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Worldly solutions

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Using these terrible crimes to forward ecclesial political agendas is nothing short of victim exploitation.

Jaymie Stuart

As more and more state attorneys-general open more and more inquiries into the Church's history of sexual abuse allegations, it is clear that the headlines we've been reading with much consternation and disgust won't be going away anytime soon. What is most astonishing to me, however, are the Catholics who are attempting to parlay the current sewer of scandal and corruption into a debate point for their own social agendas.

Suddenly, we have had a host of ready "solutions" to our crisis. If only we allowed priests to marry, or legitimized homosexual activity, or ordained women -- or my personal favorite, if only we had women cardinals.

Dear Cardinal Seán, you have nothing to worry about. I don't want your job. Further, I don't think that appointing women to the College of Cardinals would fix anything. Why? Because women have vices just as men do. A woman's thirst for power and prestige can be just as keen as her male counterparts. And women are not immune to misguided loyalty. The desire to protect a friend overshadowing one's responsibility to protect a stranger knows no sex. Feminine virtues will not obliterate masculine vice. And, lest we forget, men have virtues, too.

Using these terrible crimes to forward ecclesial political agendas is nothing short of victim exploitation. The people who do so stir the pot of internal debate and take our focus off the victims of abuse, as well as the perpetrators. They make it possible for us to continue to ignore the elephant in the chancery, and distance our thoughts and actions from the things we know must be addressed.

Further, these "solutions" are red herrings of the most dangerous sort; they serve only to obfuscate the real issues at hand. None of them do anything to address sexual sin and predation, infidelity, hypocrisy, deception, lack of responsible leadership, substance abuse, harboring offenders, or failure to protect the vulnerable. They have the potential, though, to turn this moral crisis into a crisis of faith as well.

Many have suggested that the expertise we find in the secular world may be of some assistance to the Church. I cautiously agree. We should be extremely careful, however, about who we trust. After all, the Church is not in this mess because we haven't been worldly enough; we are in this mess because we have become too worldly. Secular values have been too often and too easily substituted for the values of the Gospel. I think a lot of us lack the courage of our convictions because we've lost the convictions that are capable of giving us courage.

Over the past five decades, we Christians have learned to use the worldliness of the world -- especially the oversexualization of our society -- as an excuse for our own sins and as reason to tolerate them. "Everybody's doing it" has never, and will never, apply to the Church. We carry a higher standard and are called to live according to that standard. Moreover, we will be judged by that standard, both in this world and the next.

That is why perhaps the most powerful images I've seen in recent days are those of bishops humbly and penitentially prostrating themselves before the altar. God knows enough of them have fallen on their faces in disastrous decisions behind closed doors. It's refreshing to see them do it publicly, before God and the people they have been given to shepherd. Every bishop should be doing this, if he hasn't already. Nothing would make me happier than a national or universal Year of Penance.

One thing is clear: God is cleaning his house. Anyone who doesn't want to end up in the dustpan must pick up a broom.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.

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