noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the
Latin cor, meaning heart.
Wolves in Shepherds Clothing
Perfidious Priests and What Must Be Done About Them
With a whole population able
to read, with cheap newspapers day by day conveying the news of every court,
great and small to every home or even cottage, it is plain that we are at the
mercy of even one unworthy member or false brother. It is true that the laws
of libel are a great protection to us as to others. But the last few years have
shown us what harm can be done us by the mere infirmities, not so much as the
sins, of one or two weak minds. There is an immense store of curiosity directed
upon us in this country, and in great measure an unkind, a malicious curiosity.
If there ever was a time when one priest will be a spectacle to men and angels
it is in the age now opening upon us.... (J. H. Newman,
October 2, 1873)
Cardinals Law, Mahony,
I concluded last
time with Bernard Cardinal Laws perplexing detachment from
the situation he himself had helped to create, as reported
in the Boston Globe, Mar. 10:
In his response at the end of the convocation, Law said,
In my most horrible nightmares, I would never have imagined that we
would have come to the situation in which we find ourselves.
Foreboding is added to my perplexity upon re-reading the article, which also
contains this revealing notice:
For more than two months, we have been inundated by
the media with details of that awful history, Law said. It has
left us sad, it has left us angry, and it has robbed us of that trust which
a short while ago we took for granted.
Excuse me, Cardinal Law: neither the media nor the reports of an awful
history have robbed Bostons faithful of the trust they had taken
for granted: you yourself, personally, have done so by being partly responsible
for some of the egregious details of that awful history.
As reported, Law speaks as if he had been standing in a crowd next to a street
when he was suddenly struck by a car veering off the road. Actually, he is more
like a passenger who had been telling the driver how well he was handling the
car as it barreled down the sidewalk.
It seems to me that the cardinal cannot bring himself to face reality: his
own actions, and inactions, have contributed to a situation he cant stand.
Perhaps, like Spagnolia who didnt mean to deceive anybody with
his lies perhaps Law has spent so much time trying to convince himself
in his heart that his actions were not wrong... not so wrong... not
really so wrong... they have become less than real to him. As if he
was outside himself, watching somebody else make his mistakes.
Such a man is no man to be leading a clean-up of the mess he helped to make.
If a recent column
by Steve Lopez in the Los Angeles Times is any indicator, the archbishop of
Los Angeles may not be such a man either:
Across the land, the Catholic Church is being forced to come
clean about the sins of the fathers, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles appears
to be falling into line. But the million-dollar word there is appears.
.... In 1988, [Cardinal Roger] Mahony established a policy designed, in his
words, to do all that is humanly possible to prevent sexual abuse....
In his Sunday [Mar. 10] statement, he invoked that policy and vowed that
his church will not knowingly assign or retain a priest, deacon, religious,
or layperson ... when such an individual is determined to have previously
engaged in the sexual abuse of a minor. Well, given that the policy
goes back 14 years, how is it that as many as a dozen accused molesters were
still on the payroll? Did Mahony just now hear about them?
Now the archbishop of New York is coming under fire, as reported
in the Hartford Courant, Mar. 17:
Secret court documents reveal that New York Cardinal Edward
M. Egan, while serving as bishop of the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese....
Egan failed to investigate aggressively some abuse allegations, did not refer
complaints to criminal authorities and, during closed testimony in 1999, suggested
that a dozen people who made complaints of rape, molestation and beatings
against the same priest may have all been lying, the documents show.... However,
Egan, who as cardinal in New York is the highest profile Catholic in the United
States, has come under growing criticism for not speaking out. On Friday,
in a New York Daily News cover story headlined Speak Up, Egan Told,
Egans spokesman said the cardinal planned no public statements on the
issue. Egan did not respond to requests for comments about his actions in
the Bridgeport cases, including a list of questions e-mailed to his office
at the request of his spokesman, Joseph Zwilling. In an e-mail Saturday, Zwilling
referred all questions concerning the Diocese of Bridgeport and/or any
actions that may have occured in that diocese to Bridgeport.
