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Sexual Abuse by Catholic Clergy Demands Disclosure, Exposure, Prosecution and Explanation
By Deacon Keith Fournier
May 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The exposure of sexual sin among Catholic clergy is not accidental in its timing. It is a part of a time of purification. Such sexual activity, particularly when forced on a child by one in a position of power - priest, bishop or deacon- is an act of evil in its most heinous form. It constitutes a spiritual plundering and attempt to destroy a soul. It is also criminal - and it should be prosecuted. 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)
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On April 5, 2013, Pope Francis met with Archbishop Gerhard L. Muller, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Among the topics discussed was clerical sexual abuse. The new Pope made crystal clear his high regard for the strong approach of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, to confronting this evil.
He directed Archbishop Muller to continue the zero tolerance approach of Benedict XVI and to "act decisively" against sexual abuse. He charged him to carry out "due proceedings against the guilty." After the meeting the Vatican released a statement which included these directions to the CDF:
"To act decisively concerning cases of sexual abuse - First of all by promoting measures for the protection of minors, as well as in offering assistance to those who have suffered abuse, carrying out due proceedings against the guilty, and in the commitment of bishops' conferences to formulate and implement the necessary directives in this area that is so important for the Church's witness and credibility."
Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy needs to be disclosed, exposed, prosecuted and explained. This Pope will do that. He will also address the evil which lies at the root of the problem. He has no hesitation addressing and confronting evil, in all of its manifestations. Several of his daily homilies recently reaffirmed that the only way to ultimately overcome evil is through Jesus Christ.
On April 30 he said: "He (Jesus Christ) is the only One who can look into the face of evil and overcome it. The prince of the world comes but can do nothing against me: if we don't want the prince of this world to take the Church into his hands, we must entrust it to the One who can defeat the prince of this world."
On May 5th he proclaimed, "The way of the Christians is the way of Jesus. If we want to be followers of Jesus, there is no other way: none other than that, which He indicated to us - and one of the consequences of this is hatred - it is the hatred of the world, and also the prince of this world. He ended his comment with this reminder, "There can be no dialogue with the prince of this world: let this be clear!"
When I read reports of sexual abuse committed by Catholic Clergy, I recall the words of Blessed John Paul II on April 23, 2002: "We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community, a purification that is urgently needed if the Church is to preach more effectively the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its liberating force."
He continued, "Now you must ensure that where sin increased, grace will all the more abound (cf. Rom 5:20). So much pain, so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier Church"
We are still in the midst of the necessary cleanup operation. However, great progress is being made. It is important to remember that sexual abuse has been committed by a very small group of Catholic clergy. It must also be seen for what it is, a rejection of, the clear moral teaching of the Catholic Church. The problem is infidelity. The problem is sin. The problem is evil.
Blessed John Paul II labeled the cultural climate that gave us unrestricted abortion, euthanasia, and growing disregard for the dignity of every human person a culture of death. An expression of 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 also 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.
The Catholic Church is 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, not because she is opposed to sexual relations.
Rather, because she proclaims the dignity, beauty and splendor of conjugal love only between married spouses as a sign of the complete gift of self within the sacramental sign of marriage. Sexual activity belongs exclusively within the embrace of faithful, chaste marriage.
Marital sexual relations, rooted in the gift of self to the beloved, should always be open to new life. Contracepted sexual activity is never a completed gift of self. It is also not open to life; therefore it is neither unitive nor pro-creative. It involves a use of the other.
We also need to be clear concerning the place of homosexual activity in this crisis. Even if it is politically incorrect to do so in some circles. 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 temptation, even when it rises to what is often called homosexual orientation is not sin. However, homosexual acts are. Such acts are disordered. They can never accomplish the ends of authentic human love in the Divine Plan.
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 intrinsically immoral and sinful. Homosexual sexual acts constitute a sexual use of the body of another. Pederasty is particulaly vile.
Not speaking the truth is not compassionate; those who struggle with homosexual temptation or even orientation need to hear 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.
The exposure of sexual sin among Catholic clergy is not accidental in its timing. It is a part of a time of purification. Such sexual activity, particularly when forced on a child by one in a position of power - priest, bishop or deacon- is an act of evil in its most heinous form. It constitutes a spiritual plundering and attempt to destroy a soul. It is also criminal - and it should be prosecuted.
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)
This is not the first time in our history as a Church that clergy reform accompanied a time of restoration. The Catholic Church in this hour needs purification, renewal and restoration. If we believe that every man, woman and child ever created is called to live in that House of God, we need to make it a place of refuge, healing and holiness where they can discover the fullness of their destiny in Jesus Christ.
The clergy perpetrators of sexual abuse must face the consequences of their acts. Their acts must incur just punishment. The victims must be helped with healing and restitution. The Church must be purified of sin. If the Catholic Church hopes to lead this contemporary age out of the Culture of Death, she must be 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. Nothing less will do. They are, after all, His messengers and His arms, and His Hands, in a contemporary world that desperately needs His love and redemption.
The only subject I have not yet addressed is the explanation. One of the most confusing areas in this mess raises a question among the lay faithful. The most prevalent version is "Why do priests who commit such acts continue to be priests?" However, the question applies to Bishops, who have the fullness of orders, and even deacons who, though ordained unto service and not priesthood, are clerics.
It is important to note that offending clerics are properly removed from active ministry, at least now. They can no longer function as priests, or deacons or bishops. However, priesthood is not a job, it is an office. Ordination confers a mark on the soul, an imprint. I end with these paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church which help to explain this indelible character of sacred ordination in Catholic theology:
1581 This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ's instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king.
1582 As in the case of Baptism and Confirmation this share in Christ's office is granted once for all. The sacrament of Holy Orders, like the other two, confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily.
1583 It is true that someone validly ordained can, for grave reasons, be discharged from the obligations and functions linked to ordination, or can be forbidden to exercise them; but he cannot become a layman again in the strict sense, because the character imprinted by ordination is forever. The vocation and mission received on the day of his ordination mark him permanently.
1584 Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting. St. Augustine states this forcefully: As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ's gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.
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