THAT CAUSES CATHOLIC CHURCH SCANDALS
BUT NOBODY WANTS TO SAY SO
by Tom Roeser
"On The Other Hand"
The last time I wrote about the responsibility the Vatican has for sweeping pedophilia and other sexual sins under the rug, some guy contacted me brimming with erroneous theological rectitude saying—“who are YOU to judge the Popes?”
Huh? All of us can judge popes--since we have the gifts of free-will, critical judgment and utterly no prohibition on making our views known if they are malice-free and informed. Criticism in historic context is not verboten. But at the same time, those who have accepted the Faith under the magisterium of the Church can never have any just reason for changing that faith or calling it into doubt. Why not? Because God is never sparing with His grace and the evidence for accepting the Faith is such that a Catholic does not have objectively valid grounds for doubting or denying what he claims is trouble in believing.
Criticism of past popes if one the issues should not be confused with Satan’s work.
Peter was the greatest. Viewing popes in my lifetime, Pius XI was a liberal scholar, he a forerunner (with Leo XIII who was far more balanced skewing excesses of capitalism, socialism) of the “social justice” papal and theological mindset seeking to instill some “morality” in the capital markets --Quadragisimo Anno implied international bankers are wicked: okay but then as with most clerics, economics was not his strong suit.
Pius XII outstanding, maintaining an even keel in World War II, promulgating brilliantly that Communism was an evil force; and for this as payback, victimized cruelly because of this to allege he was a crypto Nazi from a fictitious play, “The Deputy,” that fabricated his alleged anti-Semitism out of whole cloth (ignoring his heroic rescue efforts of hundreds of Jews for which he received accolades from the chief rabbi of Jerusalem).
John XXIII rightly called Vatican II into session but it was the so-called “spirit of Vatican II” in his latter years and following his death that embraced often thoughtless, excessive and mindless “reform” by theological liberals. Read the documents and you’ll see that the doctrines ratified were sound—sample: pantheism condemned…clerical celibacy upheld….abortion condemned…the Bible prominent…brilliant on the essence of religious life, freedom of education, historicity of the Gospels, the morality of war, purgatory, on the teaching of sexual pleasure, on the universal call to holiness, on veneration of saints etc. Paul VI suffered mightily in striving to turn back the revolutionaries imbued with the “spirit of Vatican II”… saving the day and who by the grace of God rallied and wrote Humanae Vitae which earns him 4 stars in my book.
JPI died too early to be rated. JPII a classic world leader despite administrative curial difficulties who collaborated with Reagan, Thatcher and Lech Walesa to help overthrow communism. Benedict XVI with a weakness for eco-liberalism and “capitalist greed is bad” theories is still one of the world’s greatest theologians…and even enforced more strictly rules against priestly sexual abuse despite serious personal and curial administrative lapses which let some erring bishops go free.
You shouldn’t judge popes? That’s the kind of goofy misplaced robot-style blind-folded-ness that led the human side of the papacy into grievous error many times in the past…has produced the Protestant reformation…as it threatens to stir disunion again. Fortunately sometimes deluged by a sea of zircons the Church has developed great diamonds… popes who served civilization brilliantly every 500 years or so…including:
Gregory II, five hundred years after the crucifixion of Peter, a former Roman senator turned Benedictine monk, who stood tall against the barbarian tidal wave that threatened to sweep away all vestiges of Christianity—starting the counter-revolution that converted the barbarians into the ballast that became Christian Europe for a thousand years…
Gregory VII, another Benedictine monk 500 or so years later… who inspired scholasticism, saving the great manuscripts of antiquity…including Aristotle and Plato…to enrich and fortify the ages….Pius V a great Dominican 500 years after that who applied the doctrines of the Council of Trent building a canonical structure that exists to this day…and 500 years after that John Paul II with all his imperfections administratively who strove mightily to overturn communism and who with aforementioned help did.
But lest you think the litany of popes is the whole story of Catholicism, hang tight to the end of this long (I confess) post.
Largely the institutional laxity of curia and diocesan functionaries is responsible for undue toleration of the Lavender Priesthoo including failure to discipline the seminaries, religious orders and so-called “Catholic” universities…due to a largely absentee and compliant papacy, aided by weak, bishops, putty in the hands of their bureaucracies —dominated by a mindset that prattles “we must not allow scandal that engulfs the Church to scandalize the world.” Important: not all homosexuals are child abusers—but all child abusers…especially of little boys…are homosexuals. Spurious so-called statistics from the psychological industry are politically correct accommodations.
