Pen­te­cost rant chan­nels anger in Catholic pews

The Saline Courier Weekend - - OPINION - TERRY MATTINGLY

Eliz­a­beth Scalia woke up fu­ri­ous, think­ing about scan­dals in the Church of Rome, Pen­te­cost and a fa­mous court­room rant in the movie “... And Jus­tice for All.”

“It was like Al Pa­cino was in­side my head scream­ing, ‘You’re out of or­der! You’re all out of or­der! The whole church is out of or­der!’ ... I knew I had to write some­thing,” said Scalia, long known for on­line epis­tles us­ing the pen name “The An­choress.”

At Pen­te­cost, Scalia noted, the Holy Spirit de­scended like fire on the apos­tles. “I thought: Dear God, why can’t some fire fall on our bish­ops? What’s it go­ing to take to wake up some of these guys?”

Pen­te­cost fell on June 9 this year, fol­low­ing months of news about clergy sex­ual abuse and the drum­beat of scan­dals tied to the fall of for­mer car­di­nal Theodore Mc­car­rick, one of the most pow­er­ful church princes in Amer­i­can his­tory.

Then The

Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lished a June

5 re­port about a lurid litany of ac­cu­sa­tions against re­tired

West Vir­ginia

Bishop Michael

Brans­field, whose ca­reer was linked to Mc­car­rick’s.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors found that Brans­field -- in a poverty-wracked re­gion -- spent mil­lions of dol­lars on his own com­forts, while hand­ing fi­nan­cial gifts to var­i­ous Amer­i­can mem­bers of the Col­lege of Car­di­nals and strate­gic church lead­ers. While there were no spe­cific ac­cu­sa­tions of abuse, the church re­port cited a “con­sis­tent pat­tern of sex­ual in­nu­endo, and overt sug­ges­tions and ac­tions to­ward those over whom the for­mer bishop ex­er­cised au­thor­ity.”

This was Mc­car­rick 2.0, a sucker-punch that in­spired Scalia to pound out a per­sonal let­ter to Je­sus that was pub­lished by Amer­ica, a Je­suit pub­li­ca­tion. Scalia cur­rently serves as ed­i­torat-large for Word on Fire, a Catholic evan­ge­lism or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Well, Lord, here we are again. This crap just never stops com­ing, and God, I’m get­ting so dis­gusted with it all, and if I could not find you in the Holy Eu­charist, I won­der if I would find you any­where else within this church,” she wrote in her fiery over­ture.

“So many of my friends are fed up and leav­ing, or get­ting close

to leav­ing, and I get it, I do! I un­der­stand how they feel, even as I pray they won’t leave, be­cause

... be­cause well, hell, how does leav­ing an im­per­fect some­thing to wade into even less-per­fect noth­ing end up serv­ing any­thing but the crea­ture of the voids and the low­ness? ... I’m half sur­prised that our bish­ops, as they watch the pews empty out, aren’t put­ting out state­ments re­mind­ing us that to miss at­ten­dance at Mass is to risk eter­nal damna­tion.”

The goal, Scalia ad­mit­ted, was to chan­nel the anger she keeps hear­ing from Catholics na­tion­wide.

“I’m not tak­ing your name in vain, Lord, you know it’s a prayer, a cry from the heart. Je­sus Christ ... my heart feels bro­ken,” she wrote. “I want to hate these men. I want to hate them and pun­ish them for all the dam­age they have done to the church, and there­fore to you and your body. And to the whole world, be­cause a world with­out the church -- a world where the church be­comes ir­rel­e­vant, in-cred­i­ble and un­equal to the task of bal­anc­ing the sec­u­lar world and all of its in­flu­ences for good and bad -- that’s a world where the lights are get­ting ready to go out, and all the can­dles snuffed.”

When her “open let­ter” hit the in­ter­net, she be­gan get­ting mes­sages -- an­gry and en­cour­ag­ing, of­ten at the same time -- from priests, nuns and other Catholic work­ers.

Scalia wrote know­ing Amer­ica’s bish­ops would meet this week in Bal­ti­more. She knew some of these top­ics would be dis­cussed, per­haps be­hind closed doors. From her per­spec­tive, the key was whether there would be frank talk about the bit­ter fog swirling around Mc­car­rick -- se­crets about abused sem­i­nar­i­ans, money and how he soared higher in the hi­er­ar­chy, even as re­ports about his deeds went to the Vatican.

Could dis­cus­sions in Bal­ti­more, or Rome, re­spond to the anger in Catholic pews?

“We know there is an en­trenched ‘good old boys’ net­work,” said Scalia. “That’s what the Mc­car­rick busi­ness is all about . ... What I want to know is, how do they have the cheek to even look us in the eyes right now?”

Terry Mattingly is the ed­i­tor of Ge­tre­li­ and Se­nior Fel­low for Me­dia and Reli­gion at The King’s Col­lege in New York City. He lives in Oak Ridge, Ten­nessee.

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