Well, Now We Know: The Catholic Church’s Depth of Sex Scandals Grows
Sixteen years ago, the Catholic Church’s priest abuse scandal hit. A lot of changes were implemented regarding care for minors and investigating priests.
Despite the formal changes, not much has changed for upper-level clergy. Pope Francis declined knowledge of Chilean priest abuse earlier this year, later admitting that he lied. Francis more recently accepted the resignations of five Chilean bishops over that scandal.
The U.S. abuse scandal came near the end of Saint Pope John Paul’s papacy. Sixteen years later, and four years after JPII was sainted, we know that his papacy didn’t just ignore priest abuse. Under his leadership, the Vatican ignored advice from laypeople and clergy that Cardinal Emeritus Theodore McCarrick pressured seminarians into sexual relationships. He also allegedly abused at least minor boy.
I’m tired of defending this Church – the one Christ started and which the Vatican, the USCCB, and other nations’ bishops have corrupted. The Church can’t even hold Catholic versions of Harvey Weinstein accountable. How can I assure others that by entering the Church they are on the best path to Heaven, not a journey into the bowels of human evil? I am very concerned about people like my mother – those who volunteer at nursing homes, help kids from broken homes, befriend ostracized neighbors, pray for the souls of unchurched spouses, etc. – who epitomize Pope Francis’ call to view the world as a spiritual battlefield, but are betrayed by Pope Francis and so many others.
Thankfully, the answer is simple: by following Christ’s Church, the one He said would win against the Gates of Hell. And by following Christ’s example, including the one where he overturned tables and made whips.
Consequences of Clergy Errors
Every bishop in Chile offered their resignations to Pope Francis in light of that nation’s scandal. As others have said, that’s a good start here in the States. The following should especially follow the example of the Chilean bishops:
- Every member of the clergy who knew about the goings-on but didn’t raise the alarm about McCarrick.
- Every member of the clergy who treats the details of immigration policy with greater passion than the McCarrick cover-up.
- Everyone at the Vatican who ignored the alarms raised about McCarrick .
The reasons for these resignations are many. First, the Church’s hierarchy protected McCarrick not (just) because it wanted to help souls — but to promote a popular bishop/cardinal into positions of influence and power. It was done to protect the Church’s reputation in the here and now rather than use its reputation to hold its own accountable and set a standard for the world to follow to Heaven.
In short, the Church was more afraid of secular criticism than of losing souls. Now look at how many souls have been hurt by McCarrick, the cover-up, and the often shallow responses by bishops. Can Catholics honestly claim that anything good came of not holding McCarrick responsible — he who was a main spokesperson for the American Church after 2002?
There is also the sheer hypocrisy. Church leaders say Catholic teaching can’t change on faith and morals, despite modern Western sexual values. I agree. So let’s hold to that standard by holding abortionists, fornicators, adulterers, sodomites, abusers, and same-sex-involved priests all accountable.
Finally, the seminarians who refused to out McCarrick and the clergy who protected him are cowards who don’t trust God. This is the biggest hypocrisy of them all. These are people who claim to lead the flock to Heaven – which only happens through God’s Grace and trust in Him.
Yet many seminarians kept their mouths shut so they could rise in the Church. Vatican officials kept quiet so that McCarrick could rise.
They should have exposed McCarrick and let God guide their careers. Just like the Hollywood folks who kept quiet about Harvey Weinstein’s abuse so as to protect their careers, these seminarians put jobs ahead of protecting God’s children and the Church from McCarrick.
And, no, this is not a question of prudence. A poor single mother of three whose boss stole from the cash box may make a prudential decision to keep quiet. A father in a refugee family may grit his teeth against being treated badly on the way to safety.
These seminarians, priests, bishops, and cardinals could have let God lead them to be truly courageous spiritual and community leaders. They did not. If they are not cowards, then we have another problem: The seminarians, bishops, Vatican officials, and others support violating the Church’s unchanging teachings on sexual morality. This means the Church has a far greater problem of homosexuality than even the most concerned people likely realize.
Never Mind Pope Francis – What About JPII?
Many orthodox and traditional JPII fans to criticize Pope Francis. Some crowed that one of the pope’s advisors’ aides was busted in a gay orgy which included drugs. They said this was proof of Pope Francis’ poor, perhaps even damaging, leadership.
I too am concerned about the damage Pope Francis is doing to the Church. But what about JPII’s leadership, which was around for nearly a quarter-century before 2002? How many abusive priests were promoted to bishop or cardinal just as McCarrick was under that papacy? How much “Theology of the Body” was ignored by the same priests, bishops, and cardinals who were engaged in their own private – often illegal, always immoral – homosexual orgies?
Look, Saint John Paul II is in Heaven. He prays for all of us every day. And no saint was perfect in this life.
But the pop-culture fast-track of JPII’s sainthood has repercussions. This is one of them. It makes it harder to explain how a saint whose Vatican was warned about McCarrick promoted him up the ladder. How can I proudly defend JPII, his teachings, and his leadership as part of the Church’s eternal Truths when his appointees and bureaucrats turned enough eyes that a Hydra would go blind?
Yes, the short answer is that man is flawed and only God is perfect. Yes, the Church has dealt with grievous scandals under other papacies.
That only goes so far.
Christ said the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. And Satan will fail despite the actions of many of the Church’s leaders and clergy.
Consider the earliest Christians. The apostle who would become the first bishop of Rome had to be publicly criticized for cowardice by St. Paul, just a few years after St. Peter denied Christ three times. This man knew Jesus intimately, became a martyr … and still scandalized many.
Two thousand years later, human evil is at the heart of many of the Church’s screw-ups. Yet St. Paul writes in Second Corinthians, “we are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair;” and a number of other ills which affect followers of Christ. According to Paul, those striving towards God we are to be reminded “that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.”
I hope and pray that everyone involved in the McCarrick scandal begs God for forgiveness. Confession is good for the soul, and they need it. I also pray that those who watch from the outside do not forget the logs in our own eyes.
But the Church clearly needs renewal from the invasion of Satan, as it has in the past. We laity, tired and frustrated as we are, will need to lead the charge.