One of the ways to calibrate the length and width of a scandal is when people start commenting on the commentators. 

So here goes. Rod Dreher is famous for a few things. His “The Benedict Option” book was a big seller and generated a lot of heat, suggesting the best way to deal with a culture that is so antagonistic toward the faith was to retreat from the culture and cocoon ourselves in a kind of post-modern, post-Christian DIY monastic fortress. 

Recently, Dreher has retreated into another bastion, having abandoned his Catholic faith and converted to the Orthodox Church. His reason, as his recent op-ed in the New York Times states, was that he was overwrought with the corruption and abuse scandals in the Catholic Church due to his work as an investigative journalist in 2001. “My once-fervent Catholic faith have been eviscerated by my covering the scandal…” 

I guess he could know even more sickening details about the evil deeds done by predatory priests and bishops than the general public, but what is already in the public domain vis-à-vis the Pennsylvania report is bad enough for me.

Hearing someone leaving the Church is always like hearing about a death in the family. I don’t wish it on anyone and, I will always believe the person who has made this decision, as Rod Dreher made several years ago, has made a mistake. I find it interesting that he left the Catholic faith for the Orthodox Church, which, with her sacraments, mass and other traditions, is about as close to Rome as one is going to get on earth without being in the Roman fold.

In his latest New York Times article, Dreher describes his intense faith as an adult convert to Catholicism. I never had that experience. For a reason known only to God, I was born into a Catholic family where our faith was intertwined into our garishly imperfect lives in a way that no other options were ever considered. When I reached a certain age, I wanted more out of the faith, and then a wise priest told me that I was looking at it all wrong. I didn’t need to get more out of things like the Mass, I needed to put more of myself into it. 

And once again, for another reason known only to God, I began to love the faith and the Church all the stronger, believing that the biblical road map and Church tradition were the result of Christ’s design plan.

Maybe it’s tribalism. I’ve been accused of being that way before and there is much truth to that. But if God designed twelve tribes of Israel so that through one of them a Savior will come out of the House of David, who am I to suggest tribalism doesn’t have some place in our salvation story?

I wish Rod Dreher had stayed in the Church. I wish everyone would become Catholic. If I didn’t believe that, then what am I saying when I recite the Creed at Mass? In this Hindenburg of a crisis, we could use all the intellect and devoted Catholics we can find. 

Dreher leaving because the sexual sin scandal is so awful, it reminds me of the Argentine General during the Falkland War in the 1980s. A few days before the British armada was about to invade, the leader of the Argentine forces went back to Argentina. He did send his troops a telegram telling them how proud he was of them though, and how much he would be thinking about them as he watched how things were going from Buenos Aires. 

Feeling like one of those poor Argentinian soldiers waiting the onslaught of British military professionalism, I welcome all the support I can get. Dreher should have stayed in the foxhole, as sloppy and full of mud it might be. Ironically, he makes the case for staying in the Church in the very article where he says he had to leave by quoting Pope Benedict XVI. “The future of the church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith.”  

Now I’m not sure about the “pure fullness of their faith” part as it relates to me — let’s just say I’m a work in progress. But with regard to deep roots, once again, because of the faith of my grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, and countless faithful and inspiring priests, here I am…and here I stay.

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