Lessons, Thoughts and Traps for Catholics in the Cardinal McCarrick case

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Lessons, Thoughts and Traps for Catholics in the Cardinal McCarrick case

I have a few things to say about the Car­di­nal McCar­rick case that Catholics should take to heart

Christ is still Christ, the Church is still the Church and the Doc­trines are Still the Doctrines:

Noth­ing McCar­rick has done changes the truth of God, Christ, scrip­ture of the Church. In the 2000 year his­tory of the church there have been count­less num­ber of Dea­cons, Priests, Bish­ops, Car­di­nals and even the occa­sional Pope who have not acted in accor­dance with the teach­ings of Christ and the doc­trines of the church and in the future you can be sure that there will be plenty more but while the names and the times may change God and Christ and the sal­va­tion that is offered by Christ through the church endures or as Jesus told Peter, The Gates of Hell will not stand against it.”

The Num­bers are still minus­cule Context

the Roman Catholic Church is a huge world­wide church with over 415,348 priests, over 40,000 dea­cons over 5,000 Bish­ops and over 200 Car­di­nals . Given those num­bers the McCarrick’s of the world might con­tin­u­ally grab the head­lines but the priests and reli­gious by the hun­dreds of thou­sands who are tarred by him will con­tinue their work feed­ing, cloth­ing, edu­cat­ing, shel­ter­ing and oth­er­wise tend­ing to the spir­i­tual and phys­i­cal needs of the peo­ple they serve with the rest of the world tak­ing lit­tle or no notice.

What gay scandal?

The McCar­rick scan­dal has one thing in com­mon with the pre­vi­ous scan­dals involv­ing the church and minors. It is pri­mar­ily a gay scan­dal. One of the great tricks of the media was to turn a scan­dal that was pri­mar­ily a Gay scan­dal ( 78% of the abuse involved homo­sex­ual acts, men abus­ing boys.) into a “church” scan­dal with homo­sex­u­al­ity com­pletely ignored. For the “Catholic’s for Mor­tal Sin” lobby within the church this sep­a­ra­tion of Homo­sex­u­al­ity from this scan­dal has been vital as they con­tinue to attempt to rede­fine sin rather than com­bat it. It is impor­tant to call them out on it.

The “why should I bother” trap

There are sev­eral traps for souls that are an off­shoot of a scan­dal like McCarrick’s. One is what it does to mar­ginal Catholics or Catholics strug­gling with the faith. It goes like this: “Why should I bother try­ing to avoid sin when you have Car­di­nals and Bish­ops doing things like this? This is the devil hop­ing to nail you as col­lat­eral dam­age and is one of the worst parts of a scan­dal like this. The real­ity is McCar­rick is no dif­fer­ent that a crooked Sen­a­tor or a crooked gov­er­nor or a crooked Police Cap­tain. When Rod Blago­je­vich was nailed for cor­rup­tion did that mean that the laws of Illi­nois didn’t apply to the cit­i­zens there? When Richard Nixon resigned due to Water­gate did this mean fed­eral law shouldn’t apply to oth­ers? To decide you don’t have to worry about sin because of McCarrick’s sins is exactly what the Devil is look­ing for from you and like a man who speeds think­ing he can get away with it because a cop he knows of does, is in for a rude awakening.

The Pride /​Fran­cis Trap for Con­ser­v­a­tive Churchmen

There are two more sin traps that the McCar­rick case pro­duce. The tar­gets of these traps are the formed and con­ser­v­a­tive Catholics. The first is the sin of pride. The sins of a lib­eral Car­di­nal does not make our own sins any less dan­ger­ous, if we point to McCar­rick and his enablers and talk about our own “right­eous­ness” then we are doing the Devil’s work for him. Remem­ber pride is the first of the deadly sins and if we use the McCar­rick case to dis­tract our­selves from our own sins and actions we are mak­ing a huge and damn­ing mis­take. Like­wise it’s worth not­ing that McCar­rick has been a Car­di­nal since 2000 a bishop since 1977 and a priest since 1958. It is there­fore a stretch to lay all of the inac­tion in this case on the cur­rent Pope. This case is a cause for lamen­ta­tion not a weapon to beat the Pope over the head. There is a fine line between cri­tique of the church done in love and lead­ing an attack on the church which is the work of the Devil. If you’re the least bit unsure of where that line is, the best thing to do is step away from it and pray.

