Call Me Cynical, But When A Religious Leader Responds To A Scandal This Way, I Check My Pockets…

The Pope takes a page from Jimmy’s playbook!

Last week the Vatican  began a three-week-long assembly to discuss how to bring young people back into the Catholic Church. As the Synod of Bishops began, Pope Francis said, “This moment has highlighted a church that needs to listen.”

No, the moment  highlights a church that needs to stop letting its priests molest kids.

Protesters have been much in evidence at the gathering,  denouncing what they (and I) see as the Vatican’s refusal to take necessary actions to ensure that sexual predator priests and those who cover up for them be stopped. Said one protester, a victim himself, “They should center the discussions where it hurts most — and this is the outrageous abuse of power, and the thousands and thousands of children and young people hurt by officials of the church in the last decades all over the world. You can’t discuss youth without talking about this point.”

Other victims held up placards demanding, “No More Cover Up”; “Make Zero Tolerance Real”; “Establish an International Inquiry and Justice Commission”  in Italian and English.

So far, the Pope’s approach to the renewed scandal has been to point fingers, or change the subject. He did publish a letter in August that appeared to be a holy, Italian version of “huminahuminahumina,” as Ralph Kramden used to say when words and wit failed him in a crisis. That the Pope’s efforts to either ignore, or duck, or spin his accountability for the fact that children are still not safe around priests almost 20 years after the scandal of high-level cover-ups and the facilitating of serial sexual assaults in the Church across the globe were not going well became clearer than ever last week, when Francis adopted the same tragedy used by Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Lee Baker, Ted Haggard and so many other TV evangelist con artists did when they were caught either with a hand up a dress or in the till.

He blamed the Devil.

Last week, before the Synod opened, he asked Catholics around the world to recite a special prayer every day in October to try to beat him back. Yes, October is “Pray to Stop Satan From Making Good Priests Rape Children Month”!

“(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past,” he wrote. He asks all Catholics to recite the rosary every day in October, and to follow it with a prayer to St. Michael, the Archangel that the Bible credits  as the leader of the angels that ejected Lucifer from Paradise. The prayer was traditionally said after Mass until 1964, but fell into disuse as the Church modernized.

The prayer reads:

“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

This is a really clever solution to the crashing popularity of the Pope in the wake of recent disclosures of sexual abuse and cover-ups in Australia, Ireland, the United States and Germany. A survey released by the Pew Research Center right before the Synod found that 62% of Catholics in the United States believe the Pope is doing an “only fair” or “poor” job in addressing the problem—which is amazingly good, as in pathetically naive, given the hundreds of thousands of molestations and the overwhelming likelihood that priests are raping and molesting still. Then there was the eleven page indictment against the Pope and other  Vatican and U.S. Church officials published on August 26  by Cardinal Viganò, who suspects that when the Pope says “the malign one,” he means him.

If the sexual assaults continue now, Pope Francis can blame it on world Catholics for not fulfilling their October obligations. Or he can blame St. Michael the Archangel.


(I wonder if they’ll be showing “Spotlight” at the Synod…)


Sources: Reuters, NYT

47 thoughts on “Call Me Cynical, But When A Religious Leader Responds To A Scandal This Way, I Check My Pockets…

  1. Don’t worry, Jack, we’ve seen movements combine a “believe all accusers” ideology with claims of demonic influence before, and it’s always turned out for the best.

    • That doctrine is not Catholic. Catholics claim that Jesus was not lying when he spent the majority of the Gospels calling himself the “Son of Man,” an obvious (to 1st century Jews) reference to several passages in the book of Daniel to the Son of God. Jesus, in the Catholic belief, is none other than the second person of the Trinity. To the best of my knowledge, only Jehova’s Witnesses claim that Jesus is the incarnation of Michael the archangel.

      Jack, if you recall anything from your Greek Orthodox heritage, you can assume Catholics believe the same thing. The main distinctions between the Greek Orthodox and the Catholics were debates about the primacy of the bishop of Rome verses the bishop of Constantinople or even complete equality between bishops and whether or not the Niacene Creed should say! “I belive in the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father AND the Son,” or “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life who proceeds from the Father THROUGH the Son.”

      • Important difference: Greek Orthodox priests can and do marry and have children. (Seen alot of abuse scandals with the Greek Orthodox preisthood?) The celibacy requirement of the Roman Church has not been observed for centuries and the Vatican (and everyone else, it seems) knows it. Research shows that at least 60% of ‘celibate’ priests are having sex, most with other adults, but an astonishing amount with children. The celibacy requirement, which the majority of priests do not follow, leads to a culture of secrecy, which actually abets and protects child abusers. This is outrageous. Other comments below.

        • My responses to witnesses , Mormons and others knocking on my door is varied. 1) I tell them I cannot leave the cauldron unattended at the moment, I do this when I do not have time, 2) I point to scripture that make them uncomfortable and try to covert them. Turned 1 Catholic so far. 3) I flirt outrageously with them (this has back fired twice theynflirted back, I ended up at confession.

  2. My priest was a on fire this weekend, and while he passed along the Pope’s request he also emphasized that God helps those who help themselves. Something tells me he is more than a little miffed by the inaction he’s seen in the Church’s leadership.