One should not jump to conclusions based on newspaper reports of secret
court documents. These documents must have been acquired by underhanded
perhaps illegal means, and it may be unwise to trust the interpretations
of what the documents show by those who thus acquired them. (The
case is different for Boston, where the documents were made public by court
But, surely, we are past the point where official silence, and stonewalling
by spokesmen, is acceptable. When was it ever acceptable? And why doesnt
Cardinal Egan know this?
Hear Me Bleat
Before I continue, I would do well, I think, to establish some ground on which
to speak. Am I, one of the sheep, anybody to be telling the shepherds what I
think has gone wrong with the Catholic Church in the USA, why it has gone wrong,
and what must be done to help to set things right?
C. S. Lewis, an Anglican Christian, addressed this very question at the beginning
of his paper Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism, delivered May
11, 1959, to a group of Anglican priests at Westcott House, Cambridge:
Though I may have nothing but misunderstanding to lay before
you, you ought to know that such misunderstandings exist. That sort of thing
is easy to overlook inside ones own circle. The minds you daily meet
have been conditioned by the same studies and prevalent opinions as your own.
That may mislead you. For of course as priests it is the outsiders you will
have to cope with. You exist in the long run for no other purpose. The proper
study of shepherds is sheep, not (save accidentally) other shepherds. And
woe to you if you do not evangelize. I am not trying to teach my grandmother.
I am a sheep, telling shepherds what only a sheep can tell them. And now I
start my bleating. (Christian Reflections, p. 152)
The Moral Authority
of the Bishops in the USA:
Sliding Further Down the Drain
Philip F. Lawler, editor of Catholic World Report, writes a lengthy article
in the March 2002 issue. Called The Scandal in Boston and Beyond,
it begins thus:
Even the most imaginative dramatist, with the most malign
attitude toward the Church, would have been hard pressed to produce a scenario
in which the Catholic Church was humiliated as quickly and thoroughly as the
Archdiocese of Boston was in the opening days of 2002. Within a matter of
weeks the Catholic Church which in theory commands the allegiance of
roughly one-half the people living in the region had been reduced to
irrelevance as a force in Bostons public affairs. (p 36)
Indeed. Since the scandal erupted in Boston, more and more bishops are, these
very days, publicly dismissing from active service priests who had been accused
of sexual immorality almost always with male youths only yet they
were allowed to continue in sacred ministry; as reported
in the New York Times, Mar. 17:
Within weeks, bishops across the country began purging their
dioceses of priests who had been serving despite accusations of child abuse.
Since January, at least 55 priests in 17 dioceses have been removed, suspended,
put on administrative leave or forced to resign or retire. They include at
least 6 priests in Philadelphia, 7 in Manchester, N.H., 2 in St. Louis, 2
in Maine, 1 in Fargo, N.D., and as many as 12 in Los Angeles. There are 194
Catholic dioceses in the nation.
And as I write, a controversy erupts in Brooklyn, where a priest had, several
years ago, accused an older priest of having abused him and his brother in the
1970s. According to a Newsday article,
The Brooklyn case stems from allegations made by two brothers,
one of them a priest himself, that the Rev. Joseph P. Byrns molested them
as children in Douglaston during the early 1970s when he served at St. Anastasia
Church. The Rev. Timothy J. Lambert, 44, who is on leave from the diocese
of Metuchen in central New Jersey, said that in a 1998 meeting with top diocesan
officials, he charged that he and his brother had been molested for several
years as adolescents.... Father Byrns denied unequivocally that anything
like this had happened, said [Brooklyn Bishop Thomas] Dailys spokesman,
Frank DeRosa. The diocese spoke with him carefully and closely on a
number of occasions and was satisfied with his denial.
If convincing denials were all that is necessary, nobody would be in jail for
anything. Is that not obvious? Why was it not obvious to Brooklyn diocesan officials
as recently as 1998? Heres an answer:
Lambert says it came down simply to the priests word
against his and his brothers. I was a priest. He was a priest,
he said. What made me less credible than him? In my view, the only thing
was that if they believed him, they had more to lose if they didnt.
