Tuesday, August 7, 2018

(208) Clergy Abuse Scandal: The Gates of Hell Shall Never Prevail No Matter What the Revelation Is


Many Bad Priests, Many More Good Priests, Many Holy Priests

St. John Vianney
Fr. Vincent Capodanno

Bishop Fulton Sheen
St. Pope John Paul II
Your Parish Priest
St. John Vianney (1786-1859) was assigned to a rural parish from which many fell away.  He not only renewed the parish, but his holiness attracted penitents from all over France.  He would hear confessions up to 16 hours a day.  He is the patron of parish priests and a great model for all priests.  Marine Chaplain Fr. Vincent Capodanno (1929-1967) received the most prestigious Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery beyond the call of duty.  Bishop Sheen’s (1895-1979) television program “Life is Worth Living” in prime time during the 1950s and 1960s had the best audience rating for that time slot, beating out Milton Berle and Fran Sinatra.  St. Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) made a tremendous impact on the Church and the World.  He was very instrumental in the collapse of Communism in Europe which ended the Cold War.

For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all” (Luke 8:17).   “Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light (Luke 12:3).

       This Bible admonition has been true with the common people as well as many famous historical figures in regard to crime, corruption, and marital infidelity.  One of our country’s most loved past presidents had extra marital affairs in the White House.  

       Recently this truism was very evident to the whole world and rocked the Catholic Church with great sorrow and consternation….. despite $180,000 used as hush money to cover it up.   Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (88 years old), a very gifted prince of the Church and Archbishop of Washington, D.C. (2000-2006), suddenly was swept off of his pinnacle of great respect, honors, and achievement by grievous sins he committed as many as 50 years ago that are coming to light……abusing adult seminarians, some young priests, adolescents, and at least one boy 11 years old.........all clear if not criminal abuses of power.  Fr. Boniface Ramsey O.P., a professor at the seminary, parents, and others  complained over 20 years ago, but nobody listened.  
This is reminiscent of the classic sin and cover-up described in 2 Samuel 11 and 12.  King David yielded to lust while idle and neglecting his role as leader in battle.  He committed the grave of adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.  To cover it up, he arranged for Uriah to be placed at the front line of battle where he would be most likely killed.  Then he married Bathsheba.  However, once publicly exposed by the prophet Nathan, King David repented and did public penance.  Reconciled with God and His people, King David went on to become Israel’s greatest king and begin the line to Christ the King, our Savior.   May the former Cardinal similarly admit his sins and do public penance.  It would have a cleansing effect for the Church.

   Similarly, St. Augustine turned his life around, publicly admitted his wrong doings in the classic book, “The Confessions of St. Augustine”, and later was named a doctor of the Church. 

   The clerical abuse scandals corroborate Pope Benedict XVI’s prophetic statement that “The greatest threat to the Church is from within”, not external.  Ralph Martin makes this vividly clear in a recent article.  (See
https://www.sign.org/articles/dear-troubled-catholics-a-letter-from-ralph-martin-about-the-current-crisis?mc_cid=0241b2ac39&mc_eid=e54aa0b99b). Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Papal Nuncio to the United States 2011-2016, confirmed much of what Martin wrote and more (See the Appendix).  

These sexual abuse scandals, the worst crisis in American Church history, have fomented an institutional and moral crisis.  Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called it a “moral catastrophe”.  As God’s divinely founded institution, the Church must live up to a much higher standard than society in general; thus the gravity of scandal is magnified and rightfully so.
While victims must cope with the trauma amidst scandal, Church teaching and its authority are undermined; the wisdom of the Gospel message is obscured.  The moral credibility of the Church is now in question when world problems demand that it speak out.  When the Church is persecuted, its holiness, its moral strength, and its beauty shine forth.  When it is secure and comfortable, moral laxity, sin, and human corruption creep in, reaping great scandal while the victims suffer.

    There really is no private sin; the consequences affect not only the victim, but everyone in the Church (the Mystical Body of Christ) and Society in general even a half century later.  The revelations regarding former Cardinal McCarrick reverberated around the world and may yet bring down a prominent cardinal and a pope.  Every Catholic must feel shame, but not discouragement because there is always hope in the Lord who is always with us.

    Promising is the official sign in front of St. Joseph Cathedral on the busiest street in downtown Columbus, Ohio: “DISGUST AND SORROW ON CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL MISCONDUCT.  ACCOUNTABILITY.  REFORMS.”  That reflects the strong sentiments of all faithful Catholics from the Bishop to the people in the pews.  There will be purification, healing, and justice. 