Permissiveness of the Lavender Priesthood has been… and will continue to be… disastrous unless it is corrected immediately. The toleration and winking at it…as with the case of the Chicago jailed pedophile ex-priest Dan McCormack where the then rector of Mundelein told the Sun-Times he would ordain McCormack yet again…and went from there to auxiliary bishop of Chicago…bishop of Tucson and number two in the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—soon to be number one…while the paper’s religious reporter was let go since after its publication she could get no archdiocesan spokesman to return her call--is inexcusable…and shows that in pushing her out, the ultra-liberal paper collaborated with the archdiocese.
--That and the fact that the p. r. spokesman for the archdiocese was quoted as telling the press “well, he didn’t rape anybody”. How’d you like to have your 8-year-old boy sexually fondled and hear that comment?
In all too many cases the papacy, curia and offending bishops have not applied the view of the Apostle Paul who said
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
Lest some other Simple Mind thinks I am going south on the Church I love and have venerated since childhood, let’s review the theological facts.
Let’s review the bidding of indelible lessons from Fr. Ernie.
It has been the unanimous teaching of the ancient Fathers that
the Church was born from the side of Jesus Christ on the cross. 2. By Christ’s death and resurrection, the New Testament replaced the Old Law. 3. By His death on the cross, Christ merited human salvation—making it possible for those before and since to receive the manifold graces they need to reach heaven. 4. In Against Heresies, St. Ireneus identified the root of all heresies as the unwillingness to accept the Church’s teaching centered in the Vicar of Christ on earth, the visible head of the Church, the bishop of Rome.
5. This means there is one Church established by Christ: the Catholic Church which is governed by the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. Does this mean other Christian churches have no standing? No, but they exist in greater or less measure in their divinely ordained fullness (read this as subsisting) in the Roman Catholic Church.
6. The infallibility of the popes, defined by Vatican I teaches that when they speak ex cathedra or “from the chair” on doctrines of faith and morals, they are immune from error. This may seem like hair-splitting but being immune from error on faith or morals is not the same as the perception that everything they say on any subject is infallible. So far a perfect record although Honorius I came close, did not attend a consistory where his representative promulgated error and shrugged it off pragmatically—for which he was properly anathematized.
7. Again: Infallibility does not mean that popes are immune from error on matters where they don’t speak ex cathedra or judgments they may make on social issues as human beings or administrative failings…nor that their judgments are free from error in the realm of non-doctrinal matters. To think otherwise is to confer on them impeccability which is a far different thing.
What we have here with pedophilia swept under the rug is this: This disgraceful condition of toleration for the Lavender Priesthood has invaded the bureaucracies of many archdioceses including Chicago’s…and has permeated the Vatican curia. The latest case is toxic. But let’s be clear anent The New York Times’ revelations insisting Benedict alone is to blame.
Not so. To insist that Benedict or John Paul II solely are responsible for laxity in dealing with pedophilia is akin to saying a president of the United States is guilty of the derelictions of subordinates (though conceding, that in Watergate Nixon was personally involved in cover-up and in Bill Clinton’s abuse of the intern Monica Lewinsky after which he lied under oath, he undeniably was). As we know from a practical point of history, there have been given latitude to presidents…JFK for the Bay of Pigs (by believing without checking what the CIA’s Alan Dulles and Richard Helms insisted would be a success)…Jimmy Carter for believing that the stupid rescue attempt of the Iranian hostages via helicopters could work.
In most cases of gross error, popes and rulers aren’t personally involved. But they must take responsibility. There is no doubt that the secular media want to indict Benedict personally for dereliction for one reason alone: He stands for absolutes in moral theology that the relativist media find objectionable. God-hater and atheist fulminator Christopher Hitchens who assailed Mother Teresa on TV during her funeral and Irish rock singer baldy Sinead O’Connor are the most extreme examples.
Saying thisdoesn’t absolve the Vatican of responsibility or popes who are supposed to administer their office meticulously. And it is a fact that the Vatican declined to defrock a Milwaukee priest who abused as many as 200 deaf boys even though a number of bishops repeatedly warned it about the consequences. It is also a fact that correspondence addressed to then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was often ignored and that he and/or his subordinates did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests when he served as an archbishop in Germany or as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer. But before you make the final judgment, consider this:
For these things The New York Times is assailing Benedict. If they were objective they would also be assailing Obama for evading culpability for allegedly offering the post of secretary of the navy to ex-admiral Rep. Joe Sestak get him out of the way from running against Arlen Specter—a federal crime worthy of impeachment if provable. If they wanted to be true to their so-called “objective” investigative image The Times wouldn’t be sweeping THAT under the rug…as indeed it IS.
