When I woke up Saturday morning to discover that Ireland legalized abortion I was heart-broken. The bloody nihilistic tide had finally extended its reach over the whole of Western Europe, Portugal remains with the most conservative abortion laws, but it is not completely illegal there either. The loss has historical and spiritual significance.
The conversion of Ireland changed the world — thanks to St. Patrick and others — and led Ireland to help save Western civilization in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire. They preserved much of that civilization in their monasteries while also living the missionary spirit and evangelizing various areas of Western Europe.
The impact that Ireland had on what would become Christendom cannot be overstated. This is one of the reasons why it is so tragic that such a vibrant Catholic nation should succumb to the culture of death.
It is true that secularism is largely to blame, but we cannot overlook the deep pain the clerical sex abuse scandal caused the Irish people. There is a reason why it has become a cudgel people use to bludgeon us to death. Yes, this is unjust on their part because the vast majority of our priests and bishops were not involved and they have each worked diligently to live as another Christ to the world; however, we cannot pretend that it did not have a serious impact.
There is something that utterly devastates the world when a Catholic priest or bishop falls into grave sin, evil, and scandal. The world may not understand as we do the significance of the priesthood, but they know deep down that there is something different and other worldly about our priests. Our own culture is obsessed with Catholic priests, even as it attacks them in the nastiest of ways. Even as the world hates and reviles us, they deep down hope we are different and that our priests are different. They may want to see them fall, but when it happens it robs them of some kind of hope that they longed for in the deepest parts of their being. We cannot pretend that the sins of a small minority of our priests and bishops have not had a huge impact on the nations ravaged by the sex abuse scandal, a scandal that is still going on in various parts of the world.
If we also take an honest look at history, we can see where the modern Church has failed in her evangelical mission. She largely stepped out of intellectual discourse after the Enlightenment and left the West to move towards secularism until Blessed John Henry Newman wanted more for Catholic universities. While the West transformed, we largely disengaged until a revival of Thomism over a hundred years ago.
We cannot have a sentimental view of the Church or our faith. Anyone who has studied Church history will take their rose-tinted glasses and throw them in the trash where they belong. To love is to love the beloved with all of their flaws and we love the Church with all of the stains and failures caused by our brothers and sisters in Christ both in the laity and the clergy down through the ages. We are able to do so because in the end we know it is Christ who is the Head.