The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Bill Eggert

February 23, 2013

BILL EGGERT | Challenges confront Catholic Church locally and abroad

JOHNSTOWN — My mom has advised me on numerous occasions to avoid the topics of politics and religion in my column. Being an obedient son, I occasionally ignore her advice while tending to temper my remarks on said subjects.

Recently I ran into my old friend George Hancock, a fellow Tribune-Democrat columnist, at the Highland Community Library.

George and I have a history of library discussions, going all the way back to UPJ. George’s columns are of a community-based nature, and his musings come to him while on one of his many runs (George has seemingly been an avid runner for centuries) throughout the area. Call it “Zen and the Art of Running,” if you will.

George and I started discussing the current challenges confronting the Catholic Church, both here and abroad.

In the news of late were the stories of the abuse scandal facing Bishop McCort and the pope’s announcement of his pending resignation. George had a thoughtful column discussing the local scandal facing McCort, from the perspective of a Catholic who had graduated from McCort. He also drew similarities to the recent Penn State scandal, and questions concerning a cover-up there as well.

As a fellow Catholic (who did not attend McCort), I echo George’s sentiments as well.

George and I go back a long way, being friends since first grade at St. Benedict’s Grade School in Geistown.

The world was a different place back then. Nuns wore those black and white habits, and taught most of the classes. The Mass was in Latin, not English. I know, because I was an altar boy back then, and had to learn Latin responses. To top it off, thanks to the Second Vatican Council, our Mass was changed from Latin to English, so altar boys had to relearn the Mass responses again, in English.

I never had any problems with priests, though my heart goes out to altar boys who did in later years.

Fast forward to the present and those recent challenges. I have no doubt that the Most Rev. Mark Bartchak, esteemed bishop of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, will resolve the issues surrounding the challenges the Catholic Church faces locally. We are fortunate to have several good Catholic churches here in the area, including St. John Gualbert, St. Andrew, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and my parish of St. Benedict, including their fine clergy.

The good work these parishes do in attending to their flocks, administering in spiritual matters as well as outreach programs, goes on with no fanfare on a daily basis. They are to be commended for their fine work.

Unfortunately, the media (television, print, Internet) has to report newsworthy events, not the good deeds churches and clergy of all denominations do on a daily basis. That often includes the bad deeds that a few do, which makes the various denominations seem guilty by association. Make no mistake, those who perpetrate these crimes, and the ensuing cover-ups, need to be held accountable when proven guilty. But remember the good, who faithfully tend to their congregations. They, too, are newsworthy.

As for Pope Benedict XVI, the tabloid media seem to delight in dogging him with controversy taken out of context.

The fact that he is the first pope to resign in almost 600 years brought an avalanche of discussion regarding even the resignation itself (many Catholics were not even aware that a pope could resign). Given the many duties and heavy workload of any pontiff, it is commendable that the pope realized his advancing age (85) made his continuing unfeasible. Most Catholics feel he did a commendable job during the seven years of his papacy. Those with an agenda (who are at odds with any organized religion) feel the need to spread rumor and innuendo as the pope prepares for retirement. Learned people around the world should dismiss unsubstantiated and anonymous reports as just that.

The wisest man I have ever known, my dad, believed the Catholic Church would survive the abuse scandals.

While there were those who stumbled within the church, Dad believed the church would survive and continue to do good works for the faithful. I do as well.

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident. He writes an occasional column.

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