       About 4% of priests (John Jay Report - some 4500 of about 125,000 in the U.S. 1950-2004) have been accused (often falsely) in the United States and many convicted, but never an American Church leader of such high rank with overwhelming evidence.  That percentage updated to 2018 would be much smaller.  Considering all the progress seminary selection and child protection made since 2004, the percentage for currently active priests today may be close to 1% or even less.

However, these percentages are magnified by the homosexual network or subculture of priests and some bishops, either active with a double life or sympathetic, as they support and protect each other (see www.churchmilitant.com).  Those who lead double lives are simply hired hands who go through the motions of a job, doing more harm than good for the mission.  As reprehensible as it is, they generally restrict their homosexual lifestyle to consensual adults and stay away from minors.  They too betray God, the Church, their vocation, and the people they serve.  

       The size, depth, extent, and power of this network needs to be investigated and cleaned up because it undermines the very mission of the Church.  However, that will be much more difficult than eradicating sexual abuse of minors and seminarians.  An alarming number of priests have died of AIDS.  Needed are saints to change this subculture into mutual support for chastity.

   The great majority of our pastors and bishops are good priests, faithful priests who are giving their lives to God and dedicating themselves to serve us and help us to attain salvation.  Yes, there are many bad priests, but there are many holy priests, heroic priests, even saintly priests.  We owe them immeasurable gratitude.  It’s not right to judge the entire Church by the sins of a few.  Lest we judge, they are human; no person is immune from sin.  We are all sinners.
Almost all the abuse occurred in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s with some in the 1990s. Some of this abuse occurred during the sexual revolution of the 1960s as well as during the turmoil that resulted from a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council. This was also a period in which people, both Catholic and non-Catholic, lost their sense of sin in an over-sexed society.  

       In the 1970s, and 1980s seminary selection was often lax while spiritual formation and preparation were very deficient with a very liberal moral theology.  At least some seminaries had factions of gay and straight with homosexual acts occurring.  While these problems might explain some of the abuse in the 1970s and particularly the 1980s, they do not explain the reported cases from the 1950s and at least the early 1960’s.

Yesterday. Although a cover-up of sexual abuse of a minor is in itself evidence of corruption, we can understand why bishops covered up clerical abuse…… to avoid scandal by handling it internally, usually ineptly and sometimes even wrongfully.  Every organization and family in the world has the tendency to cover up scandal within.  The bishops often failed to report abuse to the civil authorities as required, frequently from a sense of loyalty to their priests.  

       After a Bishop would reprimand the wayward priest, send him off to an extended spiritual retreat, and force him to have psychological counseling, the cleric would be reassigned with the shrink’s approval.  Sadly, there were also cases where church authorities tried to report it to the civil authorities, but were told to handle it internally. That was the mentality of the times.

      They did not know at the time that cures for such addictions and disorders are rare.  At the same time we believed in the power of contrition, repentance, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and second chances without realizing that sinners often fall again.   Fear of scandal led to inaction at the expense of justice and help for the victims, allowing the infection to fester unchecked and worsen until a monster is created.  Now we have a scandal of epic proportions, affecting the Church in the whole world. 
  A prerequisite for mercy is sincere repentance and a firm purpose of amendment while pursuing justice.  Mercy is not the toleration of evil doers.  For a Bishop to do nothing to stop the abuse and allow an offending priest to continue ministry through transfers after two or three reprimands is inexcusable if not criminal, not to mention tolerating, condoning, enabling, protecting abusers, or neglecting the protection of vulnerable youth. 

       To corrupt minors and seminarians or to allow it is a sin crying to Heaven……“It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:2). These bishops should be removed and even prosecuted if flagrant.  A major part of their job is to protect youth and prevent abuse.
Due to media hype and other factors, the public often did not realize that only some 20% of the abusive predator priests were true pedophiles, those who prey on prepubescent children. Instead around 80% of victims were adolescents, usually teenage boys 14-17. While much discussion has focused on homosexual priests preying on young men, it is important to recall that a significant number of victims (19%) were young women who also were betrayed by priests they had come to trust and admire. 

   In any case, whether homosexual or heterosexual, these priests selfishly chose to break their vow of celibacy to satisfy their own desires rather than focus on the needs of the people they were called to shepherd to eternity.  These acts are also serious sins against chastity that corrupt and scandalize the faithful, whether they involve innocent minors or consenting adults.  Any sexual contact with a minor (less than 18 years old) regardless of consent is not only a serious sin, but a felony (crime) under civil law, not to mention rape at any age.  Anyone with knowledge of a crime has a legal obligation to report it to the police. 