Several reservations must be considered before we get to the facts. First, , contrary to implications in The Times Ratzinger was not the point man from 1981 until his election as pope in April 2005. He did not have any responsibility for handling the overall Vatican sex abuse response until 2001, four years before he became pope.
Second, that which the media considers a “smoking gun” is no. They refer to a May, 2001 letter from Ratzinger to the bishops recommending that certain grave crimes including sexual abuse of a minor should be referred to his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and that they are subject to “the pontifical secret.” Sounds conspiratorial but it pertains to the church’s disciplinary measures—not to be construed as holding back on reporting cases to the police.
Third, a story that relatively few cases were subjected to a full canonical trial is misleading. Strong American bishops fought canonical trials because Roman trials can last years and even then may not be conclusive. In fact handling 60% of the cases by the bishops themselves is seen as evidence of renewed need for action. In the recent past, Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl removed a priest after allegations of sexual abuse. The priest appealed to Rome. The Vatican ordered the priest reinstated. Wuerl himself went to Rome and got the job done—but the experience convinced many U.S. bishops that canonical trials were not the right way to handle this. The problem seemed to be then that the Vatican was more concerned about the rights of accused priests than the child victims.
Still, the facts are extremely serious. The case against the Milwaukee priest was called to the Vatican’s attention in 1996 by none other than Archbishop Rembert Weakland (himself later a self-admitted homosexual…although there could be some speculation as to his motivation). Whoever was responsible…Ratzinger’s staff or him personally…the fact remains that Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters from Weakland.
After eight months of inexcusable laxity and non-response Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to the priest’s dismissal. The fact remains that Bertone ended the process after the priest wrote to Ratzinger saying he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was beyond the Church’s own statute of limitations—and was given a pass.
Meaning the criminally guilty pedophile priest was never tried or disciplined by the Church itself but got a pass from police and prosecutors who ignored reports from the victims. A total of three archbishops of Milwaukee were told about the priest’s derelictions but never told civil authorities. So don’t get the idea the Milwaukee case was an exception. We all know it isn’t. In fact, while Dan McCormack was awaiting sentencing for a crime he confessed, he and a group of archdiocesan clergy…including at least one Higher Up—not the archbishop, though-- went off on a vacation together.
The question remains: What will the Church and the Pope do about this laxity? Merely writing tracts and issuing statements of remorse without reforming the Curial deficiencies are insufficient. Everyone dealing with the Curial bureaucracy on this and other matters know the legendary Italianate winking and inefficiency. The anomaly of last week was Benedict’s lecturing Irish bishops for laxity which he himself showed as bishop of Munich. There’s no avoidance of the fact that his handling of the crisis, in Munich, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or as pope cannot be improved. To me, it should include far more than the ordinary reforms—but should concentrate on The Lavender Priesthood that also affects too many bishops.
Benedict must reform it now and replace it with an alert immediate response action team. The cases are endemic. More than a decade ago a downstate Illinois prelate was reported as constantly on the prowl in his automobile for young men to pick up. What happened? Nothing: the guy was allowed to retire when his successor was appointed.
(For more on that click HERE and HERE)
The laxity throughout the Church on the Lavender Priesthood was and is a virulent disgrace.
Then there is this fact: Most of the charges and convictions come from an organization known as SNAP.
While there is no doubt the media enjoys exploiting leaks in the bark of Peter, slurring of the curia and its officials including the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger now Benedict XVI…much of their reports have come not from their investigations…but from an organization which is worthy of some scrutiny itself.
I say this as one who works as a columnist for The Wanderer, the oldest and most venerable national Catholic weekly in America…the first and to a startling degree the only Catholic newspaper to sustainedly spotlight these abuses with definitude…investigators who belong to an organization called SNAP [Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests]…whom I interviewed repeatedly…have personal axes to grind against the Church beyond the immediate charges they make. Those axes do not erase the validity or their original charges but nevertheless exist. Two major points.
First: The SNAP people as social and political liberals cannot bring themselves to admit that homosexuality which has run rife, producing the Lavender Priesthood, is the overwhelming cause of the scandal. They have adopted the same cultural bias of today’s liberals and media about homosexuality…that it is not a sinful choice or a weakness and definitely not an abuse of the sexual faculty…but misled by certain liberal pathologies they believe that it is neither reversible but merely a normal variation, like being left-handed.
In fact if SNAP had used its findings to blast the Lavender Priesthood, the chances are great that the media would be loath to run the stories.
