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Fatherly Advice: My Friend Left the Church Due to Scandal, Should I Support This?

A listener named Michelle calls into the show seeking Fatherly Advice. She shares that a good friend decided to leave the Catholic Church due to the clergy abuse scandals. Michelle understands her friend’s frustration but is upset to see her leave. She wonders if she should be happy that her friend is joining another denomination instead of abandoning faith in God altogether. Michelle also explains that they got into a theological debate, and she wishes she could have defended the faith better.

“My friend decided to leave and join an Episcopal church,” Michelle says. “I thought it was just about the scandals, but then she began to say that she doesn’t believe in the Eucharist. Then I really got upset and my heart was broken … she explained that she asked all of these questions to a minister in her new church, and it changed her perspective. And I began to wonder why she never asked these questions to anyone in the Catholic Church, and she said, ‘People in the Church would just lie to me.’”

Father Dave responds: “I can certainly objectively see how someone might say that. Even on this show, we talked about how this has so damaged trust that we begin to wonder who to trust. And when you don’t trust someone, you don’t trust them with anything. You don’t parse out and say, ‘Well I wouldn’t trust him with assigning a new priest somewhere, but I do trust everything they say theologically about the Eucharist.’ Typically, as humans, we kind of put everything into one big bucket. … So, to me, it’s not surprising. It is a shame that in her distress about this she went somewhere else and was convinced by someone else of things that she may not have considered in that way.”

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Michelle asks Father Dave if she should give her friend credit for not dropping faith, but joining another church where she will still worship God. “If you mean that this no longer needs to be on your conscience and you’re never going to bring it up again, it doesn’t sound like that would be genuine for you because it is still tugging on your heartstrings,” Father Dave says. “But you can express that it still breaks your heart that she’s not there. That’s still genuine.”

Father Dave encourages Michelle: “The fact that you’ve lost sleep over this is what should be happening as a community. We should be disturbed that people are rejecting God and leaving the Church. We bear the burden of that … even when one part of the body is missing we are not complete. We should mourn that loss, feel that loss, and in your words, lose sleep over that. And what I would hate to see after the last couple of months of this being a very painful reality in the Church is that time kind of begins to let this fade away, and we pretend either that it didn’t happen or we shrug our shoulders and say, ‘Oh, some people left.’ We can’t be satisfied with that as the Church. We should be losing sleep and doing our darndest to make sure we can somehow be messengers of God’s love and truth and welcome people back somehow.” (Original air 10-23-18)