The Cost. In no way can money repair thousands of severely damaged lives, but it can give closure and fund professional help for the victims .  About 70% of the accused priests were ordained before 1970.  When the crimes came to light, there was a wave of lawsuits (over 3000) particularly in the dioceses of Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland-Oregon, Denver, San Diego, Louisville, and Dallas  for over $3 billion.  

      In seven dioceses of Pennsylvania ---where the Grand Jury concluded that over 300 priests abused more than 1000 children since 1940--- the payout averaged over $148,000 per victim.  The amount a diocese would offer a victim usually depended upon the nature of the abuse, how long it went on, the age of the child, the effect of the abuse, cost of treatment, etc.   

       Nationwide, the total paid out in lawsuits and help to only 5 % of the estimated 100,000 victims is billions more...... well over $4 billion (see https://www.newsweek.com/over-3-billion-paid-lawsuits-catholic-church-over-sex-abuse-claims-1090753).  These payments put the Church under severe financial strain, even bankrupting 15 dioceses and three religious orders while seriously damaging their apostolic and charitable work.  All that money --sacrificial giving by the faithful for Church programs and charities-- was diverted and used for reparation of the evil deeds (grave sins) committed by its most trusted servants and leaders.     

       The sexual abuse crisis is undermining all the good that the Church does......its very mission.  After all, the Church does more for the poor, has more schools, more universities, and more hospitals than any non-government organization in the world.  The faithful has made sacrifices to support the Church, its mission, and its good works........only to have it go to abuse victims........sad.   
These wayward priests with their infidelity have done more harm to the Church than the devil himself could by betraying their vow of celibacy, betraying their people, the Church, and God.  The faithful, including parents, trusted the priests without question, but were betrayed and their children traumatized.  They sent their children to Catholic schools, certain of their safety, but were betrayed by religious brothers bound by a vow of chastity.  

     The victimized children and adolescents (about 11,000 under 18 since 1950 while the Associated Press claims it to be 17,000) trusted the priests, some of whom even assaulted and raped them.  We can only speculate as to how many unreported cases would add to that number.  The betrayal and the trauma destroyed their dignity and innocence, forcing them to endure a lifetime of spiritual and psychological wounds.......leading in some cases to drug abuse and even suicide.

Allison Ricciardi, a Catholic therapist and founder of both www.CatholicTherapists.com and www.theraphaelremedy.com, found her experience with clergy sex abuse victims to be “heart wrenching and appalling”. The Church must accept its grave responsibility to do everything possible to help the victims to heal through spiritual and psychological counseling at diocesan expense.  Some dioceses have to some extent, but it has been woefully inadequate.  The abuser himself has a moral obligation to make restitution.  The victims have been very much neglected.
       We all suffer in shame and sorrow with the victims and our wounded Church.  As St. Paul said: “If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it” (1 Cor 12:25) because we are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Pope Francis summed it up well: “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.  Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening”.  Excellent, but we must not forget accountability…… to bring to justice the perpetrators and those who covered it up.  Furthermore, the Church must do everything possible to help the healing of all the victims. 

    These scandals are tremendous blows to the faith.  It's so sad that a few bad priests drive so many Catholics out of the Church.......be it spiritual homicide or spiritual suicide.  Instead of bringing truth, goodness, and beauty to the flock, they brought evil.  “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture” (Jer 23:1)(Ezek 34:1-11).  

       Nevertheless, this grave crisis calls us to be more faithful than ever to Christ our savior’s Church and to participate in its renewal by prayer, witness, example, word, and deed starting with the parish…….not to be deserters.  Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, called upon the organization and its members (priests and laymen) to “rebuild the Church”.

            Many Catholics have lost trust in bishops and priests, feeling betrayed by them, but one thing is certain: we can always trust our Lord who gave His all for us.  Let us pray that trust in the Church be restored.
       Let us remember that God is in control now as He always has been, speaking through the prophets of the Old Testament in condemning corruption and warning of the material and spiritual consequences of sin.  After being defeated by other countries, the Jews did repent and ancient Israel became prosperous and powerful once more until the people drifted away from God again as we are doing today.  Will we fall as a nation because of moral decay?

