Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday. (Max Rossi/Reuters)

Though I found myself agreeing with much of Elizabeth Bruenig’s Aug. 1 op-ed, “Can we trust the Catholic Church?,” I have great difficulty in identifying the Catholic Church with the Catholic hierarchy, as Ms. Bruenig did. The Catholic Church is not simply the Catholic hierarchy — those with titles of bishop, or cardinal or pope. These individuals do control the levers of power and authority in the church, but the church is much bigger. Everyone baptized in the Catholic Church is a member of the church. In addition, I think very few of us, if any, continue to be members of the church because of the teachings of the hierarchy, or its example.

Speaking for myself, I have been a practicing Catholic for almost eight decades because of the many (lay people, nuns, parish priests) I consider saints — and I am not talking about canonized saints — who have crossed my path over the years, especially the pastor of my hometown parish in rural Illinois. Our pastor had the “smell of the sheep” about him long before that idea was made popular by Pope Francis, and he always considered the church a “field hospital” — another idea made popular by the current pope — that cared for the many wounded. 

The question that should have been asked in the op-ed was this: Can we trust the Catholic hierarchy?

Robert Stewart, Chantilly