Integrity will make the church relevant

By Elizabeth Tenety This week, as more gruesome details of the global Catholic child sex abuse scandal were revealed, Catholic … Continued

By Elizabeth Tenety

This week, as more gruesome details of the global Catholic child sex abuse scandal were revealed, Catholic TV, a national Catholic television network, had the unfortunate timing of launching its 3D video programming aimed at making the faith relevant to youth.

“Our faith is not a flat picture we hang on the wall, or a photograph we place in a scrapbook. No! Our faith is alive and brilliant with color and dimension. It calls us to action, to growth, to love,” reads an article from Catholic TV explaining the innovation. Get out your 3D glasses and check out some of their programming online here.

The 3D programming, though a fun innovation, is reminiscent of a more innocent time for Catholic youth. What will it take to engage a younger generation of Catholics? Public penance. With a global child sex abuse scandal horrifying Catholics across the world, it’s going to take more than eye-popping visuals to keep the faithful from jumping ship. The sex scandal may be a political and moral crisis for the Vatican, but it has the potential to permanently disillusion the group most affected by the abuse: Catholic youth.

My generation (Gen Y/ Millennials) of Catholic youth came of age during our president’s impeachment, experienced 9/11, watched the American Catholic sex abuse scandal unfold across our churches, has had friends and family shipped off to two nearly decade-long wars, and is living through the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. We barely had enough time to gain confidence in institutions before we lost that faith.

Faith requires trust. If young Catholics can’t trust their church, which claims to be the way to salvation, why would they bother with God? Many of my friends and even some members of my Irish Catholic family have turned away from Catholicism because of the moral failure of our leadership.

There is reason to believe that the pope understands this connection. George Weigel wrote this weekend, in response to the pope’s letter on the Irish abuse case, that, “‘Sinful and criminal acts’ against the young ‘and the way Church authorities dealt with them’ are, the Pope suggests, among the reasons that Irish Catholicism has imploded in recent decades.”

This scandal is as solemn as it gets, and requires a gravely serious response.

What kind of penance does the church need to do? How can the Catholic leadership start to gain back moral authority? How can the Catholic Church prove that it is trustworthy and relevant to a disillusioned generation?

Elizabeth Tenety
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  • elizdelphi

    I am Catholic. I think Elizabeth Tenty and the estimable George Wiegel are right, there is a definite need for penance, in the authentic sense that is about true contrition and reparation or healing–and always in light of the merciful love of God. Judas, who betrayed Jesus horrendously, despaired of that Mercy and he hanged himself. Suicide is not what is needed, what is needed is certainly Mercy, and so joined to penance must be fervent prayer.Penance of what kind? Do we know how to do penance anymore? Is fish on Fridays penance? Are three Hail Marys penance? Friday abstinence from meat is a practice of fasting and not “penance” precisely; saying some prayers such as Hail Mary is often the specific penance associated with the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka the Sacrament of Penance) by which means our personal sins are absolved, through the sacrifice of Jesus. These things are first of all for the conversion of one’s own life, but seeking forgiveness for our own sins and to repair the damage as much as is in our power and repair our own communion with the Church and repair our relationships, I believe is how we have to start to repair the whole Church. We have to attend to the integrity of our own chastity (in the way proper to our state of life, married or single), our own honesty and care for the young, our own humility. Otherwise, it’s hypocritically about “other people’s sinfulness”, the mote in somebody else’s eye, while the beam remains in our own eye.Supposing we’ve repented of our personal sins and sought to grow in virtue, lovingly urged that those close to us do so too (“as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”), how do we then do the little that we can do to repair the damage of these awful sins of the violation of children? I think the essence of this is prayer, persevering prayer, for the victims, for the abusers, for those in authority who made poor choices, also for all those who have been scandalized. God hears the prayers of the upright, but joined to prayer it’s right that there be self-denial, some form of fasting, be it some fasting from food, from TV, from vanity, etc. And there should be some effort of service or giving, perhaps specifically for the good of children.Let’s do this. Let’s not brag about it. Blessed are you if people hear you’re a Catholic and think you’re a supporter of child molestation, and you stay silent and just let them think that, when in actuality you pray and sacrifice day and night for the cleaning up of so much filth and the healing of so many wounds. Just pray doubly for that God may forgive the people who think you, too, must be guilty of those things.

