Trust Needs Real Repair

I had vacation days this week and spent some time in the Pittsburgh area, visiting loved ones and enjoying the various offerings of the area.

But it was clear from the start there was one thing on the minds of a lot of people … and it wasn’t the opening game of the Steelers. I wish it had been.

The bottom line: It’s not easy being a Catholic today. The conversations, wherever I went, turned toward the disgrace and disgust over the pedophile ring of Catholic priests that went on in decades past, and who knows how long, in Pennsylvania. The ways in which it occurred has many people questioning their faith.

It’s no wonder when so many men wore the Shepherd’s clothing and were the devil in disguise. It’s no wonder when the hierarchy of the Church put on blinders and failed the children and their congregations for refusing to treat it as the crime it was and is.

The foundation on which the Catholic Church was built has failed. It will take a herculean effort to repair and set things right again.

My heart aches for the victims whose lives have been irreparably damaged. This isn’t an injury you can bandage and hope heals. It has scarred so many for life.

The other victims in this tragedy are the young men who have recently taken the vows of priesthood. Their chosen profession to serve the Lord has been tainted by those who came before them.

There is hope, however, that these same men can be the building blocks for a new era in the Catholic Church, one of honesty, trust, transparency. At least one young man in the local area chose to let his feelings be known via the pulpit last weekend. The Rev. Martin Smay, a newly ordained priest in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, put aside his prepared sermon and poured out his heart about it all.

Smay said, “If you are like me, you feel confused, disappointed, sad, heartbroken, frustrated and angry. In this case anger is not a bad thing at all.”

He spoke of the anger that Jesus displayed at moneychangers in the Temple in Jerusalem and how Jesus drove them out of the Temple. Smay called it “righteous anger.”

Smay acknowledged that the Pennsylvania priest scandal is bound to spill over into other areas of the country. He said, thankfully steps have been taken so history does not repeat itself.

“This is a very painful time of purification in the Church. Our part in this purification, which is so necessary, is not to abandon ship, but to continue to seek holiness, to keep our eyes fixed on Christ.”

Those are words spoken by a young man who has the weight of the Catholic Church on his shoulders. I pray he and others will find the strength to hold it up to the holy standards on which it was founded.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at


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