    • Our family’s miffed too. I think this is a common dissonant view. Denying the responsibility to correct the problem is denying oaths to protect, to serve, and to guide. There sometimes a thread of approving or glorying in victimology in Christianity, hence my own disengagement. (I don’t approve of witchhunts like Me too either, but enforcement of the standards after trial should be a no brainer.)

  3. On of the better depth talks on the present crisis in the Church.

    Traditional Catholicism is having a very tough time dealing with the profound scandals in the church.

    “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

    I have concluded it is not possible to fully grasp Christianity unless one understands the older and former metaphysical view. One could not (really) understand Macbeth, for example, unless one grasped the Medieval concept of the demonic. Nor could one understand the notion of salvation and the appearance of Jesus. It is all elaborate metaphysics, and it is also tied profoundly to the imagination. But in the Thomistic sense which is impossible to communicate rapidly. It is sort of mind-bending material.

    The crisis of the Church is a reflection, if you will, of a larger social and cultural crisis. Odd to think of Steve’s reference to Pope Pius V and the Battle of Lepanto! Pius the V brought forth the Catechism of the Council of Trent which contains the essence of the Catholic, and the Christian, faith.

    Incomprehensible gobbledeegook in the present. Frontier gibberish in a Brave New World! Strung as we are between Two Metaphysical structures, neither fully out of one nor in any sense completely in another. Our condition is agonizing (produces mental anguish).

  4. Ok, life long Catholic that loves the Church, but hates its problems, and does understand the purpose of prayer and faith, while also understanding, the motivations, and many practical problems of my Faith.

    First myself and all my siblings were alter boys or in my sisters case an alter girl. Our Alexandria parish had special dispensation from the Vatican to use girls as alter servers as during my sister’s years our parish had a shortage of boys. When a dispensation runns out it is automatically renewed unless you are foolish enough to ask to renew. None of the five of us were ever abused by a Priest. Now we were a military family so my years as an Acolyte took us to 6 different parishes, my sister was at the seventh and I had aged out. Fathers Butler, Swabi, MacNamara, Scalia, Hockney, O’Connell, and Murphy. Were never anything other then perfect Role models. I grew up, our family had our parish priest join us for dinner ataverage once a month, except Father Butler my folks really liked him so he was more or less once a week. He was also on my paper route so I never had to find him to collect. Could do it at Dinner.

    When the stories of molesting priests started surfacing, it was shocking and still is to my Family. None of my siblings my cousins or myself ever experienced it. My brothers boyfriend had, and we heard stories for far off parishes. But it was never close to home. Of the five of us only myself and one other brother are still practicing Catholics, my parents fanatic faith saw to that. Though the fact that my mother sometimes confuses her Republican views with her Catholic views, my mother believes herself to be a Catholic Republican it is in reality the other way around.

    I have found as I talked to many victims over the years found thier stories credible. I also understood the churches multiple problems dealing with this. The culture of the church needs to change now there are many problems to deal with. First for the first 1000 years of the church the priests we able to marry. It stopped in reality to protect the churches property. Bad move as not natural and no biblical basis for it. The Bible mentions Saint Peters mother in law, that said our first Pope had a wife.
    Now the church has tried to claim it w gay Priests at cause for this. I remember my Dad’s encouragement of me to be a priest, what does it matter what you are being celebate from. To the last few Popes it matters. But the very culture of the church has had families push their gay sons towards the priesthood. That said a gay man and a pedifile are different,I have never been attracted to children. The pedifile though actively seeks out work that gives them access to children. The job of a priest does give them this access, just as the job of teacher or coach. It is inevitable that some of these vile creatures would end up in postitions to betray the trust that these postitions entail.

    The churches cover up is the biggest problem, but it is mired in good intentions and sheer stupidity. First if the pedifile confessed to another Priest under the seal of the confessional, He has locked himself in to Church protection by our own theology. You see the Catholic seal of the confessional is a central tenant of our faith. If you confess and beg forgiveness for your sins you are forgiven and you do your penance and sin no more. I believe the pedifile priests worked this system like a violin, only I would swear to you I feel these monsters confessed to get the Churches forgiveness and protection, but obviously did not fulfill their covenant and sin no more. The Church hierarchy was obligated to protect them due too the seal of the confessional. So they tried to cover it up to protect the churches seal and the sacrament. Unfortunately this theological nightmare would only get worse as the vile perpetrators of these crimes would continue their sprees instead of sin no more. Now sin is hard to avoid and the Catholic prayer are full of asking for help trying to avoid sin. In my adult years I have met some of the priests that preyed on their charges, they often seem charming, but their behavior suggests they are sociopaths.

    Yes the church handled this wrong there is no denying it, and the fact that the Church is suppose to be a gateway to forgiveness,is a huge part of the problem, the coverups meant to protect the sacrament, ended up protecting these crimes. The church is not law enforcement and should not be, but it needs to learn to protect the potential victims. Many of their attempt to do so have failed because they are blaming the wrong causes. First end celibacy, while it is not a perfect solution it will end the priest shortage, second ordain women. A all male culture has added to the strife end it. Jack I look at the prayer as a meticulous Miraculous metaphor. It is part of my daily prayers. I worry about the Church and I acknowledge it needs to change, but I will not abandon it, even though at times it seems to wish to abandon me!