The deleterious effect on what is often called the moral authority
of the bishops, of which Lawler writes about in Boston, will spread, or is already
spreading, across the country.
The phrase moral authority is vague and ambiguous. What people
really mean, I think, when they say that somebody, or some group or organization,
has lost the moral authority to lead or to guide, or even to stake
a meaningful position, is this: the person, the group, the organization have
demonstrated that they can no longer be trusted to be honest, upright, straightforward
persons of integrity who stand for what they say they stand for so nobody
gives a damn any more what they say.
How is it demonstrated? Breaking promises while feigning their fulfillment;
saying one thing while doing another; declining to abide by rules that one expects
everybody else to follow; hiding behind lawyers when open honesty is called
for. One or another bishop has done this, and more, in cases of immoral priests.
For decades. And still today.
How can decent human beings let alone faithful Catholics and other Christians
ignore these kinds of breaches? In the New York Times article
quoted above, it is put this way:
All sides agree that the church is in danger of losing the
moral credibility in speaking out on political and social issues, including
the death penalty and the status of Jerusalem. If the church does not
respond vigorously to this scandal, then the authority the hierarchy has to
teach morally will vanish, said R. Scott Appleby, director of the Cushwa
Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame. It wont
just be a crisis, it will be all over but the shouting. There will be no moral
credibility for the bishops to speak about justice, truth, racial equality,
war or immigration if they cant get their own house in order.
Similarly, in an editorial
in the New York Post, Mar. 17:
Last week, the cardinal [Edward Egan of New York] invoked
church-state separation as he again requested a conscience clause
an exemption on moral grounds for religion-linked organizations
in any state legislation to make contraception coverage mandatory in employer
health plans have. Fair enough. But there wont be much political support
for a conscience clause if the church seems to have lost its conscience
that is, if it appears willing to tolerate serial pedophiles in its
The Moral Authority
of the Bishops in the USA:
They Themselves Had Opened the Drain
But those who are already looking whether with glee or with dismay
to January 2002 as the beginning of the end of the moral authority
of the episcopacy in the USA will need to readjust the focus of their lenses:
the real collapse of the moral authority of the American bishops
began in 1968. Events of early 2002 merely demonstrate the seedier, sorrier
aspects of the effect that the bishops actions, and inactions, have had
on the faith, morality and daily life of Catholics in America, priests and laity
What happened in 1968? Certain Catholic theologians in the USA brazenly distorted
the Catholic faith in the most public way they could manage; the American bishops
let them get away with it; worse, they eventually lent a false legitimacy by
which further brazen distortion of the Catholic faith disguised by the
euphemism dissent could continue unabated.
To set the stage, we must review the teaching of the Second Vatican Council
on the authority of the pope and bishops to authentically establish Catholic
doctrine. (Yes, we must.)
Vatican II reaffirmed the common understanding of the Catholic faith: that
when the pope, or the body of bishops together with him, have definitively or
repeatedly taught a given doctrine as part of the Catholic faith, then the doctrine
is no longer legitimately subject to debate or dispute among Catholics, even
by bishops and theologians. I suppose this may seem shocking, especially to
Protestants, who are accustomed to fashioning a faith according to their liking
from their own interpretation of the Bible, and to Americans, who are rightly
accustomed to the idea that laws and politics are continually open to debate
and change by voters, legislators, governors and presidents, and judges. The
Catholic faith, however, has always been understood by Catholics to have been
handed on in the Church from Jesus Christ through His apostles. And the authority
to determine true doctrine, definitively and especially in cases of dispute,
has always been understood to belong to the pope and the bishops in communion
Yes, Vatican II changed nothing in this traditional understanding. In fact,
the Council explicitly and specifically embraced it in the Dogmatic Constitution
on the Church, Lumen
In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the
name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to
it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must
be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium [teaching authority]
of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra [definitively
with the fullness of his office as universal pastor]; that is, it must be
shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence,
the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest
mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the
character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine,
or from his manner of speaking.
