What a week and a half it has been. I do not know what it looks like if you only read the secular press. I do not know what it looks like for non-Catholic Christians. I do not even wholly know what it looks like for Catholics who are not plugged into Catholic social media.
But I know this: it has been one of the wildest two weeks I have experienced in the church.
Part of it started in June, with McCarrick sexually harassing and abusing seminaries yet somehow still rising in the ranks.
This did not hit the secular news. It was actually Catholic journalists who uncovered it, brought it to life and blew it open. Now, he is stripped of his title and confined.
But he never should have gotten as far as he did.
The scandal goes deeper than the creepiness of pederasty (like we were ancient Greeks or something). These were supposed to be our shepherds, our fathers, they were supposed to be men of God.
And they failed.
Those seminaries were supposed to be houses of formation, not distortion, spiritual hermitages where men could deepen their faith, discern their vocation and delve into the mysteries of the Church’s teaching preparing them for the pastoral care of the people of God.
Instead, it destroyed them.
Was it everywhere? I knew of the failings of my own diocese (we are bankrupt), but I held onto this hope that elsewhere in the world there were priests and bishops who not only love the Church but were courageous enough to talk about and it takes the risks God calls us to take.
I wrote the priests from the podcast, “Catholic Stuff You Should Know.” The priest who responded reassured me that it was not as widespread as it seems, that it was not the norm, and cautioned me in the direction my heart would take in sorting through this mess.
Well, the onslaught continued. The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report revealed the heinous crimes of clergy and Fr. Dwight Longenecker, with typical insight and concise clarity posted “Cardinal Whirl Resigns.”
The idea that bishops who failed would resign and commit themselves to prayer, penance, and service of the least of our brothers, whispered into my heart what ought to be. This ought to be the spirit of our leaders.
Those priests on “Catholic Stuff” took up the call from their listeners and had a podcast (THE SCANDAL AND THE SCOURING) on the subject. I needed this. I needed to hear from the men of the cloth saying they are heartbroken. Otherwise, it feels very much like we are on the outside and alone, abandoned by our shepherds, left to the wolves of the world on one side and their own distorted sexual vision on the other.
Fr. Longenecker, less humorously, more practically made a list of “What the Bishops Should do…”
By this time, social media had erupted. Female Catholic bloggers began #sackclothandashes calling for a time of reparation, like another Lent, to beg God for mercy on our Church and to bring these men back into the light of grace that they may do their duty in justice. From August 22 to Michaelmas, September 29, we would pray, fast and make sacrifice for reparation.
This is the John Paul II generation, taught we could do great things, taught to love the Church and love her shepherds. We are in tears, in rage, in astonishment, but instead of attacking Mother Church, we dove deeper into her traditions, looking for answers, knowing it was these men who were failing the Church, not the Church failing us.
The weekend brought an even more wild wave of news:
We ask ourselves, WHAT FRANCIS KNEW.
We were not surprised to see California produced more corruption with the retiring bishop of San Jose planning to move in a 5-bedroom 2.3 million dollar house upon retirement. Following the heroic trend, he changed plans once the media caught wind of it. We would, perhaps, prefer to see those “leaders” consider doing the right thing before they’ve been caught, you know, because it is
the right thing to do.
There were great articles about how this could happen, how the bishops could become so far removed from the real world to perceive themselves above the law of God. Mass readings called out bad shepherds, pasturing themselves, Jeremiah lamented.
And out of the ashes, Fr. Longenecker wrote, THE COMING CATHOLIC RENEWAL AND THE TREE OF GONDOR.
Something could happen. Something could change. But then Fr. Longenecker gave us a dose of reality. As much as we want these bishops to resign and Pope Francis to tell us what he knew, he likely won’t, they won’t. Instead of speaking truth, Francis will likely just remain silent, as he did with the dubia, when faithful Catholics wanted to know what he meant. He refused to clarify. And awful, infuriating and likely accurate prediction.
It is a marvel that I could end this week feeling inspired and hopeful, but I do.
That bit of magic came from Al Kresta, who explored in depth what we know and what we do not know on his radio program, “Kresta in the Afternoon.” Kresta is a journalist and as a journalist, he takes a different approach. He interviews journalists. It was the journalists who first brought this to light and who will not let it rest, even as Francis refuses to tell us the truth.
I invite you to listen for yourself. As the days moved forward, Kresta comes to the belief that like the great crises in the Church, occurring approximately every 500 years, this will be another. He calls it the era of sexual heresy.
The root of this evil grew in denying the Church’s authority in sexual morality. A personal denial, then a refusal to teach her teachings, a refusal to counsel others to follow her teachings, then a refusal to follow her teachings. The teachings on sexual morality stem from a belief in the goodness of God’s creation and that one must never use another person. The sexual act is to be one of total self-gift, committed in marriage, unitive and procreative. When it becomes about me, use, or merely pleasure, all kinds of distortion can come into play, reaching, ultimately, at the extreme ends, the disregard of the other person in rape or abuse.
Don’t believe me or want to know more where I’m getting this stuff? Read Humanae Vitae.
There is a lot more to be said but this post has gone on long enough.
I am praying for the victims. I am praying for the truth to be revealed. I want to see those filing cabinets wide open. Let every last crime come to light. Only then, can our Church be purified and renewed.