Category Archives: Church

Four Faces of the Church Scandal

The more I hear and the more I think about the present sex scandal in the Church, the more I am convinced that this crisis has four distinct but interwoven threads.

First, the problem of pedophile priests.  This atrocity is the most widely recognized piece of the puzzle; but it is also the only one that has been addressed and, to a significant extent, dealt with.  If any priest is today molesting a catechism student or an altar boy or girl, he will be quickly exposed and driven out.  That is why the Pennsylvania Attorney General report deals almost entirely with past, and not current priests.

Second, the problem of homosexual abuse/recruitment/”grooming” of seminarians and young priests, typified by the scandal of ex-Cardinal “Uncle Ted” McCarrick.  The pope’s refusal to even admit the existence of this problem indicates the difficulty of dealing with it. 

Third, there is the new gay advocacy, the growing presence and prominence of openly pro-gay priests and bishops, advocating for full acceptance of homosexuality in the Church and world. Father James Martin is only one of the most flamboyant examples.  The pope’s readiness to take McCarrick’s advice in appointing bishops like Cupich is yet another.

And fourth, tying them all together, is the ongoing tolerance of misbehavior that the Church has always regarded as mortal sin.  The cover-ups and protection of pedophile priests, the veil of silence regarding molesters like McCarrick, and the open encouragement of gay advocates like Martin, are all part of a single disease.       The pope’s refusal to address Abp. Vigano’s accusations, along with his track record in South American scandals, suggests that he is, to say the least, unwilling to be part of the solution.

There you have it; four ugly, tangled threads.  Much discussion these days is about how to untangle them. But it seems like a better idea to simply grab them all and rip them out of the Church!  Or, as Alexander the Great demonstrated with the Gordian Knot, just take a sword to them.  Throw the rascals out!

Despite the rhetoric, I don’t know exactly how to do it.  Certainly we must pray for Jesus to once again save His Church from the hands of those who are profaning his temple.  And we must speak out in some way to let the hierarchy, and the world, know where we stand.

May God help us, as laymen, to find a way to help fix this mess.

Advertisements

Good Sense from Anthony Esolen

If you are already familiar with the writing of Anthony Esolen (in Magnificat, among other places), you will not be surprised that he has just injected a healthy dose of good sense into the current scandal. Writing on the online blog crisismagazine.com, his essay “What the Priest Scandal Is – and Is Not – About” is a breath of fresh air in the smoggy smokescreen some are trying to hide behind.

He describes 10 things to bear in mind when looking at the scandal.  One objection: I would call it a “Bishop Scandal” rather than a “Priest Scandal”, since bishops are in authority over the culpable priests, are fully responsible for the cover-ups, and many seem to be themselves guilty of “grooming” and other sexual abuse of minors as well as seminarians and other young men in their control. And it is bishops who tolerate and support gay “advocates” like Father James Martin. (The pope is, remember, a bishop himself.)

But whatever we call it, Esolen faces the reality of the scandal with unblinking eyes.  He calls the scandal what it basically is: from top to bottom, a homosexual problem.

He acknowledges what the guilty bishops owe to all catholics:

I do not require that my bishop be a saint. I do require that he be faithful to the teachings of the Church, and that he obey the law of the land. That is not too much to ask. If you are leading a double life, get out. We don’t need you. If you have ever covered for someone leading a double life, get out. If you have covered for someone who has molested a young person of either sex, get out. Please, leave us already. You have done plenty of harm.”

And he calls out the obscenity of those (including still-Cardinal Cupich) who say still-Pope Francis doesn’t have time to answer Archbishop Vigano’s charges because he is so busy with more important things.  We saw yesterday what more-important things are occupying Francis’ time: global littering!

I urge you to read the whole thing.  And then join Esolen’s call to the abusers and the cover-up artists: GET OUT!

 

 

Read It and Weep

 

I am almost at a loss for words to describe this sad situation.  And yet this may be a sign that the Church crisis is coming to a head.

A retired high Vatican official, Archbishop and former Papal Nuncio to the US Church, Carlos Maria Vigano, has announced that Pope Francis knew fully about McCarrick’s long-time homosexual abuse of seminarians and young priests.  He knew that Pope Benedict XVI had removed McCarrick from all activities, and he knew why. But Francis reinstated him!  He even sought his advice on appointments of new bishops!!

Archbishop Vigano is calling for the pope to resign, along with every bishop implicated in the cover-up.  He is right. They should.

At the moment, I cannot go on.  Read it for yourself. Read it and weep.

A Cry from the Heart of the Laity

To anyone concerned about the health of the Catholic Church, I highly recommend a post on First Things by Luma Simms, entitled “Fathers, Help Us”.  It is a pained and troubling cry from the heart of the laity, and it expresses a view that I share.

“There are many faithful and trustworthy bishops and priests…My last plea is to them: Heed your responsibility before God. Do you not know that you corrupt yourselves by your silence?”