    • . You see the Catholic seal of the confessional is a central tenant of our faith. If you confess and beg forgiveness for your sins you are forgiven and you do your penance and sin no more. I believe the pedifile priests worked this system like a violin, only I would swear to you I feel these monsters confessed to get the Churches forgiveness and protection, but obviously did not fulfill their covenant and sin no more. The Church hierarchy was obligated to protect them due too the seal of the confessional. So they tried to cover it up to protect the churches seal and the sacrament.

      This is more than just the teachings of one church.

      the seal of the confessional is a fundamental right. The priest-penitent privilege has been recognized by law since colonial times.

      It would be no more appropriate to do away with this to suppress child molestation than it would be to ban handguns to suppress murder.

    • I liked your contribution Rip, and read it with interest. I have a few comments.

      The culture of the church needs to change now there are many problems to deal with.

      I have devoted at least a couple of years, actually somewhat more, to studying traditional Christianity, specifically Catholicism, because these traditions are part of the foundation stones of Occidental culture. It began through Shakespeare studies and, as a result, an amazing world of ideas opened up out of that.

      The statement that you make, while no one would have any personal right to contest you (and your idea is appreciated because it is personal), is actually false. Or I should say ‘incorrect’. It can only lead into ‘errors’ (so-called) and, I suggest, needs to be carefully and closely examined. If one wished to be really intellectually strict, one would have to say that it arises along with the ‘heresy of modernity’, said to be ‘the synthesis of all heresies’. To understand what ‘synthesis of all heresies’ means would require study, specifically of the Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1908).

      Now, this is the hard part for us moderns, and is and will be a definite point that cannot be crossed for most. The reason I talk about this is not, not exclusively, for love of polemics (though I do love unsentimental argument and I am, in fact, a polemical writer), but rather in defense of idea. So, allow me to make a counter-statement: It is not the Church that must change, but rather the Church that has come to exist to change man. And what changes man is strict intellectual ideas. That is, ideas defined in a non-sentimental setting in accord with strict reason and ratiocination.

      The doctrines of Christianity (of Catholic Christianity certainly) were *concretized* by Pius V as part of the Counter-Reformation, and they represent an accumulation, an accretion, of highly structured and intellectual doctrines that could be said to be ‘the synthesis of Christianity’.

      These doctrines, these ideas, this description of metaphysics, are not ‘democratic’ and were not, and are not, decided by the demos. It is, one must say, quite the opposite and absolutely the opposite. They represent, indeed they are, the very picture of ideas imposed from *up above* to the *down below*. What I suggest here operates on many different levels. One is, of course, the idea of God’s imposition of His will into the world of men. And that idea is very much a part of Greco-Christian ideation. The general idea, or the ur-idea, is really at the core of Christianity and could not be abstracted from it without significantly altering the essential — the quintessential — doctrine: the very idea or apperception on which Christianity is based.

      One cannot understand Christianity — this should be obvious! — without grasping the notion of ‘rebellion’. An *imposition*, as I call it, enters Time and relays its will. Men perceive that imposition and *interpret* it. And that interpretation is what we mean when we refer to ‘theology’. Theological ideas are decided at the upper echelon, and are not insinuated from *below*. For, as is obvious, the purpose of the Church is to mold man: to instruct, to teach, to chasten, and of course to prepare man for the after-world. This is not my idea, it is the core idea of the Christian Revelation.

      So, you can see that I would make the following case: it is not the Church’s doctrines that must change, it is the doctrines of the Church that men must approach in order to be changed by them. The doctrines of the Church — very difficult ideas mind you, extremely difficult and challenging — must be seen and understood. If they are not seen and understood and if the intelligence (intellectus) of man does not choose to be molded in relation to those Ideas, then one is, fundamentally, in rebellion. If one wishes to go one’s own way one certainly can. That is the freedom of choice. But one has — and I say this as a pure intellectual statement — one has no right to ask that the intellectual doctrines change or that men or a man change them.

      But there, as should be obvious, is the ‘problem’. The problem to deal with as you say. And this ‘problem’ needs to be understood, brought out into the open, and talked about. It is the problem of Man making his imposition as-against the Supreme Imposition (I realize these are difficult statements but I choose them deliberately). One has to put it in strict terms in order to arrive at clarity as to what is being talked about and referred to.

      Now, with that said, one can return to look at ‘the problem of modernity’ and, of course, the ‘synthesis of all heresies’ which is not operating, almost without restriction, in our present. Here it is a question, in a sense, of what one wishes to see and what one might wish not to see! What one wishes to understand and what one chooses not to even think about, and certainly to misunderstand.

      In a certain certain period of time, but definitely noticed by Pius X in 1908, though having begun far earlier, the ‘errors of modernity’ had begun to enter the general cultural frame. There were warnings given and Pascendi Dominici Gregis is just that warning. It was foretold (foreseen) that these errors would infect the Church. And that infection took shape at Vatican II. And thus the destruction of the Church began through an undermining of strict intellectual doctrine. The liturgy was altered. The Altar was altered! The Mass was restructured. And these came about, in essence, as responses to the desires of the demos. It is of course more complex than can be stated in a simple reduction but I hope you catch my drift.