2002 Reforms

Today. The prelates learned from the wave of clerical abuse scandals resulting from revelations by victims now adults in the first several years of this century.  Today anyone who works with youth in a parish is screened by the police and even the FBI with background checks.  Furthermore every catechetical teacher is required to attend an annual child protection workshop conducted by the diocese.  Sacristy doors must be open at all times.  In 2014 the Vatican announced that it had defrocked 848 priests and punished 2,572 others for abusing children.  
    Today an accused priest is suspended from his clerical duties until cleared by an investigation ……. often guilty until proven innocent.  It’s zero tolerance “one strike and you’re out”.  Bishops must inform the authorities of such accusations and no priest is immune from prison time.  

    Today prospective seminarians are rigorously screened with a battery of psychological tests and eliminated if there is a deep seated same sex attraction or risk of acting out any homosexual tendency in violating his vow of celibacy.  Most seminaries have improved their spiritual formation and recently ordained priests show great promise.  Nevertheless more must be done and perpetrators must be brought to justice as well as those guilty of cover-up. 

       There is more detail in the Dallas “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People”, formulated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2002 and revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018 (See http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/charter.cfm).  It did not apply to the bishops themselves because disciplinary measures for them are under the jurisdiction of the Vatican.

  With these reforms, it seemed we were past those scandals; there were relatively few credible cases of clerical sexual abuse that occurred in the past 20 years, still scandalous but a great improvement.  The Pennsylvania Grand Jury brought more old dirt to light as the biblical admonition says…….digging up old covered up allegations, this time in gory and shocking detail with the names of priests accused of abuse and bishops accused of cover-up.  

         It would have been better if it all had come out back in 2002 and guilty priests brought to justice.  The Pennsylvania Grand Jury with subpoena powers did what the Church should have done long before 2002.  Frank Keating and his John Jay Commission should have been given complete freedom to investigate with complete access to diocesan files.  We cannot continue to go from one crisis to another.

The safeguards and severe punishments are preventing sexual abuse of minors and seminarians.  Much more difficult to eradicate is the homosexual network of priests that seriously undermines the mission of the Church.  They have sex with consenting adults…….legally acceptable, but morally are grievous sins even for those without a vow of celibacy.  At its peak, one expert claims that the network may have included close to half of all clerics.  

        One priest, who was a seminarian in the 1970s, saw the problem from the inside.  He could not report extensive homosexual activity to the rector of the seminary because the authority was also an active homosexual.  Some of the cover-up was done by bishops who themselves were active homosexuals.

   In 1990 three priests received death threats after revealing information on clerical abuse to investigators.  It's documented in  www.bishop-accountability.org/news3/1990_07_18_Henderson_ThreatsMade_Robert_Ruglovsky_4.htm.htm 

Another can of worms is homosexual and heterosexual abuse of adults by priests as authority figures…….employees and other members of the parish as reported on the front page of the December 23, 2018 issue of the National Catholic Register.   

   In fact, liberal elements in the Church are promoting change in Church moral teaching on the homosexual lifestyle.  Morality as ordained by God is absolute and does not change.  What was sinful in Sodom and Gomorrah is just as wrong today. 

Possible Solutions

Because corruption eventually comes to light, we need transparency now…….to get it all out now, all the dirt…… with full access by lay led commissions to diocesan files to investigate every allegation, reveal on the respective diocesan website the names of those credibly accused…….regardless of the hierarchical level, regardless of the consequences. 

In order to restore trust the Church must change its historical tendency to avoid scandal at all costs.  This inevitably leads to cover-up after cover-up while the hidden problem of clerical infidelity and sexual abuse simmers and grows into the monster we have today.  It would have been far easier to accept the initial scandal while still relatively small and take firm measures to nip the problem in the bud and make necessary reforms.

Cardinal DiNardo, advocates opening new and confidential channels for reporting clerical sexual abuse as well as more effective resolution of such complaints.  He also proposed independent investigative commissions with sufficient authority under substantial lay leadership.  
   Some dioceses as Pittsburgh have on the homepage of the diocesan website a hotline for anyone to make an allegation whether current or committed decades ago.  The Columbus, Ohio diocese has sent posters to all of its parishes with the hotline.  These practices should be uniform across every one of the 197 dioceses in the United States.  

