By: Bernie Long
Scandal – Pain – Hope
If anyone causes one of these little ones who trust in me to fall into sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6.
“ABUSE, DENY, COVER UP”.
Another, “ABUSES ALMOST DESTROYS CHURCH’S ABILITY TO TEACH”.
Wow! How sad! How disgusting. How about the poor victims and their families?
I heard your voice in the garden and because I was naked, I hid. Genesis 3:10.
There is no hiding from it – the Catholic Church is in crisis. Its failures have been laid bare. As a lifelong Catholic I could not imagine anything like this growing up. Priests are actually guilty of raping and abusing children. Bishops and Cardinals are covering it up and some actually are guilty of abuse themselves. My feelings range from disgust to anger to profound sadness.
I am no one in Church authority. I am just a practicing Catholic who cares deeply about my Catholic faith and one who feels the need to express my views. While there are no easy answers to this problem here are my thoughts:
There are two viewpoints that I believe are clearly the wrong approach;
- Oh the media has blown this whole church scandal way out of proportion.
- The Church is irreparably damaged and corrupt. They should sell all its possessions and give the funds to the abuse victims and the poor. This whole church scandal has been blown way out of proportion.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. John 8:32.
The Catholic Church is in crisis and what happened is real and widespread and pure evil. We can’t blame the press. If you saw the movie Apollo 13 – a famous line in that movie is “Houston we have a problem”. Well there is no denying it, “Catholics, we have a problem”. I believe the Church will survive and this pain is needed to produce a renewal. It will take change, courage, time and prayer. The vast majority of priests and bishops are wonderful holy men and they too are hurting now just like most Catholics. I believe the Church faithful will rally around our Church provided things change.
This crisis is real and wide spread and it goes beyond the offending priests. It goes to the church hierarchy who gravely erred in failing to protect the innocent children who were victims of this hideous perversion. It is sad but true that often leaders of the church worried more about covering up the scandal than protecting children and living up to the Christian standards that they preached.
Recently a Pennsylvania grand jury in the Diocese in Harrisburg revealed 70 years of abuse. It linked 301 priests and 1,000 sex abuse victims. That is just in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. The former Archbishop of Washington now a Cardinal has resigned amid sex abuse allegations. Our own Philadelphia Archdiocese has had its own major scandal. In dioceses all across the country there have been abuse scandals. This terrible scourge has not just been in the United States but has occurred all around the world.
In Ireland, in the recent referendum on abortion, I read that the pro life advocates did not want the Catholic Church to take a prominent role in opposing the change to the pro-life constitution. It was felt that as a result of their own clergy abuse scandal the Church views would hurt more than help. How sad but understandable.
The Church is irreparably damaged and corrupt and should sell all its possessions and give it to the victims or the poor.
That thinking is flat out wrong. The Church has done so much good over the ages and continues to be a beacon of Christianity all over the world. To suggest or allow its demise is fool hardy.
That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:18.
We are assured that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church that Jesus founded. It is also clear that the sex abuse is clearly from the gates of hell.
We have Jesus’ assurance that not only will the Church he founded endure but the church has the authority to teach – i.e. bind and loose.
There is no Church teaching that supports the abuse/rape of young people and the systematic cover-up of the truth. These people who have committed this grave sin are responsible for their own actions. Remember, Jesus’ own disciples denied Him, betrayed Him and abandoned Him.
It is also true that while this problem still exists the vast majority of the abuse cases took place a long time ago. The Church seems to have learned lessons and has taken concrete steps to protect children. The number of abuse claims since 2002 have dropped dramatically.
Hopefully this recent report will result in continued efforts to rid the Church of this evil.
As far as helping the poor, the Catholic Church is and has been one of the most generous and consistent advocates for the poor. Take the Catholic Church away and the poor and needy would suffer greatly all around the world.
Large organizations have problems. That is a fact. Abolishing the church is not in any way a solution.
The United States is the greatest country in the world. People seek to come here from all over the world. Yet do we have problems? You bet we do!
We hear calls to abolish various law enforcement agencies. Abolish the police force, FBI, ICE, IRS even the military – how naïve. Checks and balances yes, vigilance to abuse yes, but they serve a vital function and overall contribute greatly to the greater good.
Arrogance and power
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:11.
A priest who used to be at Malvern Retreat House who I admire would say “in all his many years of hearing confessions he never heard one person confess the sin of arrogance”. Yet he would say if we are honest and think about it we all know many people who are arrogant. He asks us to stop and think of people in your life who are arrogant. In fact if you really think about it maybe someone would think of you as being arrogant.
Well If I were to point to a major cause that has led to the cover-up of the abuse of innocent young people is that the church hierarchy is guilty of the sin of arrogance.
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ Seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. Mathew 23:1.
Pope Francis has said the Shepherd needs to smell like the sheep. Cardinals and Bishops need to realize that their mission is to serve not to be served. Living in big mansions, being driven around like royalty, having people around to call you “your eminence” is not healthy and it is not Christian. Power corrupts even the best of us.