There are some positive signs, such as Bishop Morlino of Madison WI, whose statement here confronts the elephant in every room of the Church.  Homosexual clergy and the resulting tolerance of sexual corruption, along with its accompaniment of cover-up, must be identified by name.  It appears that few of the worst perpetrators remain among the priests.  But the McCarrick scandal has revealed that the corruption in higher levels persists (to say the least).

And the cleansing of the Temple will require the naming of names. Apologies that start “We deeply regret…” are frankly of no use at this point.

Fathers, especially bishops, must shoulder the job of cleansing and rebuilding. They must lead in driving from the Temple those who have profaned it.  If the USCCB continues to stonewall, and the pope continues to dance around the issue, the Church may be deservedly wrecked.

The Church Scandal; The Laity’s Role?

I am sure all Catholics are thinking about this crisis. McCarrick, the Pennsylvania AG report.  Silence from the USCCB and from Rome.  Several thoughts, starting with defensive ones.

First, the enemies of the church are having a good time. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Grand Jury project once again displays the sins of the church’s recent past, but says nothing about the present or future.  The report rehashes what has already come out in many (most? all?) dioceses’ victim settlements, including that of my own diocese in Helena, Montana.  The PA AG made a big deal about the scandal he has uncovered; it should help his reelection.  The NPR commentator/expert today was asked “Are these abuses continuing today?”, and he answered “The Grand Jury would probably say yes.”  Without any evidence.  That is the anti-Catholic sentiment we are up against.

But the Church has created this problem, and we cannot complain too much when our enemies use it to attack us. 

Many of the faithful bemoan the “abuse crisis”.  But, as many have noted, we are dealing with a sexual crisis, not just an abuse crisis.  The general absence of new cases charging current-day abuse of altar boys/girls or catechumens is noteworthy; in the present environment, they would be all over the news.

The current focus of the ongoing crisis appears to consist of two active scourges:  homosexual molestation of male seminarians by senior clergy, and continuing cover-up of such molestations (an echo of the past cover-ups).  This crisis is summed up in the scandal of Cardinal McCarrick, and of the higher clergy’s apparent ignoring of this detestable “open secret”.  While sexual abuse of minors is obviously criminal, sexual molestation of adults who employ them or are otherwise in authority is a grey area in criminal law (remember Clinton/Lewinsky?). But it is clearly a mortal sin.

The Church will only suffer further degradation and loss of credibility until this scandal has been addressed and fixed. And it will not be fixed by new organizational policies or training programs or public relations gimmicks.

As with any mortal sins, there can be no forgiveness without repentance and penance from those committing the scandalous molestations and those who failed in their responsibilty to stop it.  Unfortunately, the Church has failed to convince anyone that it has demanded either repentance or penance.

Crime, of course, must be dealt with in a different way. Criminal abusers must expect punishment; our legal system deals in justice, not mercy.  The higher clergy who engaged in covering up criminal abuse would appear to have committed obstruction of justice (at least).  Statutes of limitation generally block prosecutions for these crimes of the past.  But the Church must not recognize any such limitation in dealing with institutional corruption and individual sin of such magnitude.

This brings us to the question: what is to be done.  Specifically, as lay members of Christ’s Church, what are we to do? 

First of all, we must pray for our clergy and our Church.  We must ask God to forgive our sins and to heal his Church. 

But we have a duty to do more.  It is not a matter of our presuming to direct Jesus in healing His Church.  As we know, the Church is a divine institution run by weak, fallible, confused human beings.  They can be in error, and they can and do sin.  We are not only children of God, but also citizens of the Church, the City of God.  We, too, have responsibilities.

It would be wonderful if we could look to our Pope to take the kind of dramatic action needed to stop this sexual scandal.  Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables, to take back God’s temple from those who were profaning it.  But the likelihood of our current pope doing this seems remote.

So here we stand, the laity watching helplessly as scandal succeeds scandal.  Most priests must feel similarly powerless. Bishops and Cardinals have the power to act, but seem unwilling to do so.

So what is the role of the laity in ending scandal?  What are we to do? Perhaps we must simply begin this conversation.

 

Ah, Memories: “I Am That Man!”

I am fascinated by the way little children seem to want to have a past, some fond memories they can reflect on.  Four-year olds ruminate (speculate?) on their own brief life. “Remember when I was little and I used to sleep with my stuffed hedgehog?” says the boy who still does so.

This thought comes to me as I re-visit a pleasant memory of my own brief life as a Catholic.

In RCIA at the age of 69, after a spiritually wasted life, I was finally getting serious about many things, including the Bible readings.

 I was taken aback by one of the vineyard parables (Mat 20):  the one where the owner pays the same daily wage to late-arriving workers who only put in an hour’s work as he pays to the laborers who worked the full day.

As a former union representative, I rose to point out the unfairness of this.  It would violate wage and hour laws, not to mention any union contract.  The result would be a grievance, a federal charge, or a walkout.  The late worker would be singled out for derision as the owner’s stooge.  Salvation economics, I was told,  were different from labor economics.