      Vatican approved lay led commissions, skilled in forensic science, should with full access to diocesan records investigate every Bishop accused of covering up or doing nothing to stop the abuse.  If the Church does not do it with lay involvement, state attorney generals will and should call grand juries with power to subpoena diocesan records.  Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, both advocate transparent accountability.  Justice demands concrete action and help to the victims.
     Let’s pray, fast, and offer sacrifices for healing of all, especially the victims, and for the renewal of the Church, that it have the courage to allow laymen to participate in investigating all allegations and suspend or even defrock the guilty, including bishops.  Accountability for evil deeds is a matter of justice; the Church owes it to the victims.  If it takes a grand jury in every state of the union, so be it.  If some have to go to prison, so be it.  Every guilty priest should take responsibility, make an apology, and do public penance or prison.
“The sun is the best disinfectant”; “the truth will set us free” (John 8:32).  Then the Church can be purified and renewed so that its truth and splendor will become radiant once more as rebuilding progresses.  Then God will have made good come out of this horrible mess.

       It is a step in the right direction to suspend former Cardinal McCarrick from public ministry, confine him to a life of prayer and penance, and to ask him to resign from the College of Cardinals.  Perhaps God has allowed him to live to the ripe old age of 88 so that he can see how the biblical admonition affected him and what damage he has caused. All the good that he has done is overshadowed by this scandal even though he may have repented of his sins long ago.  

       Better yet if he would confess the wrongs he has done to the Church and the faithful by making a public apology and doing public penance as has been done in the Church in years past.  That would have a cleansing effect.  He is now facing a canonical trial.

      Prayer, Virtue, and Holiness. When Byzantine Catholic Fr. Basil Sheregy (R.I.P.) related to me that he does spiritual reading and prayer up to 8 hours a day, I asked in amazement, “Why so much?”  He answered:  “There is nobody in this world more happy than a good priest and nobody in this world more miserable than a bad priest."  

       When a priest neglects his prayer life, the Divine Office, and monthly confession, he’s headed for trouble as his resistance to temptation is lowered.  Engaging in pornography, a serious sin in itself, increases the likelihood of sexual abuse by laymen and priests alike as one sin leads to another. 

    The very productive and busy Bishop Sheen somehow found time for a daily Eucharistic holy hour every day without fail and composed his weekly nationwide television talks in front of the Blessed Sacrament. St. Pope John Paul the Great went to confession weekly in his quest for holiness and self improvement.

The Church urgently needs not only good priests, but holy priests in the mold of St. John Vianney, not brilliant and gifted Theodore McCarricks.  The witness and light of holy priests shining bright in every diocese and parish are needed to bring the fallen away back to the faith.   

     Holiness and virtue must be the overriding goal of the seminary; holiness and virtue must be the overriding goal of the parish for both the pastor and the people he shepherds as they grow together.  Every priest should have a spiritual director to whom he is accountable and belong to a mutual support group.  Their social life should center around their parish family.  The Bishop should have a mandatory retreat together with his priests at least once a year.  

     Jeffrey Monforton, Bishop of Steubenville, wrote in his letter to the priests of his diocese: “No institutional initiative is a substitute for clear, unambiguous, bold teaching about chastity and the growth in virtue and holiness that God calls all individuals to: married, single, consecrated, and ordained.”

       The ultimate solution for all lies in fidelity to Church teaching and the vows of their state of life, prayer, and a return to the Gospel.......to live it without compromise as Catherine de Hueck Doherty, the founder of Madonna House, advocated.

     If a priest breaks his vow of celibacy, homosexual or heterosexual even if consensual among adults, his Bishop should suspend him from his priestly faculties for at least 6 months of prayer, penance, psychological counseling, and spiritual direction.  A second offense merits being defrocked.  For child abuse or sexual assault, there should be no second chance.  Those who remain after this purification can rebuild Christ’s Church with the help of the laity.  
  Robert George sees the entire problem as essentially infidelity, stating, “These sins (sexual sins of any kind) are toxic to the priestly ministry.  Priests who cannot or will not avoid them cannot effectively carry out their mission” (https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/08/a-crisis-of-infidelity).
  Seminary Formation. Thus fidelity should be emphasized constantly in seminary formation, in coursework, and reinforced by posters.........as in the Marines, "semper fidelis" or "always faithful".  Seminary life must be intense as in the military academies......daily Mass, a daily holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, daily rosary, the liturgy of the hours, and a personal spiritual director.  

Their academic preparation must be rigorous and demanding as at Josephinum in Columbus…….philosophy, Theology, catechetics, parish administration, Church teaching, Church History, homiletics, sociology, psychology, counseling, pastoral summer internships in a parish, etc.    

    Yes indeed, seminarians must prepare themselves for spiritual combat and not desert the cause for sexual sin, but to be faithful warriors for Christ the King and His Queen Mother, our mother as well.

