Symbols of hope

Some years ago I visited the new cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. I was struck by the multi-coloured woven banners, each about five metres high, decorating both side walls and depicting saints of all the Americas, north, south and centra

l. As well as bishops and nuns, there were married and single lay people, of every age and nationality. These are the images I recall when I encounter the anger and scepticism of those who question the holiness and integrity of the Catholic Church.

A crisis of credibility

The Church has been confronted and rocked by revelations of sexual abuse, especially of children, and financial scandals, even in the Vatican. To say that such behaviour is equally as prevalent in other professions (e.g. among doctors an


d counsellors) is no defence; the offenders had professed sacrifice and selfless service and had instead serviced their own distorted needs.

There’s no alternative for Catholic leadership but to openly acknowledge such failure and to work for structures of training and supervision that will do all possible to eliminate such calamitous scandals.

Redressing the balance

At such a time it’s imperative to balance these failures against the record of the ‘ordinary saints’ of the Church. It’s easy to extol extraordinary men and women such as Pope Francis or Mother Teresa. But it’s also crucial to remember the many thousands of Catholic teachers, health workers and defenders of the poor, often living in the most dangerous of places, like the seven Cistercian martyrs of Algeria who were slaughtered in 1996.

God calls ordinary people to work in his service. Some fail, as Judas did. Yet it’s the ordinary saints who, as priests, sisters, teachers and social workers, bring life, support and the vision of a fuller existence all over the world.


Father Neil Vaney

Next steps

This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 4, ‘The Catholic Church’ referencing page 19. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 4’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.