Two dif­fer­ent Scandals/​sins:

It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that there are two or three dif­fer­ent sins involved with McCar­rick. McCar­rick and those like him are com­mit­ting two sins unnat­ural sins of the flesh and the break­ing of eccle­si­as­ti­cal vows. They are both scan­dals because he is a high church­man. Mean­while there is the insti­tu­tional sin of those around him which is dif­fer­ent than his, but is the same sin that was com­mon in the Church dur­ing the var­i­ous scan­dals of the 2000’s. The sins of cow­ardice and pride. It is that unwill­ing­ness to con­front the sins of those like McCar­rick that has been the meat and pota­toes of all these scan­dals. At best their feared the “Why should I bother trap” already men­tioned at worst they feared a drop in respect and funds. Both of these are cow­ardice and pride. If proper eccle­si­as­ti­cal author­i­ties were will­ing to come down on him hard right at the start then it would have been the story of an indi­vid­ual priest booted out and would have set a very vis­i­ble exam­ple. That unwill­ing­ness to take the hit when it was small both here and in pre­vi­ous scan­dals is the church’s real sin.

The Hard­est les­son of them all

Of all the things that must and should be said about McCarrick’s sex­ual sins and the sins of cow­ardice of the church­men who refused to call him out, these is the one that peo­ple least want to hear.

McCarick’s sin and the sins of those who cov­ered for him, like any other sins are com­pletely paid for by the sac­ri­fice of Christ and if sin­cerely con­fessed and with proper con­tri­tion are sub­ject to the same abso­lu­tion and for­giv­ness that Christ offers to each and every sinner.

This can be a tough one to remem­ber but it’s also Chris­tian­ity 101. Christ didn’t just die for our lit­tle sins or our big ones, he died for everybody’s sins, espe­cially for the REALLY big ones. If McCar­rick and those around him sin­cerely repent, con­fess their sins and seek abso­lu­tion Christ will give it.

Now it must be stressed that this for­give­ness is of the eter­nal con­se­quences of their actions. That doesn’t mean he or any of those involved are absolved of the tem­po­ral pun­ish­ments either legal if laws were bro­ken or eccle­si­as­ti­cal penal­ties such as laiz­ica­tion that might be applies. It sim­ply that their eter­nal souls might be kept out of the grasp of the Devil and that’s a good thing because ANY soul kept out of his hands is a vic­tory worth celebrating.

As Catholics it is our job to pray for this result, in fact we should be pray­ing for every­one involved. It’s what we do



Choose a Sub­scrip­tion level


Of course one time tip jar hits are wel­come as well



Or buy­ing my book Hail Mary the Per­fect Protes­tant (and Catholic) Prayer

Either way it’s most appreciated.

I have a few things to say about the Cardinal McCarrick case that Catholics should take to heart

Christ is still Christ, the Church is still the Church and the Doctrines are Still the Doctrines:

Nothing McCarrick has done changes the truth of God, Christ, scripture of the Church. In the 2000 year history of the church there have been countless number of Deacons, Priests, Bishops, Cardinals and even the occasional Pope who have not acted in accordance with the teachings of Christ and the doctrines of the church and in the future you can be sure that there will be plenty more but while the names and the times may change God and Christ and the salvation that is offered by Christ through the church endures or as Jesus told Peter, The Gates of Hell will not stand against it.”

The Numbers are still minuscule Context

the Roman Catholic Church is a huge worldwide church with over 415,348 priests, over 40,000 deacons over 5,000 Bishops and over 200 Cardinals . Given those numbers the McCarrick’s of the world might continually grab the headlines but the priests and religious by the hundreds of thousands who are tarred by him will continue their work feeding, clothing, educating, sheltering and otherwise tending to the spiritual and physical needs of the people they serve with the rest of the world taking little or no notice.

What gay scandal?

