Great challenges demand great leadership from ordinary people, and if Pope Francis doesn’t exhibit great leadership during this crisis, it will damage him and the flock that he leads. Peter’s right about a lack of courage causing this scandal. Arguments that they are somehow saving the Church go against the truth that scandal never gets better with age or secrecy.
No large organization is immune to scandal. The Navy, and military in general, has had a host of scandals, the latest being Fat Leonard and poor surface driving skills. Every time the military suffered from the poor choices of its members, the only way it came out on top was to tackle it head on. The reason you don’t read about the Aberdeen scandal was because the members were quickly punished and policy changed to prevent future abuses. The reason you are still reading about Fat Leonard is because justice has not reached finality.
Not dispensing justice will make this scandal linger. On my first Navy assignment, my commanding officer (CO) was fired after two years in command. Officially, it was because of problems with our reactor’s chemistry. Behind the scenes, he was a terrible leader who had no problems screaming at people in public, lying to officials and altering documents to make his command look better than it was. While he was fired, he never went to court martial and was allowed to retire.
I felt cheated by the Navy. The Navy could have taken him to Court Martial. The Navy could have retired him at a lower rank, or even sent him to jail. The Navy could have done something other than shove him out of sight, out of mind. None of this happened. I personally laterally transferred to another branch, and I cited my CO and the lack of justice as a driving reason behind leaving. Plenty of others chose not to reenlist.
Most importantly, most of us who suffered lost faith in the Navy’s justice system. I became extremely cynical immediately after, and still today I have no issues calling many in the Navy cowards for not pursuing justice. In the case of the Catholic Church, I most worry that not pursuing earthly justice for the priests and bishops involved will make many good church-going members cynical of the Church and her mandate on Heaven.
Personally, for this situation, I’m all for St. Basil’s solution:
“The cleric or monk who molests youths or boys or is caught kissing or committing some turpitude, let him be whipped in public, deprived of his crown [tonsure] and, after having his head shaved, let his face be covered with spittle; and [let him be] bound in iron chains, condemned to six months in prison, reduced to eating rye bread once a day in the evening three times per week. After these six months living in a separate cell under the custody of a wise elder with great spiritual experience, let him be subjected to prayers, vigils and manual work, always under the guard of two spiritual brothers, without being allowed to have any relationship … with young people.” (St. Basil of Caesarea, in St. Peter Damien, Liber Gomorrhianus, op. cit. cols. 174f.)
St. Basil was courageous. St. Basil tackled heresy head on. St. Basil would show mercy and attempt to reform prostitutes and thieves, criticize public officials, and also run a soup kitchen to feed the hungry.
Pray for the Church, that in the coming months she can take actions that emulate St. Basil’s courage.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. And no, I don’t think the Pope is the anti-Christ, even if my mother-in-law does.
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