Religion

Why Stay Catholic?

(Nick Oxford/Reuters)
A theologian who was sexually abused as a child recounts how she came into the Church during a period of scandal.

‘I intended to be anything but Catholic,” Dawn Eden Goldstein remembers. She grew up in a Reform Jewish household but “fell into agnosticism” in her late teens and become a rock-music historian in New York City. In 1999, she says, she “encountered the love of Jesus Christ” and became a nondenominational Christian.

Her impression of the Catholic Church was influenced by Christians who told her that its teachings were “unbiblical.” All her biases were confirmed when the scandal hit in 2002. On top of all the natural anger and disgust, her sensitivity ran deep, having been molested as a child.

And yet, today Goldstein is a professor of dogmatic theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary and the author of My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.

“I remember the moment I began to change my mind about Catholicism,” she recalls. She was at a meeting of the New York City G. K. Chesterton Society. “Somehow the discussion turned to the scandals, and I made some derisive comment about how Catholics disbelieved the reports of abuse that were then flooding the news media.” Goldstein was especially “irritated” after reading comments that tried to suggest that the scandals were really “a witch hunt orchestrated by reporters who hated the Church.” Her surprise came when the Catholics around her weren’t trying to look away from or explain away what was being revealed.

“They were angry about the abuse,” she says, “angry that such despicable and criminal acts were being perpetrated by their own priests, in their own Church. They didn’t at all want the abuse covered up, as I had assumed. Rather, they wanted it brought into the light so that abusing members of the clergy could be brought to justice and the Church could be purified.”

“It was when I saw ordinary Catholics who were furious about clergy abuse that I started to consider seriously the Catholic Church’s claim to be the true faith,” she remembers. “I entered into full communion with the Church in 2006 and have never looked back.”

But now, in the wake of more demonic filth — first involving former D.C. cardinal archbishop Theodore McCarrick and then the Pennsylvania grand-jury report — why doesn’t she quit? It’s a question some Catholics are getting, and asking themselves.

“I can’t leave the Catholic Church, because I know too much,” Goldstein says. “I know now that Jesus gave the Church the Eucharist. Yes, the Orthodox have it too, but they have it only because they have retained the apostolic succession that properly belongs to the Catholic Church, which is headed by the successor of Peter. I know now that my sins are really and truly forgiven when Jesus absolves me through the ministry of a Catholic priest.”

It’s where she knows she belongs. It’s where she believes God wants her. “Most of all,” she says, “I know that the Catholic Church is where Jesus gives me the ongoing healing for which I long. And it’s ground zero for the tribulation described in sacred Scripture, as can be seen in the unrelenting efforts of the devil to corrupt its bishops, priests, religious, and lay faithful.”

Her healing, she says, “came in part through learning that there were people whom the Church had declared to be in heaven who had suffered wounds like my own — people like Blessed Laura Vicuña, who was preyed upon by her mother’s violent live-in lover. The experiences of saints who were abused show survivors like myself that we are not to blame for our abuse, and our sufferings do not make us less in the eyes of God. On the contrary, as John Paul II pointed out, Jesus Christ identifies himself with young children who are victimized.”

“I am angry about the immorality and corruption, as every good person should be. And I receive Jesus every day in the Eucharist and ask him to undo the immorality and corruption within my own soul, so that I can be part of the Church’s healing and renewal.” Additionally, she says, she’s hurt — even offended — when she hears people threatening to walk away from the Church right now. “Stay here and be part of the solution, for God’s sake!”

“Catholics need to show the world that they are furious about every form of child abuse,” Goldstein says, “most especially that which is committed by representatives of the Church. That’s the kind of witness we need to give — a righteous anger that is channeled into purification and reform.” Be God’s hands at work in the midst of evil.

This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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