Kerry Weber is an editor at the Jesuit magazine, AMERICA. In an article in the September 17, 2018 issue, she asks “What can I say to my kids when they ask why we keep faith in this church?”
Most of us should be able to understand why parents would ask that question, as we witness the ongoing disclosures of sexual abuse and misconduct by priests, and the wrongful response by Church authorities.
I am supposed to be an expert on how to talk with children about difficult things. But if it fell on me now to speak to my own children or grandchildren about the scandals, I know I would struggle, partly because I am struggling with my own anger and sorrow about it all.
This mother and writer, Kerry Weber, recalls that when her son was baptized, the priest asked her and her husband to prepare for the baptism by writing a letter to their son about their hopes for what faith would mean to him. Here is a portion of the letter. (Read the article, which includes the full letter, here.)
We hope that your faith inspires you to be just, loving, humble and merciful. We hope that your faith inspires you to encourage the church to be more just, more loving, more humble and more merciful.
We hope you find community here, people who will support you, love you, challenge you. We hope that your faith community inspires you to reach out to the larger community—to love others, to challenge them and support them. We hope that your faith inspires you to care for those in need, to be like the shepherd who smells like sheep, to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, to be mercy for others.
We hope that when the world makes it difficult to live out your faith that you find the strength to persevere. We hope that you find strength in the Eucharist, in the real presence at Mass and in the people of God.
We hope that you are inspired by the lives of the holy men and women in heaven and the holy men and women around you now. We hope that you read and learn about your faith, drawing on the wisdom of those who have helped to shape our church. But even more, we hope that you use this knowledge to live your faith—that your life gives witness to the joy of the Gospel.
We hope that you love God with all your heart but that you also know that it is O.K. to be angry at God sometimes, that it may seem God is silent at times but that you are never alone and that God loves you right through it all. That we love you right through it all.
We hope that your faith inspires you to be forgiving, to let go of grudges and malice. And we hope that your faith inspires you to ask for forgiveness when you are in need of it.
We hope that your faith brings you great joy and that you share that joy with others.
I would not presume to write a script on how to speak to our children about the scandals in our Catholic Church. So much depends on the individual child, the age of the child, and the questions they ask. I can only offer the following, which might help us with all kinds of difficult conversations with our children.
Help us listen to our children,
respectfully, lovingly, and with an open heart.
Help us not be part of hiding what should not be hidden,
or ignoring what must not be ignored.
Guide us, Lord, as we struggle to answer painful questions,
to find the words to reassure our children of our love for them
and of your love for them.
Help us to both soothe their fears
and gently make them aware of the evil in the world.
Help us tell our children and, even more,
show our children what our faith means to us.