On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI issued Humanae
Vitae, his famous encyclical on the regulation of birth. Little did
he suspect the ambush being brewed by Catholic theologians
in the United States, whose ringleader was Fr. Charles Curran.
Word of the encyclical reached America by publication on July 29. The story
of its reception is told by Catholic historian Kenneth Whitehead, in an
in the March/April 1998 issue of Catholic Dossier:
In spite of the fact that the encyclical contained solid
traditional Church teaching, the reaction to Humanae Vitae was
nevertheless a veritable explosion of dissent from both inside and outside
the Church. The incredulity mixed with disillusionment concerning both the
person of Paul VI and his re-affirmation of the Churchs teaching was
simply massive; and it included probably a majority, at least in North America
and Europe, of the Churchs own working theologians, many of whom had
already gone out on a limb and openly called for a change in the Churchs
teaching. The judgment of these people was that the papal Magisterium [the
teaching office of the pope] was simply wrong.
The day after Pope Paul VIs encyclical was issued,
a group of theologians at the Catholic University of America, for example,
issued a statement eventually subscribed to by more than 600 theologians and
other professional specialists in canon law and related disciplines in North
America, in which they asserted that dissent from the encyclical was entirely
licit mostly because, they claimed, the encyclical was not an
infallible teaching, thus consciously setting aside Lumen Gentium #25
which, of course, required their assent to the encyclical whether or not it
Whitehead is diplomatic. He says the signers of the statement many (if
not most) of them among the Churchs own working theologians
issued their declaration by consciously setting aside the
teaching of the Second Vatican Council.
I am not so diplomatic. I say they lied. They were liars and, in some cases,
they are still liars.
And what happened to these lying Catholic theologians? Many of whom were in
official positions in dioceses or religious orders or Catholic colleges. And,
thus, on the Churchs payroll. Did their bishops demand that they be honest
and either rescind their signature or find another way to make a living?
No. So far as I know, nothing was done to any of the liars. In fact, most of
them were eventually rewarded by promotions or by fame or by influence
more influence among Catholics, indisputably, than the bishops themselves have
Thus began the collapse of the moral authority of the Catholic
bishops in the USA.
Unsatisfied, apparently, with merely failing in one of their chief responsibilities
to uphold the Catholic faith by ridding the Church of public liars,
the American bishops soon issued norms by which liars could proceed
to further undermine the Catholic faith, yet continue as Catholic
theologians. These norms were part of a statement
the bishops issued November 15, 1968:
Norms of Licit Theological Dissent
49. There exist in the Church a lawful freedom of inquiry
and of thought and also general norms of licit dissent. This is particularly
true in the area of legitimate theological speculation and research. When
conclusions reached by such professional theological work prompt a scholar
to dissent from noninfallible received teaching, the norms of licit dissent
come into play. They require of him careful respect for the consciences of
those who lack his special competence or opportunity for judicious investigation.
These norms also require setting forth his dissent with propriety and with
regard for the gravity of the matter and the deference due the authority which
has pronounced on it.
50. The reverence due all sacred matters, particularly questions
which touch on salvation, will not necessarily require the responsible scholar
to relinquish his opinion but certainly to propose it with prudence born of
intellectual grace and a Christian confidence that the truth is great and
51. When there is question of theological dissent from noninfallible
doctrine, we must recall that there is always a presumption in favor of the
magisterium. Even noninfallible authentic doctrine, though it may admit of
development or call for clarification or revision, remains binding and carries
with it a moral certitude, especially when it is addressed to the Universal
Church, without ambiguity, in response to urgent questions bound up with faith
and crucial to morals. The expression of theological dissent from the magisterium
is in order only if the reasons are serious and well-founded, if the manner
of the dissent does not question or impugn the teaching authority of the Church
and is such as not to give scandal.