But later, at my first communion, the daily reading was that very same parable.  And after re-hashing the same issues in my mind, it suddenly dawned on me – I was that man! I was that laborer who showed up near the end of the day and happily, if a little guiltily, collected my wages.  And, most amazingly, the other workers seemed happy about it; no grievances were filed.

These thoughts were triggered by a beautiful essay on Dappled Things (dappledthings.org) by Jonathan Macdonald, entitled “Fifteen Years a Catholic”.  I recommend it.

 

My Sin of Snobbery

As you may know, I winter in Montana and summer in Florida.  (“To winter” and “to summer” are used as verbs among a certain set.)  Florida’s southwest gulf coast is beautiful, warm, and old.  Very old.  At 70, I am somewhere around the median age in my neighborhood, whereas in Montana I am the oldest man I know.

I am pleased to see that the churches here in Florida, at least the Catholic ones, are full on Sundays.  During the season (“the season” refers to only one of the four seasons), there are four Sunday masses, packed full.  With old people.  A general absence of crying babies.

Something else is noticeably absent: crucifixes.  I have been to four of this diocese’s churches, and the only ones I have seen are the small ones carried atop a pole in the entry procession.  I went snooping around the cathedral one day after mass, and found a beautiful crucifix sculpture, hidden in a small alcove between chapels, invisible to the congregation.  The ciborium of the host was also not visible, being kept “off-stage” in the wings.

The entire feeling of the services in these churches could only be described as, well… protestant.  Mainline protestant.  The Methodist church of my youth.   Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But when I compare my Florida experience with that of my Helena home, I cannot help but focus on what is missing.

Helena is blessed with one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen, let alone prayed in.  Its beauty may have spoiled me for other, more modern church architecture.  But that is not the main thing

And it isn’t the crucifix.  One of St. Helena’s few flaws is that the gold crucifix is subsumed (consumed?) by the dazzling gold grillwork reredos behind it.

When I come to church, I am seeking an encounter with holiness, sanctity.  I find it every time I enter St. Helena Cathedral.  But I have not found it once, at least not to any similar extent, in the churches of Florida.

I know how precious the mass has been throughout history and around the world.  I have read of masses celebrated secretly in miserable prisons, in hidden closets and secret forest clearings.  I know that holiness can be found anywhere it is earnestly sought.

In perspective, my quibbles and complaints sound very much like first-world problems, indeed pure snobbery. I come to church with the mind-set of a theater critic. I want every church to meet the standards of my magnificent home cathedral.  I want every priest to have a good voice (or at least a good sound system).  I want a good cantor and good music selections.   (And I wish the bible readings were in better translation.)

Some of this is, as I realize, pure snobbery.  I need to get over it, and to recognize the blessing of having churches to attend and eucharists to receive. 

But some of it may matter a great deal.  In the present war for the soul of the church (and thereby the world), many things must matter.  Crucifixes are not simply a decorator’s choice.

I’m back…

I must apologize to you, faithful reader, for my long absence.  I have been busy with a big change in my life.

I have joined the Catholic Church.   Finally.

You, faithful reader, are probably not surprised.  If you have followed my “spiritual progress reports” on this site, you must have seen it coming.  Strangely, I did not.

My reasons are easily summarized.  The gratitude problem: having no proper way to say “Thank You” for so many inexplicable blessings.  My need for moral guidance and support in battling my pride, my selfishness, my sloth, and my many other sins.

My need to make sense of existence.  My need for awareness of sanctity.  My need to learn to love better.

And, perhaps above all, my need for Hope in the face of despair.  Seeing this beautiful western world falling apart, seeing evil triumph on every side, seeing madness replace sanity.  If we are not in God’s hands, then all is lost.

“But what about the Pope?””, I hear you ask.  This bizarre modernist clown of a pope?  Join him?

For decades I have been growing closer to the Church precisely because of its popes.  Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI were the world’s clearest voices for reason, reality, and love.  JPII on communism, BXVI on Islam, and both on Western modernism, were lighthouses in a darkening world.  They showed the way.

I have written elsewhere on the shabby, secular, relativist, liberation-theologist, enemy of all that his predecessors built.  His presence was the final hurdle I had to get over before I could seal the deal.

But I was reassured by several thoughts.

First, I was asked by a counselor: “Who is the Head of the Church?”  I am old enough to spot a trick question when I hear one, so I caught the point.  Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church.  Not the Pope.

Second, I was reminded that the Catholic Church has survived intact, with doctrine essentially unchanged, for twenty centuries of  turmoil, often led by bad, weak or foolish popes and filled with cynical, power-hungry, licentious agnostic priests.  The only word for such vigorous survival is “miraculous”. No other human institution even comes close.

Third, I see daily demonstration that my concerns about the present pope are shared by many, many others in the Church.  I want to join and support them in their brave, often lonely defense of truth.

So, on September 21, I became a Catholic.  A dissident Catholic, but Catholic nonetheless.