May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus (Romans 15:5) — The 2018 “Summer of Sorrow” has proven to be a tumultuous time for the Church. The Barque of Peter has been rocked by scandal after scandal, and many Church leaders and laity have found themselves both shocked and saddened by the continuing allegations, while resolved to remain faithful to our beloved Mother Church.
In the midst of our anger at the actions of these sinful men, we must not forget the real consequences that their sinful acts have had on the lives of their victims. We must remember in prayer those whose lives have been devastated by the betrayal of a man they viewed as Christ. There have likely been many vocations that have been either rejected or damaged because of abuse, and many more souls who have given up their Faith because of the scandal.
Though the secular news is focused primarily on cases of pedophilia, there is in fact a broader problem that has arisen. Many excellent measures were put in place by the 2002 Dallas Charter to prevent the abuse of minors; however, the recent scandals have primarily involved adults. The same core principle applies.
In all humility, as laity who deeply respect the priesthood and those who have been called to serve in this vocation, we ask nothing more than Christ asks of us laity. That is, we call upon all priests or professed religious who have failed in fidelity to their vows of chastity, to seek reconciliation and spiritual direction, and to do penance for their failings. Just as lay people who had sinned against their marriage vows would be instructed by their spiritual director or pastor to confess their sins, do penance, and seek to restore the wrong they had done, we must also hold our ordained and professed religious accountable in the same way. If someone is unable to do that then they should confer with their superior to discern the future of their vocation.
Since the scandal broke regarding then-Cardinal McCarrick, followed closely by the sworn testimony of Archbishop Vigano, much has happened in the Church. On September 19, Cardinal DiNardo and the Administrative Committee of the USCCB announced four points of action which will be taken:
- The establishment of a third-party reporting system for complaints of sexual misconduct, whether with minors or adults;
- The development of new proposals for policies addressing restrictions on Bishops who were removed or resigned;
- The development of a Code of Conduct for Bishops regarding sexual misconduct whether with minors or adults, or negligence in the exercise of their office in such cases;
- A full investigation into the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, as well as any responses made to those allegations.
Regarding the fourth item, the USCCB statement notes that such an investigation should rely upon lay men and women who are experts in the relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services.
Through the darkness that has been shed on the Church there has also been significant light that has shown forth.
This past week I attended the 14th annual Los Angeles Catholic Prayer Breakfast in which nearly 2,000 faithful Catholics gathered in the early hours to pray the Rosary, celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and listen to Bishop Robert Barron detail that not only is this not a time to leave the Church, it is a time to fight for the Church! He reminded all those in attendance that we do not belong to the Catholic Church because of the virtue of priests and bishops; we belong to the Catholic Church because it is the Church Christ founded.
Archbishop Jose Gomez also delivered a powerful reflection on St. Josemaria Escriva’s personal call to holiness, to become Saints in these difficult times.
In reflecting on that responsibility, we cannot help but remember the many holy men and women of the Church who answered the call to sanctity in times of great tribulation and, in turn, resulted in great reform in the Church. Great saints such as St. Peter Damien, a Benedictine monk and Cardinal of the 11th century, restored great virtue and morality and upheld clerical celibacy at a time, much like our own, when some strayed from the fullness of God’s truth and teachings.
We also look to St. Catherine of Siena who, as a humble Dominican tertiary, answered Christ’s call to speak directly to the highest authorities in the Church, respectfully and firmly reminding them of their duties as the successors of Christ’s first apostles.
These holy men and women, both lay and professed, are shining models for us of upholding the Truth of the Church’s teaching out of love and concern for the members of the Church.
We are reminded that sin and corruption have no politics, and that the Evil One wants everyone to fall with him to eternal damnation. It is only in the unchanging Truth of Jesus Christ that we have unity and salvation.
Great hope is found even in the darkest corners
Despite the darkness and scandal that has entered our Church, there is great hope and much to be thankful for. This trying time has allowed for good and holy men and women to step forward and let their voices be heard. There has been a groundswell of faithful Catholics who have continued, or perhaps for the first time, fasted and prayed unceasingly for the purity and restoration of God’s Church.
The USCCB, under the leadership of Cardinal DiNardo, has called for greater accountability and investigations.
Lay faithful and clergy have stepped forward and are working tirelessly to find real solutions to the problems that we face; not only abuse of minors (which is of utmost concern and handled both civilly and canonically), but also abuse of adults, abuse of power, disobedience to Christ’s teachings, and disobedience to vows. The latter are not civil crimes that are handled through secular investigations, they are crimes against Divine law.
After the 2002 Dallas Charter, every participating diocese formed a lay committee to process complaints of abuse against minors, including mandatory reporting to civil authorities. In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archbishop Gomez expanded the scope of his Diocesan Lay Board to include abuse of adults. That practice should be adopted by every diocese immediately and expanded to include all issues that we are currently facing: disobedience to vows, abuse of power, financial corruption, etc.
It is also prudent for educational programs to be instituted for bishops, clergy, religious, and laity who are involved in Church ministry or serve on any oversight committee. The purpose of these programs would be to ensure that proper Church teaching is understood and proper understandings of finance, management, etc. are mastered.
We can recall another time of great tribulation in the Church, when Martin Luther, a corrupt cleric, had split with the Church, leading thousands with him. It was at this very time that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego. Juan Diego was a simple lay man, yet Our Lady chose him to be the instrument by which nearly as many souls were added back into the fold of the Church as were leaving it in the Europe. Let us beg Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession as we seek unity for the faithful during this difficult time in our Church.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus prays that his disciples would be one even as He and the Father are one, that the Love of God may be seen in them. We, as a Church, will not be able to enjoy this kind of unity until we remove the corruption that exists within our Church. In order for authentic reform to exist we must remain faithful to Christ’s teachings, we must pray unceasingly, fast, and move forward with a spirit of charity toward all.
I echo the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s plea for unity in its Sept 18, 2018 statement, asking that all the faithful would join with the Holy Father in obedience and love, joining our prayers to his as we pray: “May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.”