The Baker Orange

Despite the controversy, I’ll stand by my faith

Story by Lauren Freking, Columnist

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It hurts my heart to sit down and write this. The topic is so heavy that I worry I will be unable to adequately describe my opinions and emotions.

By the time you read this, I’m sure you will have heard through the grapevine that the Catholic priest in Baldwin City was recently suspended from the ministry after news reports of him “visiting ‘inappropriate’ websites depicting children on the internet.” An FBI investigation is underway.

Cue the moment when my heart sank into my stomach Sunday evening.

Wow. That is heavy, right? I am well acquainted with the Rev. Chris Rossman and have been involved with the off-campus Catholic center here over the course of my college career.

As people have been finding out about the incident, the reactions have been “it seems like that happens a lot,” or “wow, another one?”

The sad reality is that I am a member of a church that is stereotyped as corrupt, sinful and exploitive of children. I’ve heard the stories in the news over the years of priests molesting children, I’ve watched movies dramatizing the corruption of the institution, and I’ve seen countless Catholics lose their faith and leave.

Now that I know someone firsthand, I will not lie: this situation hurts. It is shocking and disheartening. However, in the midst of public reaction and my own emotions, I never have questioned or lost an ounce of support or faith in the Catholic Church.

My hope today is to educate others on what the Catholic Church does when situations like this arise, bring to light societal expectations and discuss the true center of our faith.

First of all, it needs to be said, the Catholic Church has never supported or hired child molesters. The church views sexual abuse and pornography as a “grave moral evil” and “particularly deplorable in organizations claiming to order moral leadership.”

So why do scandals keep happening?

In the past, the Church, in a forgiving sense, thought it could “treat” pedophilia with counseling and psychology. Wanting to be forgiving and accepting of even the “least of these,” it tried to treat the problem rather than banish it. The Catholic Church eventually learned that, unfortunately, this mental sickness is rarely if ever curable through treatment, and instead the perpetrators would have to be removed from the institution completely.

The church now spends tens of millions of dollars each year on child protection efforts, and the number of new allegations is just one-third of what it was a decade ago.

When reports of the Baldwin priest reached the archdiocese of Kansas City, there was no hesitation from the church in contacting the FBI to investigate the situation.

When tragedies like this arise, I think of a saying, “You can’t control what happens, but you can control your reaction.” The Catholic Church has done almost everything in its power to recognize the problems and sins within as well as react in the best way possible.

Sexual abuse, child pornography and molestation are unfortunate realities of multiple organizations, including public schools, churches, governments, Jewish communities and Boy Scouts. Unfortunately, sin is everywhere.

The Catholic Church is supposed to guide us morally, and it is the oldest and largest Christian organization in the world, so it is shocking when things this unsettling occur on the inside. Because the Catholic Church is composed of and led by human beings who have free will, it is not immune to these sins. We Catholics have never claimed to be perfect or sin-free.

I am absolutely rocked by what happened here in Baldwin City. No doubt, this news will spread across campus. Some will probably lose faith and leave the church. Others will be more firmly rooted in their disdain for Catholic practice and beliefs.

The news is discouraging right now, and it hurts my heart. It hurts my heart for our priest who may have fallen victim to this terrible sin and life. It hurts my heart for the Catholic and non-Catholic community of Baldwin City, which will surely be scarred.

I know to some it would be crazy to stay in a church like this. For me it is not. Father Chris Rossman is not the Catholic Church. If he is found guilty, I do not stand by him or what he did.

I am not naively standing by an institution with beliefs that are crazy or out of line. I am not afraid to leave organizations I do not believe in. Earlier this year, I decided that I am no longer a Republican … but this is completely different.

Instead, I stand by the church that was founded by Jesus Christ Himself, passed onto St. Peter, and grown by the 12 Apostles. I continue to stand by the church that emphasizes forgiveness, humility, service and love. I stand by the institution that founded hospitals, homeless shelters, schools and nursing homes. I stand by the Catholic Church because it has been the deepest and most consistent connection to God and His love throughout my life.