The last couple months have certainly been depressing for a lot of Catholics. It brings to mind the title of a musical stage play from the 60s – Stop the World, I Want To Get Off.
Any Catholic who is unaware of the litany of events has just not been paying attention. ‘The summer of shame’ as it’s been called, has been topped off with the charges being made by Archbishop Vigano and his call for Pope Francis to resign.
What’s the buzz?
In the last couple weeks, in the parish my wife and I belong to, we heard a sermon by our pastor on how all the Church’s current problems are due to “clericalism.” This was followed by a homily the first Sunday in September, by our new assistant pastor, a Jesuit, on how Pope Francis has been “slandered” by Archbishop Vigano. Both times I had to quell the urge to get up out of the pew and quietly exit the church.
But as what I hope is the case for all Catholics, my wife and I don’t go to Mass for the homilies. Good homilies are a bonus. We go to Mass for the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We go to Mass to keep the Lord’s Day Holy and to receive “the source and summit” of Christian life – the Eucharist.
According to articles and comments in various online publications, however, all the recent bad news has some Catholics contemplating actually leaving the Catholic Church altogether. This is, to be blunt, boneheaded thinking.
So I have to wonder how the ‘summer of shame’ is being addressed from the pulpits in parishes throughout the country. As should be fairly obvious from our pastor’s and assistant pastor’s remarks, the clergy in my parish tend to lean to the left. But Catholics in parishes run by clerics with more conservative and traditional views may have heard a completely different message. On the other hand, since only about 22% of Catholics go to Mass regularly, the chances are pretty good that those Catholics who are thinking about leaving the Church may have left some time ago.
Catholics at War?
Mathew Schmitz, the senior editor at First Things, wrote in an NY Times opinion piece that, “No matter what Francis does now, the Catholic Church has been plunged into all-out civil war. On one side are the traditionalists, who insist that abuse can be prevented only by tighter adherence to church doctrine. On the other side are the liberals, who demand that the church cease condemning homosexual acts and allow gay priests to step out of the closet.”
Our assistant pastor referenced this thinking in his sermon. He said the peace that’s existed in the Church since Vatican II has now been shattered. Then he echoed Cardinal Cupich’s statements that there are bigger problems, like the environment and protecting migrants that need to be addressed.
A Church Breaking Apart?
So the Vigano charges have brought the ‘cold war’ to a head. The truce that has existed since Vatican II has erupted into a war over which side is going to be in control of Church teaching from here on. It’s kind of like the battle over the Supreme Court. Will it be made up of conservative judges who interpret the Constitution literally and say Congress is in charge of making laws, or will it be staffed by progressive judges who say the Constitution is a living document and who think that legislating from the bench is just fine.
And according to Jonathon Last, at the National Standard, the Church is now breaking apart:
“We are only at the current moment because the forces that conspired to elevate Francis refused, for decades, to leave the church, even though their desires were at odds with its teachings.
“Despite the fact that the Catholic church rejected their preferences as false, the South American liberation theologists, the German cardinals who wanted to redefine marriage, and the American progressives who never met a social justice cause they didn’t like all hung on. Eventually, they organized. And after a generation of an orthodox papacy, during which time most American Catholics forgot that there even was a radical side of the faith, they worked together to elect Francis. Organization works if you’re willing to play the long game and play for keeps.”
And Here We Are
While clericalism has contributed to the problems, clericalism is not the cause. Clericalism was certainly a contributory factor, but sexual immorality, and more specifically, homosexuality, is the cause of the problems.
As Rick Fitzgibbons, MD, noted in an article at LifeSiteNews.com, “My professional opinion as a psychiatrist with forty years of clinical experience is that the cause of the abuse crisis is rooted in psychological and spiritual conflicts in bishops and in priests, specifically a narcissism and a profound weakness in male confidence which inclines them to homosexual predation.”
By the Numbers
Most Catholics should know by now that 80% of the sexual abuse that came to light in 2002, and again in the PA Grand Jury Report, involved homosexual priests preying on post-pubescent boys, teenaged boys, and young men. Also, most of the abuse took place between 1965 and 1985, and a significant majority of the accused priests are now deceased. But there are still a few abusive clerics like McCarrick walking around. And there are still some homosexual priests in our parishes. Those who are living pious, chaste lives, in the traditional sense of the word, should be respected. But those who lack self-control should be laicized. If they are guilty of molesting minors they should be imprisoned.
