Church Leaders Can Follow Peter, John … or Judas
Watching the witness in the public sphere of church leaders isn’t always edifying. In fact, it’s often deeply discouraging. But keeping in mind the behavior of the Church’s very first leaders, perhaps it’s not too surprising.
Among the 12 apostles, Jesus found only one utterly faithless, Judas — who sold Him for 30 pieces of silver. We don’t really know the “why” of that betrayal. Church fathers attributed it to greed. (You’ll see prayers in Eastern liturgies that speak of that specifically.) Others have suggested, perhaps more plausibly, that Judas saw before the other apostles that Jesus was not a military messiah. That He wouldn’t use force to create the Kingdom of Heaven on earth in Jerusalem. Instead of merely puzzling over what He really was, then, Judas took action. And took the silver. Then took his own life.
While the Church has always been reluctant to get specific about who goes to hell, this case suggests an exception. We have Jesus’ own words to ponder:
The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born. (Matt. 26:24)
It’s hard to square that with any other conclusion. Or with hopeful theories of an entirely empty hell.
It’s Judas who set the precedent for that rather rare Church leader, who simply flips on the Gospel and starts calling good evil, and evil good. Forthrightly, with no excuse, he joins the enemies of Christ. The leaders of German churches who submitted their churches to the Nazis — even rejecting the Old Testament, for being Jewish — are the easiest examples we can cite. In America, those clergy who’ve openly endorsed “abortion rights” follow in their goosesteps.
The Seamless Garment … of Judas
In my own Catholic Church, I don’t know of many bishops who’ve gone to that extreme. But some have come close. For instance, Belgium’s retired (but still influential) Cardinal Godfried Danneels. As we’ve already reported here:
Daneels is one of the most destructive theological radicals in the Catholic church. When Belgium legalized same-sex “marriage,” the cardinal congratulated the government for doing so. As Vatican Insider reports, the cardinal went on to say: “The Church has never objected to the fact that there is a sort of ‘marriage’ between homosexuals.” Of course, this is nonsense; the Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes scripture in calling the conjugal behavior in such “sort of” marriages “acts of grave moral depravity.” (CCC, 2357)
[As LifeSiteNews reports] “Abortion was legalized relatively late in Belgium, compared to its European neighbors, in 1990; Danneels is said to have tried at the time to convince King Baudouin to sign the abortion bill into law….”
The collapse of the Belgian church under Danneels’ leadership was so precipitous that Pope John Paul II spoke out publicly about it in 2003.
Danneels also presided over one of the worst priestly sex abuse scandals in Europe, whose cover-up was so extensive that it led to Belgian police searching a bishop’s palace and even opening a bishop’s grave to search for evidence.
Nor has the U.S. been spared such shepherds, though the examples are less extreme. Look at those who knew about and covered up the predatory homosexual behavior of the former Archbishop of our nation’s capital, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. (That included molesting a single underage boy, along with uncounted seminarians in their 20s.) Or bishops who leave their seminaries in the control of “lavender mafias,” as the late Paul Likoudis, a lonely but courageous Catholic journalist, spent decades pointing out at the fearless Catholic paper The Wanderer.
What about those who equate monstrosities like Planned Parenthood’s organ trafficking with the enforcement of immigration law or the defense of Americans’ gun rights? On this logic, you cannot condemn selling baby lungs and eyes in Styrofoam coolers like chicken parts from KFC, unless you endorse a crackpot utopian agenda that matches the furthest left political stances in America. (The left, of course, is lockstep pro-choice.) Is there a better way to keep abortion legal forever? I really can’t think of one.
The unborn have fewer legal protections in America than farm animals (which must be killed humanely). They are surely the “least among … the brethren.” What we do or don’t do for them, we do or don’t do for Jesus (Matt. 25:41) Equating their slaughter with lesser, entirely arguable issues of prudence? That tiptoes to the edge of Judas-level treachery.
“I Don’t Even Know the Man!”
More bishops recall St. Peter, who never turned against Our Lord. He simply fled along with most of the other apostles, and found himself in a tight spot. In the lynch mob atmosphere that followed Jesus’ arrest, some bystanders identified Peter as one of the apostles. As Jesus had predicted — in response to Peter boasting of his devotion — Peter denied it. Three times. Then the cock crowed.
But unlike Judas, who’d acted out of malice instead of fear, Peter could still repent. He “wept bitterly” and rejoined the other apostles. After Pentecost, he became one of the bravest confessors of the faith. I hope that happens to those American bishops who hunkered down for cover on crucial moral issues. Without endorsing the outright evil of the Seamless Garment, they’ve failed to step forth and witness to crucial truths.
Most obvious: the fact that politicians who promote illegal abortion have no business receiving Communion. As Chris Manion pointed out here at The Stream, there are ten pro-abortion candidates for the U.S. Senate this fall. How many of them have heard a public condemnation of their position or been denied Holy Communion? Not one.
Let’s hope and pray that these shepherds receive the same Spirit as Peter, which will bring them repentance and courage.
“Woman, Behold Your Son!”
At the opposite end of the apostolic spectrum we find St. John. Alone among Jesus’ chosen leaders for the Church, John didn’t run and hide. As his own Gospel recounts:
But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25-27)
It’s not surprising, perhaps, that among bishops today, the ratio of those like St. John is as low as it was in AD 33. But I’m pleased to point out the Johannine spirit whenever it shows itself. It gives us hope.
The Apostle John Is Alive and Well and Has a Twitter Account
Two examples worth calling out for praise:
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois. As I noted back in February:
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois lives in Paprocki’s diocese. He voted against protecting the lives of unborn children — even those who might be viable outside the womb.
In answer, Paprocki called on him to repent. Till he does, Durbin may not receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion.
Recently, Paprocki has again shown his willingness to stand firm when his fellow bishops are fleeing. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that labor unions may not force unwilling employees to pay dues — supporting, by the way, their lockstep pro-choice and anti-family stances — most bishops spoke against them. Trapped in an obsolete, knee-jerk pro-union stance, the bishops conference simply ignored employees’ freedom of association. Not to mention the outright evil these unions do by espousing vicious policies.
Not Paprocki. The bishop Tweeted:
It is encouraging that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFCSME upholds the right to be free from coercion in speech. No longer will public sector employees be required pay dues to support unions that promote abortion and other political issues with which they disagree.
— Bishop Paprocki (@BishopPaprocki) June 28, 2018
Equally uplifting is the witness of Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island. He has faced down enormous public pressure inside the Church and out for defending natural, biblical marriage. He has also been forthright and strong in defending the right to life. So forthright, in fact, that pro-aborts took to the skies to denounce him. See what happened (and Tobin’s bold Christian response) below:
This message projected onto the R.I. State House at a recent pro-abortion rally says: “Bishop Tobin does not speak for R.I.” So the pro-aborts identify me as their enemy. What a wonderful compliment! pic.twitter.com/6A7mb71aVA
— Thomas J. Tobin (@bishoptjt) June 30, 2018
No doubt the good bishop remembers how Jesus said we should react when such things happen:
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5, 11-12)
If you’re a prominent Christian, and the enemies of Christ aren’t lighting up the skies denouncing you, then you’re probably doing it wrong.