  • spencer1

    One indisputable fact must underlie all discussion: There is zero plausible evidence for the existence of supernatural beings. If you agree I applaud your intelligence. If you disagree, why not attempt to provide some evidence that is more than empty faith.


    My parents grew up in a Catholic orphanage and our family has always been thankful that the church was there for them. They grew up healthy and happy.To gain back the cultural catholics, the church must take a more rational view of the universe and allow a more metaphorical interpretation of the Bible.

  • usapdx

    To silent TRUTH to protect the IMAGE will backfire account the TRUTH will come. The RCC needs many changes. 1. The VATICAN STATE needs to become part of ITALY to come under civil law. 2.This pope must resign account the pope always has the final say and or this pope office before being pope knew all of what was going on in RCC world wide before the pope receive it. 3. After the NEW POPE, he must call VATICAN III. 4. The RCC members must always have the full truth from the administration of the RCC. 5. The RCC control of the membership by man made rules by way of the guilt trip must stop.

  • central1942

    What is all the fuss and confusion about what to do about the many years of some men, deprived of a natural sex life(to protect the church from propery claims by widows of married priests) taking out their lust on young people who trust them and believe that whatever the “father” tells them is the word straight from heaven. I am disgusted that the talk is all about the “church”. IT SHOULD BE ABOUT ROUNDING UP THESE CRIMINALS AND SEEING THAT, IF GUILTY, THEY ARE THROWN IN JAIL, WHERE SOME OF THE OTHER INMATES WILL KNOW HOW TO TREAT THEM! Maybe this would stop this terrible practice, which apparently has gone on for hundreds of years, without any action on the part of those who knew and turned a blind eye!

  • elizdelphi

    A truth that a lot of people, even a lot of Christians reject, is that the Church, founded by Jesus on the “rock” Peter whose successor is the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, is the Body of Christ, a continuation of the life of Christ on Earth. This is the orthodox belief of Christians, from the earliest days to the present.There were many during the earthly ministry of Jesus, who called for His death. Today, I still see that the heirs of Pontius Pilate ask the crowds if they want the death of the Church, and the crowds still call with great zeal for the humiliation and destruction of the Church, prolonging the cries of the crowd that day in Jerusalem for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, while they want Secular Humanism and together with it all the godless idolatry of money, sex, and power, to go free like the bandit Barabbas. And this, they may even tell themselves, is mercy. But they do not know Mercy, and they do not know Truth. Merciful Love gave Himself in full on the Cross in order that their sins need not doom them. They were made for Life, and because Jesus is risen from the dead and freely offers them to partake in His own eternal life, my confidence is full that their Life can be renewed.

  • FarnazMansouri

    On Topic:Look, with all due respect Ms. Tenety, the Vatican Cosa Nostra, is a money-laundering gang of pederast protectors, among other things.It is not salvageable. It needs to go, the sooner the better.And bon voyage. You can keep on worshiping the image of the corpse of a dead (non)Jew on a stick. That goes without saying.

  • dollar_bil2

    Mr. Billy Graham!Can’t say that I’m sure where exactly you stand on all of what is happening in this country,but would appreciate your imput.On the subject of a “true christian” and a “social justice christian”, I tend to believe there is a great distortion.I personally am a true christian though the edges are a bit fraid.Believing in our Lord our God in the most sincere way.The fear is we are being drawn away from our parents and forefathers teachings.Drawn by that which this country has misstakenly voted in office.There is to my vag recollection a part in the Bible speaking of a third anti-Christ.It is also said that he will be born in the western hemisphere.He will be like no other before him,very charismatic and articulate.With what is happening around our country it would seem he had landed.My beliefs are that our Lord walks amongst us as well as Satin.The differance in our society is if a begger approaches us,we tend to push him off.On the other hand if Satin were to approach we tend to welcome him into our homes.Because of his pleasent nature,we are not threatened.Do we not see this happening in congress now?Can this Obama in fact be a heretic?If so how do we as “true christians”protect ourselves from this thing?You speak to a large audience of followers.Is it not time to inform them of the possibility we may have a heretic in our presence?I speak in my own way to the Lord almost every night asking for understanding and guidance in this matter.Do believe it’s time for you to take off the gloves and tell it how it really is.