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The Church’s story is service, not abuse

Originally published on Aleteia, republished with their permission. 

Ultimately, there is only one response to the scandals: Catholic witnesses.

As the focus of the world turns to the Catholic sex abuse summit completed yesterday, it is important to remember the true witness of Catholics in the world.

If not for the counter-witness of the sex abuse scandal, the Catholic Church might be seen for what it is: The dominant force for good in our times. Consider the contributions of the Church with regard to the chief issues of our time.

Catholics were pioneers in civil rights.

The Church’s teaching against slavery goes back to St. Thomas Aquinas and papal decrees from the 1400s to the 1800s. There were always plenty of Catholics that violated the Church’s teaching, but Catholics were also pioneers of civil rights.

The Knights of Columbus admitted its first African American member in the 1890s, when the organization was still relatively new. Catholic leaders marched hand in hand with Martin Luther King Jr., demanding equal treatment and led the way in welcoming blacks into the mainstream of society.

New Orleans Archbishop Joseph Rummel (1876-1964), was a leading example of the Catholic attitude toward civil rights. He desegregated Catholic schools and excommunicated three public officials who opposed the Church’s teaching on racial equality.

For decades, you could look into the pasts of older black leaders in America and discover that many of them were educated in Catholic schools, because when they were young those were the only schools that admitted them.