by Amanda Judah
On September 20, Dr. Peter Kreeft addressed an expectant audience in Devlin 008, discussing “Why I Stay Catholic In Times of Scandal”. Given the recent reports of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, Dr. Kreeft encouraged the BC population to recommit itself to the body of Christ. As a Boston College theology and philosophy professor since 1965, Dr. Kreeft drew upon his extensive textual knowledge during his presentation.
The discussion opened with the words “it’s all true”, presenting Dr. Kreeft’s matter-of-fact perspective about the scandals. The theologian stood behind the physical reality of abuse, believing that there can be neither excuses, nor anything that could mitigate the pain of victims. He referenced passages from the gospel, including Matthew 18:6, where Jesus specifically condemned those that lead others to sin. Kreeft also emphasized the spiritual casualties of abuse: “it kills trust, it kills faith”. Arguing that consequences of damnation are eternal, Kreeft lamented that some Catholics choose to walk away from the church due to corruption.
A large portion of his discussion was devoted to a recognition of the Church’s sinfulness. Kreeft stated, “God has nothing better to work with than faulty material. We’re all sinners.” To illustrate the longevity of the church, Kreeft described the corruption during the time of the Borgia popes to remind his audience that the church has existed for centuries throughout many difficulties. Overall, he reminded the faithful that sin is a part of Christian life, and that “the church has never claimed to be infallible in practice.” Dr. Kreeft noted that this scandal has far-reaching consequences because the world is watching the church, and judges it based on the standards that Jesus himself set. While the church will always fall short, these holy ideals set a powerful example. Instead of fixating on sin in the church, Kreeft encouraged his audience to focus on the divine, perfect God that guides the church.
Based on this divine authority, Kreeft endeavored to explain that the Church is not “broken” on every front. He referenced the effectiveness of the sacraments, specifically the Eucharist and confession, as proof that God is still with the church. Therefore, he encouraged his audience to believe that “God is purifying His church”. In fact, while conceding that published reports may not be accurate, Kreeft stated, “Sex abuse is even worse outside the church, especially in schools, both public and private”. Kreeft specifically appealed to those who had grown up in the Catholic tradition, calling the Church “our mother” and “our home”.
Dr. Kreeft also included some practical directives to members of the Church. He encouraged the audience not to feel malice towards anyone involved in the scandals, especially the whistleblowers and criminals. Through a list of ten directives, he suggested, “stay, clean, learn, purify, repent, pray, love, fight, believe, have charity”. Kreeft instructed sympathizing with victims of abuse, alongside the use of clear language to describe abusive actions. He also suggested that those looking to take action should ask God how they can best address this issue in their own communities through prayer. Although “Church politics are always going to be messy”, the Church is still holy, even when divided.
Photo Courtesy of Peter Kreeft