Most SNAP authorities declare that if in fact homosexuality is the cause, the so-called “repression” factor is responsible: victims are those too ashamed of the sin that “dare not tell its name.” Many feel that matters would be improved if only the Church would relent in its insistence of the male only priesthood. Others have told me that celibacy should be relaxed (not understanding that the celibate priesthood is not covered by inflexible moral norm but is a tradition).
But most important: The conclusion of the SNAP people is adamant—that homosexuality is NOT the cause of pedophilia. That’s every bit as much denial as the Church has done with erring priests. This goes hand-in-hand with a drive, popular in our culture, that homosexuality is on the way to being accepted by the nation, the armed services and it’s only a matter of time when it is embraced by the Church totally.
Such is the statement of none other than the chairman of the department of moral theology of the up-to-now renowned Catholic University of Louvain:
“I think we are virtually on the edge of accepting the homosexual relationship. The Church will accept the homosexual relationship like those divorced and remarried. We must live as brother or sister or brother and brother and sister and sister as the case may be…What is important is that the relationship be recognized as valuable, fruitful, meaningful, alternative, creative relationship. We are on the verge of accepting this.” [The Meanings of Human Sexuality, New Ways Ministry, 4th National Symposium] as cited in Catechism on Homosexuality [Eternal Life publication 2003, written by the late theologian Fr. John Hardon SJ and published with the imprimatur of Bishop Raymond Burke, then bishop of LaCrosse, Wis.].
The Louvain chairman’s words are, of course, heretical and at total variance with the traditional teaching of the 2000-plus year old Catholic Church. The definitive position that while homosexual inclination is of itself not a sin but something to be disciplined…practiced homosexuality is a mortal sin and has been declared many times by the Popes as matters of faith and morals.
The document of Vatican II On the Church in the Modern World states that in matters of morality man cannot make value judgments according to personal whim. “In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose on himself but which holds him to obedience…For man has in his heart a law written by God. To obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.”>
That is this: the sexual nature of man and the human faculty of procreation are essentially superior to all other lower forms of life. At the root of this superiority is that human sexuality pertains exclusively to marriage and to a finality which is unique in the visible world of living beings.
Further that sexual actions belong to conjugal life, do not depend solely on sincere intentions or on people’s motives but are determined by objective standards—based on the nature of human beings and their acts while preserving the full sense of mutual self-giving and procreation in the context of true love.
Cultural decadence and laxity have led some thinkers and theologians to defend homosexuality by analyzing the morality of human acts regarding their intention. How a person enjoys sexual pleasure is seen by many as unimportant…and the sin that the Apostle Paul maintained excludes one from the kingdom of heaven is seen…with tortured linguistics…as a form of gay-ness or gayety.
Second: I asked both the founder and the executive director of SNAP to tell me if their organization is funded heavily…or at all… by the Personal Injury Bar which has a direct financial stake in suing the Church…making SNAP a direct beneficiary of their largesse as well. That was several years ago. To date I have not received any systematic denial that they are not so funded and they have not submitted financial records that would deny it. The conclusion is that they indeed do have a tie-in with the personal injury bar.
Thus they have a pecuniary reason for digging up scandal that harms the Church: their jobs and livelihood depend on it. Nor do they make a pretense of being devout Catholics who fulfill their obligations by going to Mass each Sunday. The founder told me she does when she thinks of it but her attendance if irregular at best. The executive director makes no pretense that he is an observant Catholic—in fact he told me he is no longer a Catholic at all.
In conclusion, Catholicism’s priceless lineage is far more than the litany of popes. Consider the brilliant examples of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Padre Pio, Theresa of Avila, Theresa of Lisieux, Dominic, Benedict the founder of monasticism, Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, Augustine, Anselm, John of The Cross…on and on through the ages.
Moreover who can not acknowledge that civilization was saved by the monks, the creation of academic life by the great clerical professors, the contribution the Church made to science (notwithstanding the fiction concerning Galileo which cannot stand scrutiny), its gigantic contributions to art and architecture…its devising the foundations of international law, its birthing the original idea of widespread charity, its inscribing the origins of western law, its up-building of the concept of western morality.
If this article puts into perspective the contemporary scandals with the stature of the Church as an essential conduit for eternal salvation and a civilizing treasure—at the forefront of the development of laws, science, and institutions constituting western civilization—it will serve this writer’s intention.
Thomas F. Roeser is radio talk show host, writer, lecturer, teacher and former VP of The Quaker Oats Company of Chicago. A former John F. Kennedy Fellow, Harvard and Woodrow Wilson International Fellow, Princeton, N. J., Roeser is the author of the book Father Mac: The Life and Times of Ignatius D. McDermott. To read more about Tom, Click here.