      The Catholic Traditionalist movement stands in reaction to these modernist changes. Yet it is like standing against a powerful current. If one does not have a sound intellectual base to one’s understanding one would not be able to resist the power of the current. Thus, Catholic Traditionalism seeks to reestablish that sound intellectual base. This is not an issue of sentiment nor emotion nor desire nor longing. It can only have to do with the most strict appreciation of Idea at a strict intellectual level. (I would suggest that that is the meaning of St Michael: angels have no emotions and are said to be 100% ‘intellectual’, from whence derives the interesting word intellectus.

      Bad move as not natural and no biblical basis for it.

      There is a reason why, over time, the idea of an absolute service to God through the dedicated life of a consecrated priest came to be the norm. See Ripperger’s talk which I linked to in a post above this one. One is not obliged to understand, but if one understands it helps, at least, to grasp the ‘idea’ behind it.

      You see the Catholic seal of the confessional is a central tenant of our faith. If you confess and beg forgiveness for your sins you are forgiven and you do your penance and sin no more.

      Again listen to Ripperger’s talk. Only men showing certain definite ‘chaste’ characteristics should even approach the priesthood. If one suffers from the lack of them, one should not be allowed into the Seminary. It is that simple really. Because the whole idea of becoming a priest — within the Traditional Catholic view — is really and truly to desire to serve God in this exalted way. The reading of the Ordinary of the Mass reveals this with no doubts!

      I believe the pedophile priests worked this system like a violin…

      As everyone ‘works the system like a violin’. That is, if we are in essential rebellion! The entire Christian idea is based on the perceived understanding that this is our condition! Once we give ourselves some sort of *right* to operate in collusion with others for counter-purposes, we then join forces not with the Higher Intellect but with what was understood in former times to be ‘the quagmire of the World’. A dangerous place for the soul.

      • When it. Comes to. Catholic traditions celibacy has only. Been around for Have the churches history so once it was not a traditional but new it needs to go as it Is not needed the other Christian faiths have demonstrated that. Family Men are quite able to,serve the lord. Yes we will probably still have problems but it would end the priest shortage.

        • I see your point, in case you think I don’t (or can’t).

          The purpose of my writing — my involvement in this Blog and with ethics generally — is to isolate and examine ideas and explore the larger contexts.

          It is true, though, that the question of clerical celibacy is a complex one, and one as old as Christianity.

  5. Correction in this paragraph:

    (I wrote not when it should be ‘now’.)

    Now, with that said, one can return to look at ‘the problem of modernity’ and, of course, the ‘synthesis of all heresies’ which is now operating, almost without restriction, in our present. Here it is a question, in a sense, of what one wishes to see and what one might wish not to see! What one wishes to understand and what one chooses not to even think about, and certainly to misunderstand. of modernity’ and, of course, the ‘synthesis of all heresies’ which is now operating, almost without restriction, in our present. Here it is a question, in a sense, of what one wishes to see and what one might wish not to see! What one wishes to understand and what one chooses not to even think about, and certainly to misunderstand.

  6. When power and money are involved, people are subject to cover up. Priests are people.

    Allowing homosexual priests is a problem for a variety of reasons, but the problem is people. Priests father children at times as well.

    • Talk to any Italian-American with relatives in Italian villages. Every village knows which kids were fathered by the parish priest. It’s not the homosexuality issue, it’s the celibacy requirement, period. And priests abuse both boys and girls… the ‘secret society’ may attract a certain number homosexuals, but you can’t call this a gay problem. It’s a sexual abuse problem: this idea that only homosexuals abuse children is dead wrong (quite the opposite), and that priests only abuse little boys is dead wrong as well.

      • This sounds a lot like rationalization. Over 80% of the victims were male. Yes, there were female victims as well, but at over 80%, the vast majority is homosexual assault. To say that only heterosexual priests abuse children boggles the mind. This is similar to saying that breast cancer is a male-only issue. Yes, men do get breast cancer, but it is more common in women and therefore framed as a women’s issue. If priests are homosexual at the same rate as the population (~4%), then this means gay priests are 80 times as likely to abuse a child as heterosexual priests (roughly the same as the differences in the rate of male and female breast cancer).
        In addition, a bigger issue in the church seems to be the pederasty problem in the seminaries and this is exclusively a homosexual problem.

        Pope Francis not only isn’t working to stop this problem, he seems to be supporting it. Cardinal McCarrick, who was widely reputed to have sexually abused seminarians and was accused of molesting at least one boy, was exposed and removed from dealing with the public by Benedict. After being given a report on McCarrick’s activities, Pope Francis made him a close personal advisor.

        I agree with the end to the celibacy requirement. Married priests were OK for 1000 years in the Catholic Church. The ban on marriage was mainly to make priest’s children illegitimate so they wouldn’t inherit church wealth. Married priests are allowed today if they were married before joining the priesthood, so I don’t see why the order you get married and become a priest really matters so much. It makes no logical sense, no other denomination has ever ‘discovered’ this requirement, and there is no good scriptural rationale for it that anyone has been able to convey.

        • LA Times article

          Experts say as many as 120 Catholic priests in the U.S. are married.

