He's plenty frank about what we're facing, but he also urges us to stay in the Church, and help.
If you had to outline the contents of the “Good News,” what would you include? How many points would be on the list? And in what order? Why is it that Jesus and his Church are worth embracing, even in difficulty?
Giving such a summary of the Good News is a thought experiment that Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, well known for his Word on Fire ministry and Catholicism series, has taken up in a new, short book called Letterto a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis.
The book is a call to Catholics to “stay and fight” — because according to a statistic Barron cites, in the wake of the sex abuse scandals, 37% of Catholics are seriously considering leaving the Church.
To make his case, Bishop Barron provides foundation for what he admits is a blunt affirmation:
There is simply never a good reason to leave the Church. Never. Good reasons to criticize Church people? Plenty. Legitimate reasons to be angry with corruption, stupidity, careerism, cruelty, greed, and sexual misconduct on the part of leaders of the Church? You bet. But grounds for turning away from the grace of Christ in which eternal life is found? No. Never, under any circumstances.
Bishop Barron offers five concrete “reasons to stay.” But these come after a frank summary of the depths the crisis has sunk to, including some of its horrifying details. Barron is not inviting Catholics to turn a blind eye, or to simply carry on with the status quo. He recognizes the anger, knows it’s justified, and nevertheless wants to keep people from abandoning the Eucharist, and all that the Church, and only the Church, can offer.
The five-point outline of the great gifts of the Church is a helpful and clear review, while the chapter on the crisis itself is an overview that is sickeningly familiar at this point. But the two chapters that might be most enlightening are on the scriptural and historical analysis of the scandal.
The historical comparisons — which, Bishop Barron is careful to point out, don’t exonerate anybody today — might be vaguely familiar from school-age classwork, but the scriptural analysis will probably strike many Catholics as new and enlightening information. And the quick line-up of saints who have come to the rescue during particularly difficult eras of humanity’s history will remind you that there are plenty of people to be proud of, too.
A benefactor has ensured that this book can get into a lot of hands, with parishes only paying $1 a copy for bulk orders, and individuals getting it free if they pay shipping costs.
It’s a brief read, and worth it.
See how to make the book into a parish resource here.