“Jerusalem has multiplied her sins; that is why she has become unclean; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she moans and turns her face away. (...) ‘Behold, Jehovah, my misery, because the enemy triumphs!’” (Lam. 1:8).
With a pendular rhythm, the media announces the unworthy fall of ministers of Jesus Christ, whose disqualifications legitimately scandalize believers as well as non-believers. In recent weeks, unfortunately, there are no longer isolated cases of pedophilia or homosexuality that have been revealed, but serial offenses, accompanied by the denunciation of homosexual networks ravaging the very heart of the Vatican. The honor of Jesus Christ, the holiness of the Church, priestly dignity and even the Christian name are regarded as tainted. Many disoriented, saddened or even disgusted faithful ponder these events. These few considerations will provide them with a few insights for themselves and their loved ones.
The sins incriminated are among the most serious faults. Homosexuality is one of the four sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance; as for pedophilia, its odious character is even more revolting a fortiori when these sins are committed by priests whose sanctity of state should elevate them to the summit of perfection. If they do not perform penance, these men risk falling into the hands of the “vengeful God.” But if they repent and strive to repair their evils, we cannot doubt for a moment that the infinite mercy of God would be accorded to them. No human effort can stifle divine goodness. God demonstrates His converting power in the history of salvation by which He can instantly soften the hearts of the “good thieves.”
If these sins and their penance fall mainly on those who commit them, the prayer and the atonement must be the lot of all Christians, especially the priests. Christ, who was innocent, gave the example by expiating the faults of sinners. Every scandal in the Church must be an invitation to her children toward a life of prayer and penance. Mercy is not only forgiving, but also takes part in expiation.
Notwithstanding this just indignation and necessary atonement, the strong publicity given to these scandals leads one to wonder why the revelations only target Catholic priests and not the representatives of other religions, lay educators, and guilty parents. No doubt it must be remembered that the fault of a priest is more serious than that of any other man. But is it always the suffering of the victims that motivates the news, or is it the identity of the culprit?
Behind the all too dark reality and the indiscreet display that is made of these scandals stands the shadow of Satan who has a hatred of priests. He strives to make them fall into sin to better drag the priests publically through the mud and with them the honor of the divine master.
If it is right to punish the culprits and make them known to society, it is just as true to remember the many holy priests who have illuminated the Church with their purity and dedication to the youth. Is it necessary to recall the names of St. John Bosco, St. John Baptist de la Salle, St. Michael Garricoits, and Fr. Timon David? Is it necessary to point out the myriad of religious and priests who have devoted their whole lives, often in admirable discretion, to the education of youth? The betrayal of Judas must not make us forget the martyrdom of the 11 other apostles. Let us not be so overwhelmed with these scandals that we forget that Europe was the place of the highest civilization precisely because it was Catholic. One of the Church’s finest titles of glory is to have raised childhood out of the sad condition it suffered due to paganism.
If we are rightly scandalized by the physical abuse of innocent people, we should be even moreso before the vast majority of modern childhoods. These souls are unjustly deprived of God and the supernatural life by a secular and atheistic education.
In the face of these scandals, the nagging question remains: how did we get here? The main causes are ecclesial and profane. Firstly, at the level of the Church, beyond malice and personal weakness, it is evident that there were flaws or even mistakes in the appointment of ecclesiastical superiors, the selection and training of candidates for the priesthood, and the absence of sanctions. It is unlikely, for example, that true homosexual networks have been able to build and maintain themselves, permitting their members to co-opt to the highest positions.
For several decades, before and after the Council, liberalism, progressivism, and naturalism have produced their deleterious effects in many consecrated souls. The disastrous experience of “working priests” was a blatant illustration of this: the priest should be a man like all others; he should work at the factory, no longer wear his ecclesiastical clothing; he should mingle with others. The result was not long in coming and most of these unfortunate priests married and abandoned the priesthood. In saying that it was no longer necessary to condemn the world, speak about sin and the end of life, or to “insist” upon sexual morality that, on the contrary, it was necessary to show openness and to magnify the dignity of man and the human body, what happened? Christian humility, mortification, asceticism, rules of prudence, frequent confession, assiduous prayer, and modesty have been insidiously eclipsed.
The great movement of openness to the world advocated by Paul VI during the closing of the Council introduced the spirit of the world with its vices into the sanctuary of the Church.
St. Paul warned the Romans: the sin of infidelity is punished by blindness that leads to sins against nature (Rom. Ch. I). The phenomenon is tragically confirmed in the Church of God: the crisis of faith without precedent is correlatively accompanied by a disastrous moral crisis. It is striking to note that the countries most affected by these evils are those most marked by liberalism and progressivism.
At the level of society: The media has done a fine job of revealing the immorality of religious ministers as if the origin was found solely in the Catholic Church. The problem is more complex; the Church is not of the world but her children live in the world. There is a reciprocal influence that appears in the current scandals. Contemporary society is reaching peaks of immorality: the cinema, internet, television, theater, advertising on any medium, and “art” exhibitions. The media as a whole broadcasts an omnipresent and constant message of lust in its images, the subjects discussed, and the “models” presented.
Promoted by the media, lust and its consequences are institutionalized and legalized by political power: abortion, promotion of homosexuality, “sex education” at school, birth control given to young women, funding of organized pressure groups, etc.
And not only is lust encouraged—in almost every form—but those who oppose it are vilified, ridiculed, or even condemned. How many times is the Church mocked because within this world of sin, she advocates authentic consecrated chastity and true chastity in marriage!
Is it any surprise that in this hedonistic and pornographic climate where the slightest sexual innuendo is warmly applauded, men who are consecrated and living in the world are morally weakened, and that the proportion of “rotten fruits” is increased? In our circles of Tradition, we often find the misdeeds to civil society caused by the separation of Church and State. Today, another misdeed is tragically manifested in the wrong done to the Church by the paganization of the world.
The situation of the Church is such today that it does not merely require measures of recovery, or, even less so, a relaxation of the priestly requirements, but a real reform.
Without a doubt, it is necessary to change the number of superiors, to ensure the application of penalties, the training of seminarians, and the reinstatement of prudential measures, but all these measures will be sterile if they are not based on an in-depth reform, firstly, of priestly sanctity, secondly, of Christian families from which the majority of solid vocations emerge.
In the Church of God, every authentic reform begins with a restoration of theological life i.e. the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. May it please God that this corruption of morals is a providential sign that opens the eyes of many so that the deep and doctrinal causes of this crisis in the Church may finally be discerned and treated. May the life of faith, prayer and penance of Christians hasten this blessed day!
Translated from the French by Associate Editor Jane Carver.