The Catholic Church Needs Purification, Renewal and Restoration to Rise to a New Missionary Moment
Catholic Online intentionally chose to NOT enter into the feeding frenzy
The allegations concerning clergy who have committed egregious sins and succumbed to the basest of sexual deviance- by committing criminal, immoral acts against children - demand a brutally honest assessment concerning the morally depleted condition of our beloved Church in the more devastated parts of the vineyard. The perpetrators of these abuses must be stopped and face the consequences of their acts. There is mercy for them. However, it is on the other side of justice for the victims and housecleaning for the Church. They know that they have sinned and hiding will not free them from the bondage.
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - All weekend long the European Press was rife with speculation over a 300 page report from three cardinals given to Pope Benedict XVI on December 17, 2012. It reflected the results of an investigation into the Vati- Leaks episode. Speculation over the content of the report led to a series of articles in the European press which filtered back to the States over the weekend. Catholic Online intentionally chose to NOT enter into the feeding frenzy. The sources were questionable and the tenor was sensational.
Some reports insinuated that the contents of the report could have contributed to the Pope's decision to resign his office. They offered no objective proof. That claim simply did not fit what we know to be true about the man who has served with such humility, integrity, holiness, theological profundity and quiet courage for nearly eight years, Pope Benedict XVI.
Among the more salacious claims was that the report exposed some sort of lavender mafia, a homosexual network of clerics which may have even attempted to blackmail the Pope. The feeding frenzy in the European press finally led to an editorial from Fr Federico Lombardi entitled A Penitential Time which can be read in its entirety here.
He noted "There is no lack, in fact, of those who seek to profit from the moment of surprise and disorientation of the spiritually naive to sow confusion and to discredit the Church and its governance, making recourse to old tools, such as gossip, misinformation and sometimes slander, or exercising unacceptable pressures to condition the exercise of the voting duty on the part of one or another member of the College of Cardinals, who they consider to be objectionable for one reason or another."
"In the majority of cases, those who present themselves as judges, making heavy moral judgments, do not, in truth, have any authority to do so. Those who consider money, sex and power before all else and are used to reading diverse realities from these perspectives, are unable to see anything else, even in the Church, because they are unable to gaze toward the heights or descend to the depths in order to grasp the spiritual dimensions and reasons of existence."
"This results in a description of the Church and of many of its members that is profoundly unjust. But all of this will not change the attitude of believers; it will not erode the faith and the hope with which they see the Lord, who promised to accompany his Church."
This report will be handed to the next successor of Peter. There is little doubt it will contain news concerning corruption within the Church, including sexual immorality and sin committed by clerics, priests, deacons and Bishops. This is a troubling time in our Church.
I recently received a distressing letter from a devout Catholic and gifted writer whom I greatly admire Monday morning. She found out that her home parish was a place where a sexual predator priest from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was sent by now Cardinal Mahoney after having been accused. She was justifiably angry and disillusioned that a child predator priest was sent to potentially victimize more children.
This came on the heels of the startling announcement that Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland, a strong defender of life and marriage who as of Friday had denied allegations he had engaged in immoral acts with priests thirty years ago, had his retirement accepted by the Pope.
After the allegations surfaced last week the Cardinal had announced that that he had retained legal counsel and was going to attend the papal convocation. Though we must presume the good for all who serve the Church, the abrupt change in direction was distressing to say the least, especially for this seasoned civil trial and appellate lawyer.
The allegations concerning clergy who have committed egregious sins and succumbed to the basest of sexual deviance- by committing criminal, immoral acts against children - demand a brutally honest assessment concerning the morally depleted condition of our beloved Church in the more devastated parts of the vineyard.
Blessed John Paul II labeled the cultural climate that has given us the rancid fruit of unrestricted abortion, euthanasia, and growing disregard for the dignity of every human person a culture of death. There is a common root between many of the controversial issues that are at the foundation of much of our contemporary crisis, it is infidelity. The culture of death has crept into the sanctuary of the Church.
There is a failure to respect the dignity of every human person because they are human persons, created in the very image of God. Rather than being respected and honored, human persons are treated as commodities to be used and abused. Rather than being seen as an integral part of the human person, the human body is reduced to a sexual object to be used, abused or molested. This lies at the root of the sin of pornography as well as the sexual acting out of what is often begun in the heart - in acts that the sacred scripture calls the sins of the flesh.
The late Pope referred to abortion as the cutting edge of this culture of death. It is the most blatant example of the use of another person. We no longer protect our smallest members but rather encourage mothers to participate in destroying their own child in the former sanctuary of the womb, the first home of every person.
Trafficking in parts of aborted children hides under a false claim of progress. Every time a stem cell is extracted from an embryonic human person, he or she is killed. No matter how these techniques are dressed up as science and no matter how they promise to prolong our lives (a claim as of yet unproven) they are immoral.
Some choices are always and everywhere wrong and intrinsically immoral. They violate the natural law, even if they are legal under current positive law. It is always and everywhere wrong to use people and treat them as objects, no matter what the purported end or goal of the use or the age of the human person.
Faithful Catholics support adult stem cell research and fetal cord blood research because we support all scientifically legitimate and moral research that does not destroy life. We believe that good science must serve the person and the common good. However, we reject destroying life for the use of another. People should never be used as a means to an end.