The McCarrick scandal has one thing in common with the previous scandals involving the church and minors. It is primarily a gay scandal. One of the great tricks of the media was to turn a scandal that was primarily a Gay scandal ( 78% of the abuse involved homosexual acts, men abusing boys.) into a “church” scandal with homosexuality completely ignored. For the “Catholic’s for Mortal Sin” lobby within the church this separation of Homosexuality from this scandal has been vital as they continue to attempt to redefine sin rather than combat it. It is important to call them out on it.

The “why should I bother” trap

There are several traps for souls that are an offshoot of a scandal like McCarrick’s. One is what it does to marginal Catholics or Catholics struggling with the faith. It goes like this: “Why should I bother trying to avoid sin when you have Cardinals and Bishops doing things like this? This is the devil hoping to nail you as collateral damage and is one of the worst parts of a scandal like this. The reality is McCarrick is no different that a crooked Senator or a crooked governor or a crooked Police Captain. When Rod Blagojevich was nailed for corruption did that mean that the laws of Illinois didn’t apply to the citizens there? When Richard Nixon resigned due to Watergate did this mean federal law shouldn’t apply to others? To decide you don’t have to worry about sin because of McCarrick’s sins is exactly what the Devil is looking for from you and like a man who speeds thinking he can get away with it because a cop he knows of does, is in for a rude awakening.

The Pride / Francis Trap for Conservative Churchmen

There are two more sin traps that the McCarrick case produce. The targets of these traps are the formed and conservative Catholics. The first is the sin of pride. The sins of a liberal Cardinal does not make our own sins any less dangerous, if we point to McCarrick and his enablers and talk about our own “righteousness” then we are doing the Devil’s work for him. Remember pride is the first of the deadly sins and if we use the McCarrick case to distract ourselves from our own sins and actions we are making a huge and damning mistake. Likewise it’s worth noting that McCarrick has been a Cardinal since 2000 a bishop since 1977 and a priest since 1958. It is therefore a stretch to lay all of the inaction in this case on the current Pope. This case is a cause for lamentation not a weapon to beat the Pope over the head. There is a fine line between critique of the church done in love and leading an attack on the church which is the work of the Devil. If you’re the least bit unsure of where that line is, the best thing to do is step away from it and pray.

Two different Scandals/sins:

It’s important to remember that there are two or three different sins involved with McCarrick. McCarrick and those like him are committing two sins unnatural sins of the flesh and the breaking of ecclesiastical vows. They are both scandals because he is a high churchman. Meanwhile there is the institutional sin of those around him which is different than his, but is the same sin that was common in the Church during the various scandals of the 2000’s. The sins of cowardice and pride. It is that unwillingness to confront the sins of those like McCarrick that has been the meat and potatoes of all these scandals. At best their feared the “Why should I bother trap” already mentioned at worst they feared a drop in respect and funds. Both of these are cowardice and pride. If proper ecclesiastical authorities were willing to come down on him hard right at the start then it would have been the story of an individual priest booted out and would have set a very visible example. That unwillingness to take the hit when it was small both here and in previous scandals is the church’s real sin.

The Hardest lesson of them all

Of all the things that must and should be said about McCarrick’s sexual sins and the sins of cowardice of the churchmen who refused to call him out, these is the one that people least want to hear.

McCarick’s sin and the sins of those who covered for him, like any other sins are completely paid for by the sacrifice of Christ and if sincerely confessed and with proper contrition are subject to the same absolution and forgivness that Christ offers to each and every sinner.

This can be a tough one to remember but it’s also Christianity 101. Christ didn’t just die for our little sins or our big ones, he died for everybody’s sins, especially for the REALLY big ones. If McCarrick and those around him sincerely repent, confess their sins and seek absolution Christ will give it.

Now it must be stressed that this forgiveness is of the eternal consequences of their actions. That doesn’t mean he or any of those involved are absolved of the temporal punishments either legal if laws were broken or ecclesiastical penalties such as laizication that might be applies. It simply that their eternal souls might be kept out of the grasp of the Devil and that’s a good thing because ANY soul kept out of his hands is a victory worth celebrating.

As Catholics it is our job to pray for this result, in fact we should be praying for everyone involved. It’s what we do



Choose a Subscription level


Of course one time tip jar hits are welcome as well



Or buying my book Hail Mary the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer

Either way it’s most appreciated.