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.
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.
The grand jury report out of Pennsylvania concerning the cover up of priests is yet another sign that the 20th century was one of the best centuries that the Devil ever had.
I’ve not had a chance to read it and would be very interested if the breakdown of victims matched previous reports where 78% of victims were male suggesting it was an overwhelmingly gay predator problem, but much more important than breaking down the number is pointing out that the Bishops involved, presumably trained in scripture ignored and/or misinterpreted several important verses that are in play here.
No doubt the Bishops involved would invoke this verse in their defense of their decision-making process:
Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
However this is not the only verse that comes into play here, because as the church teaches Scripture is taught and applies as a whole not as a single verse.
For example let’s go to the scene of Christ right after the Resurrection: (Emphasis mine)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
(Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Or to put it another way a confessor has Discretion. If he considers the confession insincere he can choose have the sin retained. And even if a priest chooses not to impose so horrible of a sanction due to the eternal consequences involved a confessor limited to the terms or the severity of a penance, for example retreating for a cloistered order.
Nor does the lifting of the immediate threat of eternal damnation by forgiveness preclude the temporal consequences of any sin. The best example of this comes from well known story of David and Bathsheba from 2 Samuel where King David the beloved of God is confronted by the prophet Nathan after
1. Sleeping with the wife of Uriah the Hittite one of his officers away fighting for him and getting her pregnant
2. Trying to cover it up by recalling Uriah figuring he’ll sleep with his wife while home (he doesn’t in deference to his soldiers in the field who can’t)
3 Arranging for Uriah to be killed in battle by secretly ordering him to be stationed in the front and having him abandoned.
4. Then marrying the widow as if nothing was wrong
David actually had several chances to repent here, first after the sin, then when he calls for Uriah, then the next day with Uriah but instead he covers up sin with an even greater one (murder) and thus when his sin is revealed by Nathan the prophet the consequences are dire:
Then Nathan said to David: “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king of Israel. I rescued you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your lord’s house and your lord’s wives for your own. I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were not enough, I could count up for you still more.vvWhy have you spurned the LORD and done evil in his sight? You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you took his wife as your own, and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites.
Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.'”
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan answered David: “The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the LORD by this deed, the child born to you must surely die.”
2 Samuel 12:7-14
Note that while the Lord forgives David his sin, he does not spare him the consequences of said sin, not only does the child die (verse 18) but the predicted turmoil is the primary subject of the rest of 2 Samuel starting with the very next chapter.
Bottom line the Bishops ignored one critical fact here, these were not just mortal sins but were all Crimes under civil law and punishable under civil law and Jesus was rather direct when asked about duties under civil law: Emphasis mine
The scribes and chief priests sought to lay their hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people, for they knew that he had addressed this parable to them. They watched him closely and sent agents pretending to be righteous who were to trap him in speech, in order to hand him over to the authority and power of the governor. They posed this question to him, “Teacher, we know that what you say and teach is correct, and you show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful for us to pay tribute to Caesar or not?”
Recognizing their craftiness he said to them,
“Show me a denarius; whose image and name does it bear?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” So he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
And remember this was Pennsylvania not the Soviet Union or China. No matter what the current meme of the left is today, a person subject to civil law and prosecution has all kids of legal protections undreamed of in the time of Christ from the presumption of innocence to multiple rights of appeal, particularly in the case of a capital crime. No Bishop had cause to fear that a priest subject to the justice system would be treated unfairly by the courts.
Most importantly as any priest involved in prison ministry know the imposition of a civil penalty even to the point of the death penalty does not preclude the mercy of the sacraments nor the forgiveness of the church.. Given the doctrine of purgatory where the temporal cost of sins already forgiven are paid by the church suffering that Princes of the church didn’t figure this out is amazing.
But not so amazing, because the virtue most vital for this situation was the one that the Bishops in question lacked the most:
Without courage no other virtue can thrive. The Bishops allowed Satan to whisper into their ear and let their fear of scandal to direct their judgement. The lack of courage to directly address the problem when it happened was the real sin of the Church as an institution.
Now nothing here changes the eternal truths of the church, God, Christ, Scripture and the Doctrine of the Church are what they have always been and the eternal truths they have taught remain what they’ve always been, nor does it change the fact that the church has in the past, does in the present, and will in the future continue to feed, clothe, educate, treat for sickness, visit in prison and generally aid more people than any organization that has ever existed and still continues in the task of salvation to all willing to accept the hand of mercy offered by Christ through his Church and those who are counseling the abandonment of the church or celebrating this scandal (and yes believe it or not there are those that are) are not seeking justice due to the perpetrators of these crimes nor the victims of them.
They are seeking the destruction of an enemy that stands between them and your soul.
The best advice I can give to faithful and prayerful Catholics in this crisis is this: Continue to be faithful and prayerful Catholics because it is through the prayers and your faith of the devout who have the courage of their faith that this will be overcome.
Oh and one important warning. We need to pray for all involved, never forgetting that the mercy of Christ is available to all involved and that any soul snatched from the Devil is a victory. Never forget that Heaven will be no less Glorious nor Hell less horrible if we find ourselves next to a person on earth we despised.
I recently finished an audio “course”, Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon, from The Great Courses [US HERE – UK HERE] and I am presently working through Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
Having all this French upheaval in my mind, it wasn’t much of a jump to recall the anecdote about Napoleon and his threat to destroy the Church. It is said that Pius VII’s envoy Ercole Card. Consalvi observed,
“Your majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last 1,800 years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.”
Surely this is true. Holy Church is indefectible. Indefectibility is one of the divinely designed attributes of the Church.
Our Lord made promises. He promised that Hell would not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18). In the end, the Church will be triumphant and the final closing of Hell’s gates will shut the Enemy away forever.
The gates of Hell will not prevail, the Lord promised.
He did not promise that Hell would not prevail against the Church in these USA.