Three children have snuck into the Maycomb, Alabama, county courthouse to hear a trial. The children of the defense attorney, Scout and Jem, and their friend Dill. They sit in the “colored” balcony, because they’re not supposed to be there. It’s too ‘grown-up’ for them.
The accused is black, and everyone but the children know that he will not get justice. At one point during the trial, while the prosecutor cross examines the defendant, something in eight-year-old Dill begins to realize: the truth doesn’t matter in this courthouse. He starts crying. Jem and Scout take him outside for a breather.
A town fixture named Dolphus Raymond sits outside the courthouse, drinking from a bottle in a paper bag. He tries to comfort Dill. “He’s crying because the world hasn’t gotten a hold of him and made him blind to its meanness.”
Raymond offers Dill a sip from the bottle to calm his nerves. Jem and Scout are horrified at first, but turns out: it’s not whiskey. It’s just Coke.
…That’s us, those kids. Sitting outside the courthouse. They went inside to hear their father do his work. They assumed that all the people running things there were basically honest. It had never occurred to them that there are such things as corrupt judges and county prosecutors. Just like we sons and daughters of the Catholic Church assumed. Until the summer of 2018.
Now we’re sitting outside the courthouse in a daze, trying to dry our tears.
We, too, need a little sip of Coke. Here’s one. Excerpts from an article called “The Laity Action Plan for Our Dark Times.”
The pope has no answers for us. Do we really need them at this point?
The bishops he has promoted defend him and continually deflect public attention away from him and his camp. And what do we lay faithful do? We sit, we worry, we ruminate, we pray.
Is this enough?
With the hierarchy covering for themselves and their allies amid this scandal and the lower clergy without the power to implement change in this present pontifical climate, our Church leaders remain static. It seems the Church, like its lay members, as an institution (innocently and guiltily), is stalling, waiting for change to occur with a pope who has given no indication of making changes and reforms, no indication of admitting fault, no indication of stepping down.
Let us not forget what started all of this: sexual abuse of minors, adolescents, and adults alike by clergymen and the continued cover-up from the lowest to the highest levels of the Church. These victims call for us to break the static, even when it is apparent that Francis and company have no intention of acting on anyone’s behalf but their own.
…Being the voice of Jesus Christ’s Church when society will call you crazy is what sainthood is all about… This is especially true in light of the scandal: when the Church’s leadership are outed as perpetrators of injustices against the people, the Church will require strong, saintly lay defenders of the faith moving forward.
…The best way to seek our Lord’s consolation is by getting back to the basics of our faith. Attending daily Masses on a regular basis, spending time in adoration with the Blessed Sacrament, and engaging regularly with a confessor in the Holy Sacrament of Reconciliation are all wonderful ways we can return to what makes us Catholic – and thus seek the solace we so desperately need as His damaged but unbroken Church.
…Let’s reclaim our place in the Church as its driving force. This starts with the seemingly mundane, daily activities we can take part in in our local parishes. Be a strong leader of your parish. Get involved. Join councils and committees at your parishes and in your dioceses. Be the support the victims in our own communities need.
The strength of our Church as a whole starts with you. It starts at home.
What does this have to do with the scandals we face today, right now? Pope Francis calls us as lay Catholics to lead the Church out of a scandal that he refuses to face. So be it. This is how we lead.
While the response by the Church’s leadership has been unacceptable up until now, Pope Francis may get what he asks for. He calls us to take this scandal into our own hands. Through his inaction and silence, he may be inadvertently provoking us to do just that. Take Pope Francis’s influence for what you will, but the lay faithful will be the force the Church needs to overcome this dark time. These initiatives – fervent prayer; a desire to defend Church doctrine, tradition, and values; and enabling ourselves to lead our Church on our local levels – may seem small, but the Lord moves mountains with our small actions.
Mother Teresa put it wonderfully: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” That’s what our Church needs right now. That is what we can do.