Nine years ago, I was received into the Catholic Church because I am a sinner in need of Jesus in the Eucharist and full communion with His Church. During my journey to confirmation, I learned that throughout the Church's history, there have been great saints and terrible sinners, even in the highest offices of the Church. Of the twelve apostles, Judas betrayed Jesus, and Peter, the first bishop of Rome, denied Him three times. Christ Himself predicted that scandals would be inevitable in the Church (Matthew 18:7). But Christ promised to never abandon His Bride (Ephesians 5:25-7).
So my faith was not shaken by revelations about abuse and cover-ups at the highest levels of the Church. Instead, I read reports of Cardinal McCarrick’s assaults, the abuse of children in Pennsylvania, and the cover-up detailed by Archbishop Viganò with growing anger. Hiding abuse is a grave injustice that only compounds the initial crime. The obfuscation and denial of some bishops continues to make the crisis worse. This is why a thorough investigation—and forced resignations of those complicit—has become so necessary.
The ills of the world have infected our Church. This is not surprising—no one is immune from the temptations of the day. Over the last several decades, our society has begun to celebrate immoral and harmful sexual behaviors. Whether it’s sex outside of marriage, same-sex activity, contraception, or violent sex, people have falsely come to believe that there are no rules beyond obtaining the consent of one’s “partner.”
This would be true enough if our bodies were our property, to be used or abused as we see fit. But we are both soul and body, made in God’s image and subject to his law. There are indeed rules, and they exist for our physical and spiritual health. Despite many attempts to claim a Catholic identity yet subvert the Church’s teaching on sex, these two world views are diametrically opposed. There is no middle ground.
In 1968, the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae predicted the fallout of a sexually libertine world: the breakdown of marriages, the objectification of women, and the disrespect for human life. Since then, the divorce rate has skyrocketed, sexual addiction and abuse have become rampant, and over 60 million children have been legally killed.
Many church leaders failed to confront—and in some cases even chose to accept—this new sexual ideology. As a result, many cradle Catholics today have never been properly taught the teachings of the Church on sexuality; they do not understand why contraception is a sin, why same-sex attraction is not an identity, or why living together before marriage is gravely wrong. Meanwhile, within the Church’s hierarchy, some acting out on same-sex attraction found positions of authority in our seminaries and even our episcopate.
I became Catholic because I believe Christ built this Church to last, saying to Peter, “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17-18). True to His promise, His teachings and sacraments have guided and nourished us for more than two thousand years.
We are seeing His providential care for the Church in the voices now coming forward to expose corruption. I thank God for people like Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. I thank God for the holy priests and bishops that I know who are striving to follow Christ and be good shepherds. St. Paul wrote, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more” (Romans 5:20). We all know how the story of our Church and salvation history ends—with justice perfected, with mercy for those who ask, and with every knee bowing and tongue confessing that Christ is Lord.
While we call for reform in our Church, we must take our personal discipleship by Christ seriously. We must study the Church’s teachings on human sexuality, so we can understand and explain to others why the Church teaches what she teaches. We should strive to lead lives of personal virtue, particularly when it comes to sexual morality (this means no contraception, no pornography, no fornication, and no divorce). We need to ask for the courage to discuss sexual morality with family, friends, and our fellow parishioners, and refuse to condone sexual immorality when we encounter it. We should all commit to daily prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments—for the healing of our Church, for those committing sexual immorality, and for those who are victims of sexual sin, especially those most vulnerable. Now is the time to be saints—nothing less. A world in need of Christ’s love and salvation awaits us.
Lila Rose is president and founder of Live Action.