          That’s largely because of a policy change made by Pope John Paul II in 1980, which offered a path for married Episcopal priests to continue their ministry after converting to Catholicism.

          Under the pastoral provision, Father Paul Sullins, a former Episcopal priest, was ordained in the Catholic Church in 2002 after converting four years earlier.

          Each diocese is allowed up to two active married priests, according to the Pastoral Provision Office, which facilitates the Vatican’s policy. The restriction came several years ago after a number of dioceses sponsored four or five candidates, causing concerns that it might appear the discipline of celibacy was being relaxed.

  7. Jack,

    One thing I will say in defense of Pope Francis is that he is absolutely right that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Catholics acknowledge the existence of Satan and his legions of fallen angels. We profess that these demons do prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. It is absolutely certain that there is the presence of the demonic in what is happening in the Church regarding the priestly sex scandals. Thus we do need to take up our spiritual weapons and fight. Our primary spiritual weapon is prayer. (Two others are fasting and almsgiving.)

    But, I do want to make it clear that we do not give ourselves slack in saying, “The devil made me do it!” The devil certainly tempts us, and he will apply the screws to the point that we may want to cry, but when we sin, we are culpable for our sins. For we believe that God does not allow us to be tempted beyond our measure, and that in any temptation he provides us with a way out.

    In the most charitable light, Pope Francis is encouraging the faithful to rise up against a spirit of despondency and a spirit of division. In this fight, we are certainly tempted to give up. This problem looks insurmountable. There are so many cases (and yet, they still represent only a tiny fraction of all the clergy), and the corruption seems to extend all the way to the top, and what can anyone do? Furthermore, we are tempted to fall into division, stabbing at each other, breaking into camps that are more concerned with attacking the other camp than actually healing the issue. These are two aspects we need to fight desperately against. We can’t give up. The Catholic Church is not going away. Thus turning our backs on the Church will not make the problem go away. Instead, it will just permit the rot to spread further. Moreover, we need to work together, and not against each other, to solve the problem. We’ve seen what happens when it is just infighting between two diametrically opposed groups who are more interested in protecting their camp than solving problems.

    Furthermore, prayer is a powerful spiritual weapon because it opens us up to God. When we turn our hearts and our minds to God, we have a better chance of hearing his voice. When we praise God, the demons scatter. By spending more time in prayer, we aren’t saying, “well, there’s nothing else we can do, so we might as well pray”. Instead, we are saying, “I am willing to do what you call me to do, Lord.” By aligning ourselves to God’s will, we will find ourselves better equipped, through God’s grace, to combat this challenge in the Church.

    And this challenge is vast, and we Catholics are still trying to fully grasp the full extent of the problem. Pope Francis has accused clericalism as the primary culprit. Certainly clericalism is a problem, when the bishops circle the wagons and hide the problems to keep themselves from public shame. Certainly it is a problem when victims are discounted because priests would never do such a thing. (Anyone who thinks priests are pure in heart simply because they are priests has failed to read any history. At the time of the Reformation, the rot in the Church was just as bad, if not worse, than it is today.) But it isn’t simply clericalism. There’s a problem with a failure to live chaste lives, even a flagrant disregard of the calling to chastity. A certain amount of this stems from the sexual revolution and the clamoring from different camps for the Church to abandon her teachings on sexual morality. (Which she can’t, so people should stop demanding it.) Some people want to make the issue a homosexual problem. After all, over 80% of the victims were boys, and most of those adolescent boys. In addition, we see in the church a convergence of homosexuality and clericalism, where cabals of gay priests defend each other, cover for each other, help each other rise in the ranks, so they can better cover for each and promulgate their sex rings. But that doesn’t explain everything, and it certainly doesn’t explain the many priests who have same-sex attraction that nevertheless live pure and holy lives without molesting anyone.

    If we are to believe what is emerging from Archbishop Vigano’s reports, not only do we have bishops seeking to protect themselves from scandal, but bishops actively acting to subvert and protect their abusing lifestyle. Various Catholic outlets have taken these reports and run into the land of conspiracy theories, constructing an almost Illuminati-like body of clergy that has the power to bully Pope Benedict XVI into retiring, and the power to force Pope Francis to appoint men he rather would not have appointed. Or some place Pope Francis in the midst of that body…

    Now, turning away from any defense of Pope Francis, I have to agree that the Pope’s actions have been sorely lacking. Aside from the controversies he has raised with his off-the-cuff remarks and imprecise manner of speaking, he has not proven up to the challenge of reforming the Church administration. There is a legitimate question of what manner of person would be up to such a challenge, but whatever type of person that is, Pope Francis does not appear to be it.

    There is also a question of what the Church needs to do to address the problem going forward. Is not correct to say that the Church has sat on her laurels since the sex scandals broke. Anyone in a parish council knows that there are new rules in place for protecting children from predators. Even the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report indicated that the two priests that had been recently discovered abusing children had been turned over to authorities by the diocese itself. (The other 298 priests were either past the statutes of limitations and/or dead.) But even with the changes that have been made, there is a persistent question I find when reading up on this issue. Were the Church’s safeguards and regulations that existed before the abuse scandal broke insufficient, or were they simply never applied? If it is merely the former case, then is the issue simply a matter of writing better rules? I think that’s a bit naive. If it is the latter case, how do you go about ensuring that rules, new or old, are actually enforced?