It’s all about fidelity for religious and laity alike……fidelity to God, fidelity to Church teaching despite any disagreement, fidelity to one’s vows, fidelity to one’s vocation.  Since priests are prime targets of the forces of evil, they must be constantly trained before and after ordination for spiritual combat.  Laity and religious are all part of the Church Militant.  Priests must be the Green Berets or Special Forces of the Church..…..the best that the Church has in holiness, virtue, reliability, and competence.

   Priests and seminarians must learn that the Theology of the Body, promulgated by St. Pope John Paul II, applies not only to the laity, but also to priests and religious.  Priests and brothers must give themselves completely to the Church, their bride.  Nuns must give themselves completely to Christ. 

 In other words seminaries must be rigorous…….boot camps of holiness and virtue that are followed up in religious communities, rectories, diocesan retreats, and support groups for priests.  Spiritual training and formation must be ongoing throughout a priest's career as in the military.  Parishes, Catholic schools & colleges, and homes must be schools of holiness and virtue for the laity and possible future priests.  Holy and virtuous priests don't abuse.  Then the Church (priests, religious, and laity) will change the world for Christ.   

        Those who have deep seated same sex attraction and are at high risk for breaking their vow of celibacy should not be admitted to the seminary which is not a place for overcoming a psychological disorder.  Those who slip through the cracks and are ordained must struggle with their sexual identity, so deep that celibacy is extremely difficult to maintain despite a well intentioned and sincere vow.  Thus every diocese should have at least one spiritual director well versed in psychology to help priests who are struggling with homosexuality under strict confidentiality.  Fidelity to their vows in the face of struggle will make them saints.
During the March for Life and at the motel, I had the opportunity to talk to priests and a dozen seminarians studying at Mundelein in Chicago, St. John’s in Boston, Sacred Heart in Detroit, Mt. St. Mary’s in Cincinnati, Josephinum in Columbus, and Catholic University in Washington.  

Although not a random sample of seminaries, I was encouraged in my rather brief conversations with them.  Their academics, spiritual formation, and selection seem to be sound.  The commission of examiners from the Vatican in 2002 or so seem to have had a significant effect.
    Fr. Paul Sullins, a researcher at the Ruth Institute found a strong linkage between the incidence of abuse and homosexuality in the priesthood and in seminaries (see http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/is-catholic-clergy-sex-abuse-related-to-homosexual-priests).  

       On the August 29 edition of the “World Over” on EWTN television Fr. Sullins revealed another encouraging finding.  During the 1980s half of newly ordained priests were homosexual, products of seminaries where even faculty had sexual relations with seminarians.  Today about one third of priests over the age of 50 are homosexual, but only about 1/30 of priests less than 50 are homosexual.

      Secular priests are not bound by a vow of poverty.  However, all priests should live a modest lifestyle, enough to carry on their mission and have a modest annual vacation.  Bishops should live at the same level as their priests.  One prominent archbishop lives in an expensive penthouse, clearly not in the footsteps of the Church's founder and their model, Jesus Christ.  

     They must be responsible in the use of the hard earned contributions of the faithful.  Bishop David Zubik inherited a mansion as his residence in Pittsburgh, which a predecessor received as a donation, but sold it and lives a more modest lifestyle.

Bishops must have the courage to stop clerical abuse, report predators to the authorities when minors are involved, break up any homosexual network of priests, suspend priests from ministry, have them defrocked, do what has to be done, and do what is right despite scandal and consequences.  Cover-up only postpones the inevitable scandal.

Bishop Monforton set the example in his Diocese of Steubenville in the way he recently handled a fallen priest, who impregnated one of his 17 year old altar girls with whom he fell in love.  Her willing participation in the romance does not mitigate the moral and criminal guilt of the 45 year old priest for using his position of power and authority to sexually abuse a minor.  

     A very personable and likeable guy, respected and in good standing, and coming from a beautiful Catholic family, no one would think that weakness would overcome him.  Everyone who knew him was shocked.  Since the girl was pregnant and abortion would only compound one serious sin with another sin much more serious…….infanticide, he had no moral choice, but to inform his bishop whose response was immediate and decisive. 
With great sadness Bishop Monforton had to remove the wayward priest as pastor and instructed all of his pastors to announce at every Mass the next day that the priest is suspended from his priestly duties.  His unflattering mug shot appeared in Ohio newspapers and the priest is now languishing in prison.  His 12 year prison term can be a pathway to sanctity if he makes his confinement a life of prayer and ministering to his fellow inmates.