The anti-Catholic media, however, seems to enjoy playing up the “abusers of children” and pedophilia angle. They would have everyone believing that the Catholic Church is chock full of active pedophile clergy preying on seven- and eight-year-old boys and girls. But this is clearly not the case.
Sexual Abuse in Public Schools
Consider too, the 2006 CBS News article “Has Media Ignored Sex Abuse in School?” In 2002 the Department of Education carried out a nationwide study of sex abuse in the public school system. As the CBS News article reports:
“Hofstra University researcher Charol Shakeshaft looked into the problem, and the first thing that came to her mind when Education Week reported on the study were the daily headlines about the Catholic Church.
“[T]hink the Catholic Church has a problem?” she said. “The physical sexual abuse of students in [public] schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” [Emphasis added.]
“So, in order to better protect children, did media outlets start hounding the worse menace of the school systems, with headlines about a “Nationwide Teacher Molestation Cover-up” and by asking “Are Ed Schools Producing Pedophiles?”
“No, they didn’t. That treatment was reserved for the Catholic Church, while the greater problem in the schools was ignored altogether.”
And 12 years later, the problem in our schools is still not being reported by the MSM. it may even have gotten worse. Many Catholic parents, however, have no problem letting their children go to public schools.
One Instance is Too Many
Some Catholics will say that “one instance of abuse is too many.” And they are right. But I hope those who are so quick to say this are equally as vocal and concerned about the public school system. I hope they are pulling their children out of public schools and putting them in Catholic schools or at least homeschooling them.
Sexual immorality, and specifically homosexuality predation, has clearly been the cause of all the Church’s problems. Yet 70% of Catholics say homosexuality is perfectly normal. Sodomy, they say is not immoral. It’s not immoral for two men or two women to engage in sexual relations. A lot of Catholics these days seem to be really confused. Society seems to be reverting to paganism. Too many people, Catholics included, have been swayed by the sales pitch of the homosexual activists and the ‘if it feels good do it’ mantra of the 60s Sexual Revolution.
The Body of Christ
While all priests and bishops are not saints, the overwhelming majority of them are good, pious men, doing their best to emulate Christ and be good shepherds to their flocks. And those good priests and bishops are feeling the pain of the abuse scandal just like all Catholics, possibly even more so (guilt by association). Now, more than ever, we should be praying for them and the Pope, and praying for more vocations as well.
For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has been made up of imperfect people. We try to be good but we too often fall short. We sin. But the Catholic Church is still the Body of Christ – it is His Church. And at every Mass during the Consecration Catholics get to witness a miracle – the miracle of Transubstantiation – the bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Even if the priest is a less than a holy guy, and even if he is in a state of mortal sin, as long as the rubrics are followed the miracle still takes because it is Jesus Christ Himself who is performing this miracle. And we get to receive Communion and become one with Him.
To Whom Shall We Go
Despite the scandals and bad news, I really and truly cannot fathom why anyone would even consider leaving the Catholic Church. I feel bad for all of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters. They are not able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. So why would any intelligent, rational Catholic leave the Church and voluntarily cut himself or herself off from the Bread of Life? It does not make a lot of sense to me. It’s not rational thinking.
It’s kind of like saying ‘a lot of our politicians, policeman and judges were corrupt during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and some still are, so I’m going to stop being an American.’ Or, ‘I hate our country because slavery was allowed here a long time ago.’ Or better yet, ‘the world we live in has too many bad people in it so I’m going to quit the human race.’ Much as we’d like too sometimes, we can’t stop the world and get off.
The problems the Church is facing today will eventually get sorted out. As many others have said, the Church has weathered many storms over 2,000 years and she will weather this one, too. The Holy Spirit is still guiding the Church. And the immutable truths of Catholic teaching cannot be changed because they are God’s truths.
Despite all the ‘bad news’ Catholicism is the one true Faith. To paraphrase Peter, from the August 26 gospel reading (John 6:60-69), there’s no place else to go.