    I agree with Bishop Robert Barron that the Church needs to recruit the laity into action in dealing with the scandals. Bring in the lay professionals who deal with investigations and law enforcement. Priests who have abused need to be defrocked. But there needs to be additional means of handling bishops who have abused and/or covered for abusive priests. The Church can’t simply defrock bishops and cast them out. The mark of the priesthood is indelible, and bishops have the power to ordain, even illicitly, new bishops and priests. The risk of letting loose malcontent bishops that would create new schisms is ever-present.

    I’ll end, not because I don’t have more to say, but because I’ve run out time. I don’t think it is overly cynical to look at Pope Francis’ call to prayer and warnings of the devil as a dodge. It is absolutely true that we need to pray and fight against the devil. But I, too, think it is a dodge, especially when people are trying to hold the Pope personally accountable for certain actions that he can’t credibly deny involvement in.

    • Ryan, I think this is COTD material.

      A couple of points:

      Prayer is necessary for relationship with our Creator. Calls to prayer are always appropriate. Using that call as a dodge is deception, willfully so.

      If you cover up evil and allow evil doers avoid punishment, you are not fighting the devil, you are complicit with him. This is STILL going on 20 years after the window dressing new rules you mention.

      If you allow homosexuals to be priests, in an organization that purports to condemn that life style as sin, you are endorsing that sin, implicitly. Once you endorse any sin, others will follow. Rebellion begets rebellion (sin is simply rebellion); this is human nature (the fallen nature of man).

      I would like to note that no sin is any worse than others: only man thinks so. They all separate us from God, and all can be covered by the blood of Jesus. There are still consequences (sans God’s unwarranted grace in the circumstances) that will play out in the world. For instance, murder may get you in jail for life. You can have forgiveness from God, but you still pay the penalty here on Earth. Fornication can be forgiven, but if one creates a life thereby, that cannot be undone, even if you murder the innocent child. You will deal with consequences in your life for sin.

      Therefore, gluttony (overeating, if you prefer) is as bad as homosexuality or fornication or murder, in that it is sin separating us from our creator. (Those of us carrying extra pounds get uncomfortable with that!) Seeking to deceive (lying with intent) is the same. Bearing false witness is the same, ala’ the recent Senate hearings.

      We do not have a homosexuality problem in the Catholic Church. We do not have a problem with deception, pederasty, fornication, or even overeating. We have a human nature problem, an embracing of sin. We look the other way and allow rebellion to continue in our own lives. Deal with the tolerance of sin and the others will be solved.

      • Slickwilly,

        Thanks for the complement! Some comments on your comments:

        Using that call as a dodge is deception, willfully so.

        I agree. More than anything, Pope Francis needs to state clearly (something which is not very talented at) what the Church is doing to address the problems.

        This is STILL going on 20 years after the window dressing new rules you mention.

        There are nuances to this that I think need to be seriously considered. The number of offenses by priests skyrocketed in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, and then rapidly dropped back down, if we just look at the United States. Even the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report testifies to this; the bulk of the incidents it uncovered were decades old. This drastic drop in incidents occurred even before the window dressings, so one of the questions to ask is why? But we don’t have a clear answer to that, other than some moves such as tightening the scrutiny on seminarians and not allowing men who are known to have same-sex attraction into the priesthood.

        The reason I mention this is because I worry that too many Catholics look at this as a sign that the real trouble has passed, and anything more is just people clamoring over incidents that are in the past. It should be understood: priests are fallible human beings, and we expect that there will be priests in the future who will molest children, and we should have good rules in place for dealing with them. But more, if we understand why we had such a drop in incidents after such a surge in incidents, hopefully that will help us craft better policy that can be applied globally.

        If you allow homosexuals to be priests, in an organization that purports to condemn that life style as sin, you are endorsing that sin, implicitly.

        It should be noted that the Catholic Church does not hold that being attracted to members of one’s own sex is sinful. It is a desire, and desires are not what we condemn. Any priest who has same-sex attraction is held to the same standard of chastity as priests with opposite-sex attractions. Ordaining any man who had no intention of remaining chaste as a priest would be a grave mistake, whether the actions are homosexual or heterosexual. Yes, the Church holds that homosexual actions are sinful, but it also holds that keeping a mistress on the side is sinful, as well. If the Church ordains a man with same-sex attraction, it is no more an endorsement of homosexual activity than ordaining a man with opposite-sex attraction is an endorsement of adultery.

        I would like to note that no sin is any worse than others: only man thinks so.

        I always have to comment on this when I come across it, so please forgive the digression! St. John disagrees with you in 1 Jn 5:15-17, especially when he says, “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.” I know St. James says in Jas 2:10 “for whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it”, so the question is, how do we reconcile these passages? The answer is that James is pointing that one transgresses any point of the law has transgressed. We don’t get the luxury of saying, “I may have committed adultery, but I kept the other nine commandments!” We also don’t get to say, “I only stole, but you murdered, stole, and coveted, so you are the transgressor, not me!” So when I sin, I have certainly transgressed and am in need of forgiveness, but there are still some sins which are worse than other sins.