         This fallen priest came from a devout Catholic family that must have been so proud of their son in the priesthood.  Imagine how devastated they were when the scandal broke.  His parents probably did everything right and are soul searching as to what they did wrong and how this could happen.  They must realize that their wayward son has a free will.

Do the Scandals Merit Leaving the Church?

The fallen away and the weak in faith do not realize that Jesus Christ is always with us and the GATES OF HELL SHALL NEVER PREVAIL AGAINST THE CHURCH He founded (Matthew 16:18).  “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).  And we are seeing that.
According to one quote, “If sin and corruption in the Church would justify leaving it, I would have left it after Judas betrayed Christ and hanged himself”.  The Mystical Body of Christ, the Church is holy, but often those in it are not.  Throughout history the Church has been full of heroic saints and also despicable sinners among the laity and often among the religious who profess to give their lives to God.
However, no amount of corruption and no sin by any priest or bishop can take anything away from the essence of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ……..the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist and the other sacraments as sources of grace, the devotions, the guidance, catechetics, the schools, the charitable work, all to help us on our journey to eternity.  

      We don’t assist at Mass for the priest, but for God.  The abuser priest, the unfaithful priest may be living in serious sin and his soul is in danger, but the Mass he says is still valid.  St. Francis of Assisi saw that very clearly when he encountered a notoriously corrupt priest; the saint knelt down and kissed the cleric’s hand.
    If people, laity and religious alike, would only follow the Gospel and Church teaching as summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, they would be much happier and avoid a lot of misery.  Dissent on Church teaching since the 1960s, including the 1968 landmark encyclical “Humanae Vitae”, has led many into sin. 

     Famous last words of a serious sin where Church teaching is rejected: “There’s nothing wrong with it; it’s not a sin” be it artificial contraception, abortion, or sexual sin.  By playing mind games with the mental gymnastics of rationalization one can convince himself that wrong is right and justify grave sin in his own mind.  This reminds us of the biblical passage: “the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).  Without the absolute moral standards in Church teaching given by God, immorality reigns.

 Where Sin Abounds, Grace Abounds the More 

St. Francis of Assisi
St. Teresa of Avila

St. Ignatius Loyola
St. Teresa of Avila

St. Charles Borromeo
Over the centuries whenever the Church is in crisis or engulfed by corruption, God would raise up great saints to rescue the faithful, clean up the mess, and be catalysts of reform.  The same is happening in modern times.

      Ever since Adam and Eve, there has been a constant battle between good and evil outside and inside the Church, within the family, within society.......local, national, and international.  The current clerical abuse crisis and its eventual solution is the chapter we are now living through.  

Over the centuries God raised up great saints to clean up messes after periods of corruption.  St. Paul fought corruption among the Christians of Corinth in Greece saying: “It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans……And you are inflated with pride…..The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst” (1 Cor 5:1-3).
  Christ told St. Francis (1182-226) in the 13th Century “Rebuild my Church” and he did along with such great saints as St. Clare (1194-1253), St. Dominic (1170-1221), St. Thomas Aquinas (1227-1274), and many others.  In the 14th century, St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) bemoaned the “stench of sin” coming from the papal court and prophesied that even the demons were disgusted by the homosexual activity they had tempted priests into and the cover-up by their superiors!

    Corruption and sin laid the ground work for the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century which tore the Church apart and we still suffer from it today, but God raised the great saints of the Counter-reformation………St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), St. Philip Neri (1515-1595), St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), and so many more that St. John Bellarmine called the 16th Century the “Century of the Saints.

There’s even some beauty in it all. The devil has worked very hard to destroy the Church since its very inception, starting with Judas.  It took 300 years of persecution before the Church was finally established in the Roman Empire.  Then centuries of alternating periods of holiness and corruption followed.  There were even corrupt popes.  The devil has always been trying to destroy the Church, focusing on his two primary targets, families and priests, as he is doing at this very moment.
Napoleon Bonaparte told Pope Pius VI that he would destroy the Church.  The good Pope answered, “We ourselves tried to destroy it and could not; you won’t either”.  Adolph Hitler tried; Joseph Stalin tried; Mao Zedong tried; many other tyrants tried.  If the Church were simply a human institution it would have never survived for 20 centuries.  The Church would have been placed on the ash heap of history.  