I recently saw a television show which depicted a person who had an “audience” with a Cardinal. The Cardinal was depicted as cold and arrogant. Fancy robes, big Crucifix on his chest. He displayed disdain to hearing people who would dare disagree with him. In fact, he reminded the person to call him “Your Eminence” and ended by asking the person to kiss his ring. I have had no direct contact with church hierarchy but sadly in some cases that depiction may be true.
When I was in graduate school I was assigned to write a term paper “the efficacy of being absolutely certain before appointing any person to a position of authority.” Well my first line of the paper stated you can never be absolutely certain. People are complex and the future is unknown to all of us. However, the premise is so true. Make a mistake in picking the wrong person to a position of leadership can cause such problems. As a result of this scandal the church needs to look at the process for selecting Bishops and Cardinals. Same is true for priests.
I had contact with some of the priests who were abusers when I was a student at Cardinal O’Hara 50 years ago. While I was not abused in any way I did notice even at such a young age that these men were very eccentric. We all have our eccentricities but these men acted in odd ways that were outside the realm of normalcy. Maybe in our haste to ordain priests we are not vigilant as to whom in fact we are ordaining.
We all know that a person who feels he or she cannot be fired can be a problem. If a priest is guilty of abuse of a minor, even one time, he needs to be reported to the police and no longer function as a priest if guilty.
Bishops and Cardinals need to be removed from office if they act inappropriately or even if it found that they are not fit for the position. We spend a great deal of time vetting a person for sainthood. Maybe we should spend more time vetting and in continuing to evaluate our Bishops and Cardinals.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife. Corinthians 7:34.
There are calls for ending celibacy. Are married priests the answer? I am not sure that is a good idea. Married priests would bring up a whole new set of problems. Plus, I have read studies that married men are just as likely to be pedophiles as celibate priests.
For now I will pass on the idea of women priests.
Homosexuality and Pedophilia are different. If Priests had affairs with other consenting adults it would be a problem but we would not be in this child abuse scandal. However it is undeniable that most of the priest child abuse victims are male. There are stories of homosexual activity in seminaries. Again, I am not sure what the answer to this is, but it needs to be studied. The calling to be a priest requires celibacy – that goes with the calling. I know for myself it would not be good for me during my days in the seminary, if I were to be a priest, to be housed in a building with all single ladies about my age; that is exactly what happens to gay seminarians.
I am not sure what the church has done about addressing celibacy in the seminary. This needs to constantly be studied and monitored. If a seminarian is struggling with celibacy in a major way or has a serious problem abstaining from viewing pornography maybe he needs to recognize and admit that the priesthood is not for him.
In the book “All the President Men” which is about the scandal of the Nixon Administration, the informant that guided the Washington Post reporters told them the key to uncovering the scandal was to “Follow the Money”.
Well a prime reason for the abuse cover-up is money. Money and power go together. It is feared that the abuse victim’s lawsuits could bankrupt the church. Sadly the cover up efforts only made things worse. It allowed predators to stay on the job and abuse more children. Pope Francis has stated church hierarchy should delegate ministerial matters so as to free up Bishops and Cardinals to be a shepherd to bring people to Christ and his Church. I am not sure this is being followed.
The Church is a large multinational operation. An organization of this magnitude needs to operate their finances in a business like fashion. People donate their hard earned money to the Church. The Church in turn needs to be vigilant that the money is handled properly and openly. Finance needs to be taught in the Seminary. Financial statements need to be issued. Independent Certified Public Accountants hired to review the internal controls of Church to properly handle Church funds. These accountants need to express an opinion on the fairness of the financial statements just like other large organizations. There have been alleged financial improprieties at the Vatican. There have been cases where priest and others who have had sole control of funds could not resist the temptation to steal the money. Parishes need to have financial counsels made up of faithful lay people to review church finances. It should not be solely left up to the Pastor or Bishop.
Here is one small example – I was vacationing in Wildwood New Jersey a few summers ago. The priest announced at Sunday mass that there was to be a Benediction at night in which a well known Irish tenor was going to sing. I was asked to help out at the service including taking up the collection. It was very well attended. The contributions were almost all by cash. When I took the money back into the sacristy there was no one there to take the funds. In fact, I just emptied the basket full of lots of cash on a big table and left.
Now I am not saying that the money was not used properly but clearly this is not anyway to conduct business. There should have been at least two people there to collect the cash, count it and deposit it as soon as possible. To just leave all that money lying on a table shows little respect to those who contributed the money.
We boast of afflictions, knowing that afflictions produce endurance and endurance proven character and proven character hope and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 6:3-5.
Be not afraid! The Holy Spirit is with our Church. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. The gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Through this affliction we must fight for our Church to be cleansed. We must always remain people of Hope.
Bernie Long is the author of this article and occasional blogger to Walk By Faith To Live is a devoted husband and father and active member of St. Pius X Parish in Broomall, PA whereby he is a leader in many Church groups and ministries. Bernie retired from his work with the IRS for many years and is a legendary baseball pitcher in Delaware County annals from childhood through his college career and is still an avid sportsman to this day. His love for Jesus and Our Blessed Mother and the Saints as well as the Eucharist, Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Prayer to St. Gertrude and his Catholic Faith are also legendary and inspiring.