        Okay, theological disagreement aside, I agree wholeheartedly that we have a very human issue in the Church, the embracing of sin. Many of our bishops have become blind guides, are too worldly, and are either too self-righteous or too power hungry to notice they have strayed.

        I wish I had a good answer to the problem. I can think of general strategies, but it all breaks down when trying to implement the tactical measures that would make the strategies work. The key question is: how do you put together a proper investigation that spans the globe? If it is outside the Church, it would have to be some kind of international body that had the leeway to examine practices in any country, and I don’t see such a body coming into existence. If it is inside the Church, quis custodiet ipso custodes? I would love to hear any ideas people have on this.

        To the general audience: the removal of the discipline of celibacy will not fix the issue. On a historic note, celibacy has been recommended practice since the early Church. St. Paul himself recommends the practice, because the unmarried man is only worried about matters of God. It is a discipline that can be changed at any time, and some of the eastern rites of the Church allow priests to marry. (Or more specifically, allow married men to become priests. It is generally held that once ordained, a man may not subsequently marry.) But on a practical note, to say that marriage would stop priests from molesting is essentially an argument that if a man does not get sex, he’ll start raping children. The logic does not follow. This is especially true given that I’ve heard a priest state that even in a small parish, there are women who would love to take a priest as a lover, despite the scandal it would cause. Apparently priests have to be on guard against such women!

          • I define myself as a conservative Catholic who tries to be faithful to the doctrines and disciplines of the Church. I do accept the Novus Ordo Mass. It is the normal form of the Mass in the Latin rite of the Church. I also accept the Tridentine Mass as the extraordinary form of the Mass. Both are legitimate.

            • Interesting way of looking at it. I respect your viewpoint.

              I would guess that you would not have a critical posture (as do some more radical conservative-traditionalists) to the complex machinations and the after-effects of Vatican ll. (A non-critical posture is less comprehensible to me, but again I can respect differences).

              I cannot bear the masses that are performed where I live (Colombia), that is if one compares them to the traditional Latin mass. The entire service offends every religious sensitivity I have. The only traditional mass offered here take place in Bogota and in Bucaramanga . . . a long ways off.

              I have come to understand through being here (Latin America) that the truth expressed in Lex orandi, lex credendi really takes form here. It is one thing, I guess, if people had grown up with the Traditional Mass and understood the power, the concentrated prayer-power, of the traditional Ordinary Mass, but this is not the case. They have grown up in a watered-down, sentimentalized, drippingly emotional pseudo-sacrifice more proper to a Protestant assembly.

              I tend to agree with Michael Matt:

              • When Catholics, and others, call for ‘change’ in the Church (as have numerous posters in this thread) I see where they are coming from, and naturally many others do, too, and again I respect contrary opinions, but I strongly disagree. It has to be carefully explained though.

                Unfortunately, the general will is not toward renovation and renewal of meaning & value but tends toward fulfilling the (general) will that is moved away from the foundations that allow meaning & value to exist. I mean in our world generally. This is a decadent, non-intellectual cycle.

                When one moves away from the real doctrine of the Church as expressed in the Catechism of the Council of Trent — an intense and demanding doctrinal platform! — one moves by necessity and inevitably away from ‘The Church’. That seems (to me) just a fact.

                Hard as it sounds, and perhaps is, it is not the lower levels that can nor should dictate to the higher levels. Unfortunately — tragically really — the ‘upper levels’ have shown that they cannot lead because they do not know what leadership must mean, if indeed it means coming under the influence of true doctrine. Like politicians apparently they become subject not to defined higher authority (and meaning & value) but to something akin to the ‘will of the people’. It is, perhaps, a kind of religio-democratic crisis! The lower levels have no choice but to react against the lack of leadership in accord with principle, though in fact they also resent and resist it, and left to themselves they demand ‘change’.

                The upper levels fail in responsibility and are seduced by the lower levels. (Please don’t make me quote Keats here!) But this is in general what is going on in the Culture at the macro-level. The disarray of chaos. No one knows what to do, say, believe.

                I have to say I understand it quite well since, inevitably, I too am a part of it and a product of it, as we all are.

                Yet we will descend, and continue to descend, until the bottom is achieved and before a decision is made to ‘ascend’:

                Introíbo ad altáre Dio

                (I always tend to go overboard thinking about these things for the simple reason that I look for a ’cause’ of the present crises, not just a passing commentary on some event. . .)

          • Michael, I’m not sure what you’re asking here. I merely used the fact that the recent Grand Jury report out of Pennsylvania only found 2 offenders out of 300 documented offenders that could be prosecuted, due to statutes of limitations. The citation was to support my statement that the number of offenses have dramatically dropped off. The bulk of “new” cases surfacing are events that transpired decades ago. That isn’t to say there aren’t new cases, or even to say that there aren’t cesspools of offending priests protected by evil-minded bishops elsewhere in the world. That isn’t to say that guilty parties shouldn’t be prosecuted, either.

            Certainly I applaud the steps other states and other dioceses are taking to clear their books. I think all dioceses should do the same. Whatever is in darkness will be revealed, and shining a light on wherever there is rot can only help the Church in the long run.

