Dear Father Angelo,
Sometimes I happen to come across people who are seriously disappointed with the Church, due to acts of corruption, pedophilia or violence or “simply” profound rudeness, by priests or nuns.
I’m not talking about people who spew rivers of hate starting from some trivial sensationalist article they read somewhere, but really about people who have personally suffered scams or violence of various kinds, perhaps more than once. People who possibly before went to Mass every Sunday or were even in the seminary and who have now developed a repulsion towards the Church, priests and religious people. People who have abandoned the right path,and some of them partake in profligate acts, such as scams, gambling, adultery, homosexual practices, abortion, pornography, prostitution and other things that kill the soul. I feel great compassion towards these wounded people and, in addition to praying, I express all my closeness and understanding to them, I point out to them that the Church is made up of weak and sinful people like any other, I tell them of beautiful things that have happened to me in the Christian path (if they ever want to listen to me). But what else could I say to them, without hurting them even further and to try to lead them back on the path of Christ’s love?
Thank you Father Angelo.
1. you must tell them that we follow Jesus Christ.
He is our God and our Savior.
2. You must add that even if some priests behave badly, we must do as the Lord indicated when he said in reference to the scribes and Pharisees: “Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.” (Mt 23:3).
3. After all, how can we say: “I deprive myself of Jesus Christ, of his grace, of his sacrifice (the Mass), of Holy Communion, of listening to his Word, of the forgiveness of sins…” because that priest misbehaved against me!
If one says these things it means that he has never experienced what that passage of Scripture means in which we read: “those who have once been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the holy Spirit and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Heb 6:4).
How can one stop tasting “the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” because the priest has behaved badly?
Those who have tasted these realities cannot do without them even if the Pope and all the bishops and priests together with him would behave badly!
4. Having said that, I must add that it is difficult to assess the behavior of people who have been deeply disappointed (to put it mildly) by churchmen.
We cannot exclude that they may have been so traumatized that their lives have fallen into pitch black.
But we cannot even exclude that their behavior can also be attributed to the superficiality of the Christian life they previously lived, as a practice of rites without sufficient internalization.
Nor can we exclude that the extinguishing of the taste for the things of God is due to the same reasons as many of their peers, who have distanced themselves from God simply because of their teenage drifts.
5. I can also add this from my personal experience.
I have met people who have been abused by family members. These are wounds they still suffer from, but they are excellent people from a civil and religious point of view. They did not go astray.
By this I do not mean to minimize the gravity of the abuse or other scandals.
I’m just saying that abuses don’t necessarily lead to disordered moral conduct.
6. Having said this, what can you do to again bring these youths closer to the Lord?
If you have the opportunity, talk to them about Jesus Christ, relate what the Gospel says that you have heard on weekdays or holidays and that you have made yours.
Tell them that what Christ accomplished 2000 years ago he keeps repeating now and for every man in every corner of the earth until the end of the world, and therefore also for each of them.
Let them hear through you Jesus Christ speaking, Jesus Christ meeting them, Jesus Christ waiting for them.
7. Again: if you have the opportunity, talk to them about Our Lady.
Tell them that the Lord gave her to us as a Mother.
Tell them that Our Lady does not reject anyone and does not punish anyone and that she is sweetness incarnate, as we praise her in the beautiful antiphon Salve Regina.
8. At the same time accompany these people with your prayer and with the offering of your life.
Ask Our Lady to obtain for you the grace to be able to meet them and to be able to talk about Her.
I wish you well, I remember you in prayer and I bless you.