By Francisco Flores-Pourrat
The Sunday after the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was published mentioned my own Archbishop Cardinal Wuerl 200 times, is a Sunday I cannot forget even though I try. My parish, St. Raphael in Rockville, Maryland is my parish and is one of the biggest parishes in Maryland. Our church holds around 400 people and the youth mass at 6:00 p.m. is always packed, but it was not on that Sunday. That Sunday I stared into soulless pews—fifty people at most were present—and I knew exactly why they were not there. I was holding back tears because I knew exactly why so many of my brothers and sisters were absent. Just knowing the slim chance of those absent people coming back to The Church felt as though my heart was attached to a rock plummeting down an abyss. Yet, oddly enough, my faith had never been so energized as in this moment of distraught pain.
The Church is strongest when She is persecuted, but what are we supposed to do when She is attacked from within? As Sean O’Grady and I circulated our petition, we were confronted with this question by so many Catholics who felt as though lay persons demanding a re-evaluation of processes was too much to ask, it was a question Sean and I discussed every day. The answer is simple, those Catholics who sit on the sidelines as our Church is attacked by it’s stewards are attacking the Church in a different manner—complacency. This must be our role as lay persons, to strike a balance of healing our beloved institution without hurting it, but being swift in action. We are limited in what effect we can change, but nothing prevents our voice to be heard.
A roaring voice is more powerful than any heavy blow. I understand that this comes with so many doubts, trust me, I know. Everyday coming back to my apartment after canvassing for the removal of a Cardinal of the Church, I had to ask God if I was doing the right thing, because Catholicism is so interwoven with the earthly institution. I implore that all of my Catholic brothers and sisters cast aside their doubt, their hesitation, their fears of the unknown results, for the sake of fighting for a total cleansing of our Mother Church.
Cardinal McCarrick, Cardinal Wuerl, Bishop Juan Barros, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati. These our leaders of The Church who used their positions to protect themselves as they partook in the spiritual murder of our brothers and sisters. I trust our Pope, but we cannot look at these situations as solely institutional issues, we must understand these coverups to be spiritual warfare on the young and the faithful. We must hold the spiritual health, a strong faith, of Catholics as the only priority when we ask ourselves if we are able to help demand atonement for victims and overhauling of the system which continually permitted such spiritual warfare to occur.
As I write this, Cardinal Wuerl is in Rome discussing with Pope Francis what his next role in the Church is to be. I am sure he will resign as Archbishop of Washington, D.C., thereby also removing his as Chancellor of The Catholic University of America. But this is not where our fight for our Catholic family ends, we are merely being reminded that this fight is calling us.
After 2003, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has done a beautiful job of monitoring pedophilic behavior, but for the sake of His Church, we must demand, through just investigations by a delegated body of Catholics, that any and all high clergy members who have covered up sexual abuse be removed from not only ministry but from the Church. Our participation in this fight relies on our voice, the only weapon with infinite power.