  8. So let me get this straight: Priests are presumed to help parishioners find God. Now the Pope requires that the opposite is the operative Roman Catholic approach: Parishioners need to help their priests find God (and thereby perform some kind of worldwide ex officio exorcism for child molesting priests). Outrageous. Cowardly. And really, really stupid.

    The only ethical (Christian?) thing to do is get rid of the celibacy requirement, and get abusive priests out of the entire church, period, not just moved to other parishes where they can continue their evil deeds. If God can’t move Roman Catholic priests into His grace, then how can 50 million rosary repetitions a day do it? Like other denominations’ God, the Roman one is either a sadist or a comedian. Or a combination of both.

  9. Then it’s worse than I thought. Church-annointed, child abusing priests can now say “the devil may me do it because my own parishioners didn’t pray hard enough?” Great rationalization. Great transfer of responsibility. And another version of the Big Lie.

    The Vatican is corrupt. Has been. And ll the joy with the new pope is out the window, not that I cared one whit about his opinions on things like climate change and economic restructuring when he can’t keep his own “house” free of felons of the worst kind…

    • I will not argue that the church. Has its problems, but praying for the clergy and the. Church has been around a lot longer then this scandal, though I suspect that this scandal goes back centuries as in old days people were afraid to,call the church on it! It take people to call the church on it to get the church to change. The church is changing its policies it took an uproar. This Pope is wavering back and forth between the churches modernists and Traditionalists it is going to be a long haul! Most of the affected dioceses are working on solutions. This problem goes back a few popes! And every institution that works with children has been dealing with these felons.

  10. This aren’t cases of child rape. These are homosexuals doing what homosexuals do. Going after teen boys. This is what tolerance gets you.

  11. And It is Rape if the person has power over the other person,and concentrated is not possible due to age or other reasons it is Rape.

  12. When it comes to the crisis in the Church, and the crisis in our modernity — intimately connected crises in my opinion — there comes a moment when I feel inadequate and thoroughly inexperienced so that a *declaration* about it is difficult if not impossible.

    Yet the crisis itself, and the crisis of modernity, insist that one say something and make an effort to make a statement that counter-poses it — whatever it is. And the problem is there: that of discernment and definition: interpretation. It seems to me that everyone connected with the Church and with its crisis, and also the general crisis that is, principally, a spiritual crisis of Europe, attempts to make a universal statement that summarizes the problem and, through that, also to propose some solution.

    But nothing substantial is forthcoming. Pessimistically, I have thought that when a structure is falling down and in collapse, that there can be no conversation about how to build, how to recover, how to heal, or how to get better, until the structure has fallen to the ground. It is a pessimistic view, at least in a sense, because it admits that external events are subject to cycles of degeneration that are beyond the control of the individual or of groups of individuals. In this sense ‘the Body of Christ’ is subject to decadent cycles and processes of destruction. The metaphor of ‘the body’ always seems useful to me. Social body, political body, spiritual body, national body. And then specifically our own body: the ground in which these struggles occur.

    When one realizes one’s own ‘fallen condition’ — and one realizes this only after the structure of one’s own life and self have suffered through sin and error (the metaphor of a falling and a fallen structure), only then and after meditation and those processes of remorse does understanding appear. That is when the higher mind communicates, if you will with the lower mind and self: the self mired in ‘the world’. When one is in the midst of one’s sin, one does not realize the effect of it.

    In this sense, I suggest, ‘the world’ cannot understand itself. Ourselves, people around us, the surrounding community, the nation, the world, live in a sort of victimhood-of-effect. Karma one might say; action and reaction.

    It is very very hard even to follow what is going on in the Church. It requires literally a research project to understand what has happened. I attempted to read Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church

    Iota Unum is a ruthless analysis of what has happened before, during and after the Second Vatican Council, and examines the rupture of sound Catholic tradition in a vast number of issues. The book is the more relevant, because it was written in times when only very few dared to say of Vatican II what today is acknowledged by a vast number of people.

    But it was only of so much use to me. Yes, one can come to understand, clinically, the destruction of the Christian tradition, and from an intellectual distance perceive a giant, falling structure, but one is impotent in having much effect at all. And the same analogy applies to decadent processes in our community, nation and perhaps also our world. I would not, though, negate that one does have a good amount of freedom to choose to be ethical & moral & good within the smaller scope of family and friends. And of course within one’s own self, in one’s prayer-life and meditation-life. But in relation to the larger, outer structures?

    It is almost absudiste to contrast these two stances which revolve around the reaction to the abuse scandal. Who to believe? What to believe? What to think? What to do? It is the appearing and reappearing metaphor of interpretive uncertainty, which must definiely be — if you’ll permit me — the Devil’s Territory . . .

    A response written in an Open Letter to Cardinal Viganò:

    Dear Viganò, in response to your unjust and unjustified attack, I can only conclude that the accusation is a political plot that lacks any real basis that could incriminate the Pope and that profoundly harms the communion of the Church. May God allow a prompt reparation of this flagrant injustice so that Pope Francis can continue to be recognized for who he is: a true shepherd, a resolute and compassionate father, a prophetic grace for the Church and for the world. May the Holy Father carry on, full of confidence and joy, the missionary reform he has begun, comforted by the prayers of the people of God and the renewed solidarity of the whole Church, together with Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary!

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