How do I answer my Christian brethren not in full communion with the Church when they point out that our Church is becoming a hypocritical joke with all the scandals and abuses?
This is not the first time that the Church has had to deal with scandal and sin within its ranks; nor is the Church unique in this regard. Every church, every school, every human organization of any size faces similar issues. Moreover, we must always remember that the vast majority of bishops and priests are in no way involved in these scandals. There will always be saints and heroes as well as offenders and cowards in the Church, and a Church that has saints and heroes can never be dismissed as “a hypocritical joke.”
There are a number of reasons why the Catholic Church is a prime target for abuse: It is large and unified; it keeps detailed records, whereas recurring problems are much harder to track in other churches; and it takes such an exalted moral stance on so many issues in a way that is threatening to many people who don’t want to look at the morality of their actions.
Even in the Old Testament, Israel, God’s chosen people, was often compared by the prophets to Sodom, Babylon, and other pagan nations. In fact, the prophets sometimes said that Israel was more wicked than these other nations. Yet they were still the chosen people, and their institutions, the Jerusalem Temple, the Levitical priesthood, the Davidic monarchy, the Law of Moses, were still divinely ordained.
Likewise, abuses and scandals within the Church can never undo Christ’s institution of the seven sacraments or his giving of the keys to Peter, the rock on which the Church was built.
That’s not to say we should be complacent. Scandals are a grave offense against God and an obstacle to the conversion of the world. But we shouldn’t allow scandals, however serious, to be used to intimidate us or prevent us from doing our duty to proclaim the truth of our faith.