This error lies at the root of the Catholic rejection of artificial contraception. Contracepted sexual activity - no matter how well the argument in favor of artificial contraception is dressed up in the finest sophistry by dissidents within our own Church - is never a complete gift of self. It is not open to life; therefore it is not unitive or pro-creative. It involves a use of the other.
Contraception is immoral because it impedes the sexual expression of authentic love as the full and complete gift of self in the marital embrace. The Catholic Church is not unenlightened. She is not against sex. Rather, she proclaims the full understanding of the beauty and the dignity of sexual relations as proper only in marriage. The Catholic Church is actually the guardian of the truth about the beauty of sexual love in an age given over to self centeredness and sexual libertinism.
The Church rejects artificial contraception and insists on the proper use of natural family planning within marriage. Again, not because she is opposed to sexual relations. That would be heresy. Rather, because she proclaims the dignity, beauty and splendor of conjugal love between spouses as a sign of the complete gift of self.
Sexual relations belong exclusively within the embrace of faithful, chaste marriage. They are a part of the sacramental nature of Christian marriage. Marital sexual relations, rooted in the love that is the gift of self to the beloved, should always be open to new life. They are a participation in the mystery of communion, sharing in the creative and redemptive nature of the Christian mission.
The problem we face in the Catholic Church is infidelity. The problem we face in the Church is sin. Many of the incidents reported among the minority of clergy who have sinned against their vowed celibacy involve homosexual acts. In many instances, the activities in which they engaged constitute pederasty, a term derived from an ancient Greek word that referred to sexual relationships between men and boys.
The teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality is clear, compassionate, and true. Homosexual orientation is disordered. Homosexual temptation, like every other sexual temptation, is not sin. However, homosexual acts are ALWAYS sin. Homosexual acts can never accomplish the ends (in the philosophical and theological sense of the word - goal) of authentic love.
The sexual expression of love is reserved for the marital conjugal act, the marital embrace. The Catholic Church rightly proclaims that every marital sexual act must be both unitive (fulfilling the divine mandate of marriage that the two shall be as one) and procreative, or open to life. Homosexual sexual acts are not procreative and cannot be unitive.
While the Church teaches that we must respect the dignity of every person, including homosexual persons, it clearly and unequivocally teaches that homosexual acts are always and everywhere intrinsically immoral and sinful. Homosexual sexual acts constitute a use of the body of another.
Such sexual activity, when forced on a child by one in a position of power - particularly by a priest, bishop or deacon- is an act of evil in its most heinous form. It constitutes a spiritual plundering and the attempt to destroy a soul. It is also, and rightly so, criminal - and should be prosecuted.
Not speaking the truth is never compassionate. Those who struggle with homosexual temptations need to hear this truth as well. There is hope and forgiveness for everyone in the Lord. His Church presents the way and provides the pastoral resources for people who struggle with homosexual temptation and orientation to find freedom and fulfillment.
However, they must listen to the Church, not to those who purport to speak in her name and then tell them lies. What the Catholic Church teaches on this subject is true. The egregious nature of the sexual behavior and abuse among a small minority of clergy is clear to anyone who accepts the unbroken teaching of the Catholic Church. That teaching will not change because it cannot change.
The exposure of sexual sin among Catholic clergy is not accidental in its timing. It is a part of a time of purification. This is not the first time in our history as a Church that clergy reform accompanied a time of restoration. The words of the Lord in the Gospel of Mark come to mind as I write on this subject, "For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open" (Mark 4:22).
There have been other times in the history of the Church when the clergy have been corrupted. God always begins His Spring cleaning in His own house. As the Apostle Peter wrote to the Church of the first millennium during another great missionary age: "the time has come for judgment to begin with the House of God." (1 Peter 4:17)
Every man, woman and child ever created is called to live in that House. We must make it a place where they can truly find redemption, rest and safety; and discover the fullness of their destiny in Jesus Christ. The perpetrators of these abuses must be stopped and face the consequences of their acts. There is mercy for them. However, it is on the other side of justice for the victims and housecleaning for the Church. They know that they have sinned and hiding will not free them from the bondage.
The victims must be helped with healing and restitution. The Church must be purified if she hopes to rise to the challenge of her missionary task in this Third Christian Millennium. That means that her clergy - Priests, Bishops and Deacons - must all be holy as the Lord Himself is holy.
If the Church is going to lead this contemporary age out of the Culture of Death, she must become a Culture of Life and a civilization of love. Her clergy must be men who love, live and serve as the One who founded this Church loved, lived and served.
The Catholic Church is poised for a new missionary age. She needs Purification, Renewal and Restoration to Rise to the Moment. On the day of the Pope's resignation, lightning struck the Vatican. I do not intend to join the sensationalist reports which speculated concerning the incident.
However, if that lightning symbolizes exposing what needs to be exposed so that the Church can be purified for her irreplaceable mission, I say, bring it on.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
Keywords: purification, sexual abuse scandal, catholic church, clergy abuse, Cardinal Mahoney, Conclave, New pope, Pope Benedict XVI, purification, renewal, Catholic Church crisis, clergy sex abuse, Pope benedict XVI, Deacon Keith Fournier
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