Being a liberal Catholic in the face of scandal

Written By Rachael McKriger, Staff Writer

When I was an undergraduate, I got homesick.

It’s a tale as old as time, but I didn’t just miss my bed, the comfort of my own home or my mom’s home cooking. I missed my church, and Sundays felt empty without going to my regular mass.

Don’t laugh, but I was — and still am — an altar server. I belong to a small church in Crescent Township called St. Catherine of Siena. There’s not many kids that jump for joy with wanting to be an altar server, so I’m still doing it so my priests aren’t left hanging. Being an altar server was a privilege, but it’s also a job. You want to make sure everything is done right and everything is in order.

So, I convinced my parents to let me take my car up to college, at California University of Pennsylvania. I started coming home every single weekend, since it’s only an hour drive from Beaver County, to come back for family and Sunday mass. My church family means a lot to me.

However, I’m not naive to what has happened in and around the church.

The sex abuse scandal was a nightmare and my heart continues to go out to the victims. This is not a perfect world, and this scandal showed off the worst kind of humanity. Predators took advantage of youth throughout the church and now, those victims don’t see the church as a safe place.

There’s also other groups that might not see the church as a safe place. Members of the LGBTQ+ community have heard the connections between conservative views and the Catholic church.

However, I am here to tell you that one bad apple doesn’t ruin the bunch.

There are parishioners, and proud Catholics, that don’t see eye-to-eye with the church. I don’t believe that the church should be some old boys club, and I believe that women should have more of a role in the church. I firmly believe that priests — male or female — should be allowed to be married. If you couldn’t tell by the list, I’m certainly a liberal Catholic.

It’s incredibly hard to be Catholic in this day and age. Why?

It’s not uncommon for me to scroll through social media and see someone bashing the church. Most of the time, the bashing ties along with the sex abuse scandal. While folks have every single right to be upset and angry with that ordeal, it’s head-scratching to me why people blame the entire church, including priests that are good in nature and the parishioners who are just living their own faith-filled lives.

It’s hard to keep young people in the church. That’s why there needs to be change, making it more accepting to others. The church can’t just be tolerant; it has to be accepting if it wants to live and thrive.

I’m not ashamed of being a Catholic.

There are genuinely good people and good pastors in the church. In our parish, we just got a new priest, a young man from China named Fr. Mingwei. His story was pretty incredible. He was born extremely premature and wanted to give back to God for helping him through sickness. He’s a great person, and it’s been fun to get to know him and his culture.

Seeing a young priest in our church is a huge culture shock. We have a lot of older folks at our church, in our little town. But, seeing them embrace someone much younger than them is a positive sign.

I would never tell anyone which religion they should practice. However, I do have one request for the young people of the Catholic Church: get involved. It doesn’t have to be through mass. It could be through a youth group. Do you know how to play guitar? Shake things up and ask the music director if you could add that to the ministry.

The church should be a safe place — and hopefully we’re on the path to rebuilding trust and faith. Again, remember that a few bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch. There are good priests and good Catholics in the world.

We just need to rebuild that trust.