As a new wave of protests erupt in response to the death of Rayshard Brooks, many Catholics are finding themselves angered, frustrated, and perplexed, but not in the way that immediately comes to mind. For months, we have been told that we must be exiled from the public celebration of the Mass, and, in some dioceses, from the Sacraments as a whole, for the sake of the common good. We were told by countless bishops and priests that we have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us from the spread of Covid-19.
Imagine the surprise of many of the lay faithful at seeing some bishops and priests marching in the streets in various demonstrations around the country in direct violation of current public health and safety protocols that are still restricting or suspending the public celebration of the Mass and the Sacraments in many dioceses. The issue here is not that these Catholics are uninterested in supporting demonstrations against racism. Racism is an intrinsic evil and we have an obligation to fight against it in all of its forms within our society. The issue is that these priests and bishops seem to have forgotten their sacred duty in all of the emotional fury gripping our nation’s streets.
The lay faithful are understandably upset because these actions give the perception that the Sacraments—which are the most important things in this life—are non-essential while public protests are essential, even to the risk of public health. If anything, this pandemic has served as a clarifying moment for the lay faithful after two years of confusion and righteous anger in relation to the hierarchy.
In the summer of 2018, when the evils of Theodore McCarrick were coming to light, and we heard about the horrors of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and witnessed the launching of investigations into countless dioceses across the country, many Catholics were sickened and angered by the sins of some priests and bishops. The wounds of the lay faithful have only deepened as more legalistic and bureaucratic responses continue to come down from the hierarchy in beleaguered dioceses. This response, however, serves as a clue as to what we are really facing within the priesthood.
Read the rest over at Crisis Magazine.