But the Church is also divine.  Thus we know that the gates of hell shall never, never prevail, no matter how bad the scandal.  It is miraculous that the Church has gotten through every sort of crisis for almost 2000 years.  It will get through this crisis as well and with the help of God come out stronger for it.
As members of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, we ask for forgiveness from God and from the victims, resolving to do our part in reparation and the renewal and purification of the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  As Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “The devil has his hour, but God will have His day”.  It's Friday, but Sunday is coming.

Note:  This blog was first posted on August 7, 2018.  However, as new revelations came to light, I added to it over the next couple of months.


A Review of Bishop Barron’s Book: Letter to a Suffering Church
By Deacon John V. Sebastian

     I just finished reading Bishop Robert Barron's short new book, "Letter to a Suffering Church, A Bishop Speaks On The Sexual Abuse Crisis."   I want to strongly recommend this book to everyone, from high school age through senior citizen.  It's only 57 pages long.  I downloaded the book from Amazon on my I-Pad and Kindle for just 99 cents.  Hard copies are now in all major book stores or go to www.wordonfire.org or https://order.sufferingchurchbook.com/order

     Bishop Barron begins his book by writing: "This book is a cri de coeur, a cry from the heart.  The sexual abuse scandal has been for me, for millions of other Catholics, and especially for the victim-survivors, lacerating.  I have written this book for my fellow Catholics who feel, understandably, demoralized, scandalized, angry beyond words, and ready to quit (the church).  My prayer is that these reflections might encourage Catholics who are attempting to navigate today in very choppy waters."

     There are only five chapters in the book: "The Devil's Masterpiece; Light From Scripture; We Have Been Here Before; Why Should We Stay?"; and finally, "The Way Forward."  Bishop Barron concludes that "I know many Catholics are sorely tempted just to give up on the Church, to join another religious group, or perhaps to become one of the religiously unaffiliated.  But this is not the time to leave; it is the time to stay and fight."  In the book, Bishop Barron tells us how we, all of us, clergy and laity, can effect change in the church and in ourselves, by fighting this scourge in a variety of specific ways. He finishes by writing: "Perhaps the very best way to be a disciple of Jesus right now is to stay and fight for His Church."
     Please suggest this book to everyone in your family, especially those in your family that are considering leaving the Church or have drifted away from our Catholic faith.  The church has survived crises in the past and it will survive this one.  Why?  Jesus Christ, our Lord, has promised that He will be with His Church forever and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I believe in the Church.  I believe in what we profess in the Creed.  I believe in the Sacraments.  And I believe Jesus.

Deacon John Sebastian    


Sources of Possible Interest

Bishop Robert Barron, Letter to a Suffering Church. Park Ridge, IL: Word on Fire, 2019.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_sexual_abuse_cases - an overview of Catholic Church sexual abuse cases with a summary of the John Jay Report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  The research was done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.  The link to the complete report is:

https://www.ydr.com/story/news/2018/08/14/pa-grand-jury-report-catholic-clergy-sexual-abuse-names-details-catholic-dioceses/948937002/ - a list of the 301 Pennsylvania priests accused of clerical child abuse in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Allentown, and Scranton.  Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown were investigated previously.  These priests are accused, but not necessarily convicted.

https://uploads.weconnect.com/mce/70ac2ffcf11f24d59360e0d4cefb1816a96053a4/Bishops%20Letter.pdf – Letter of Jeffrey Monforton, Bishop of Steubenville to the priests of his diocese.

https://www.scribd.com/document/387040553/TESTIMONY-of-His-Excellency-Carlo-Maria-Vigano-Titular-Archbishop-of-Ulpiana-Apostolic-Nuncio - August 2018 Letter/Testimony of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, ex Nuncio to the United States on ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

http://kofc.org/en/resources/communications/supreme-knight-letter-to-chaplains.pdf - Letter of the Supreme Knight Carl Anderson to all chaplains and members of the Knights of Columbus regarding the Clerical Abuse Crisis.

http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm - the official Catechism of the Catholic Church full text.

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/3-weeks-ago-revealed-abused-123015213.html - Testimony of a Survivor 30 Years Later.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Edgar_McCarrick - former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

http://www.catherinedoherty.org – the life and apostolic work of Baroness Catherine de Hueck Doherty & Madonna House.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Vianney - St. John Vianney, the "Curé d'Ars", and patron of parish priests.

http://www.milarch.org/father-capodanno-bio/ - Military Archdiocese biography of Fr. Vincent Capodanno.

http://www.capodannoguild.org/ - Fr. Capodanno Guild biography and movie.

http://www.fultonsheen.com/about - Bishop Fulton J. Sheen talks and biography.


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