barron’s plea: stay and fight.