52. Since our age is characterized by popular interest in
theological debate, and given the realities of modern mass media, the ways
in which theological dissent may be effectively expressed, in a manner consistent
with pastoral solicitude, should become the object of fruitful dialogue between
bishops and theologians. These have their diverse ministries in the Church,
their distinct responsibilities to the faith, and their respective charisma.
53. Even responsible dissent does not excuse one from faithful
presentation of the authentic doctrine of the Church when one is performing
a pastoral ministry in her name.
54. We count on priests, the counselors of persons and families,
to heed the appeal of Pope Paul that they expound the Churchs
teaching on marriage without ambiguity; that they diminish in
no way the saving teaching of Christ, but teach married couples
the indispensable way of prayer... without ever allowing them to be discouraged
by their weakness (Humanae Vitae, 29). We commend to confessors,
as does Pope Paul, the example of the Lord Himself, Who was indeed intransigent
with evil, but merciful towards individuals.
There you have it: the American bishops Munich Pact. Hows that?
David Gelernter wrote
about the Munich Pact the other day in The Weekly Standard:
Everyone knows about Munich, September 1938: Britain and
France generously donate a big slice of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, in exchange
for peace with honor, peace in our time, and the Brooklyn
Bridge. Many people know about the Kristallnacht pogrom, November 1938: Germanys
approach to the Jews turns from mere oppression to bloodthirsty violence.
Kristallnacht was triggered by the murder of a German diplomat
by a deranged Jew. But some (not all) historians point out the obvious: A
leading cause of Kristallnacht was Munich itself. Hitler read the Munich agreements
as a proclamation by England and France stating: We are weak; you have
nothing to fear; do what you like.
Following Gelernters lead, allow me to translate: Norms of Licit
Theological Dissent is bishop-speak for We are weak; you have nothing
to fear; do what you like.
Indeed, we may see a foreshadowing in the bishops capitulation, 1968,
of their spooky reluctance to face the reality of the situation they must deal
with in 2002: the stupidity (at the least) of having kept immoral priests in
sacred ministry. As Whitehead put it:
This whole elaborate effort of the U.S. bishops [issuing
Norms of Licit Theological Dissent] was an exercise in unreality,
since not one of the conditions they specified was ever observed by the actual
dissenters; quite the contrary, for the most part. (emphasis added)
Results of the American
Church authorities that have spent the past three decades hiding criminals
from justice criminals like very rare pedophiles (some of them heterosexual)
and less rare ephebophiles (all of them homosexual) began by allowing
liars to continue working among them.
Germany, after Chamberlains attempt to appease Hitler, had soon invaded
and conquered a great deal of Europe; Catholic theologians,
after the bishops attempt at appeasement, soon effectively declared Catholic
life in its entirety faith and morals, doctrine and discipline, history
and tradition, parcel and part, bit and piece, jot and tittle open to
serious debate, doubt, and even denial.
It has been a power struggle, plain and simple: the bishops and the Catholic
faith have, so far, lost.
An essay by Msgr. George A. Kelly in the March 2002 issue of Catholic World
Report puts it thus:
The most important and enduring scandal in the Catholic Church
of the United States is the established and continued existence of what Pope
John Paul II has called a counter-magisterium a rival teaching
office that confutes, confounds, and contradicts what the Pope and the bishops
in union with him set forth as the Gospel of Jesus Christ regarding human
beings, their destiny in this life and the next. The #2 scandal is the downgrading
of orthodoxy as an essential standard norm of Catholic belief, and the consequent
downsizing of right belief as normative for teachers and pastors....
The scandal consists in the harm done to faith in Christs Church by
the continued and unopposed power exercised by these anti-magisterial forces,
which use Catholic colleges and schools, religious societies, and so-called
pastoral entities in opposition to the settled mind and law of the Church.
A recent expostulation by Andrew
Sullivan illustrates how the distortion of Vatican II has become
entrenched to the point that an intelligent writer can take as fact what has
no foundation whatever in the teachings of the Council. Sullivan, who is (for
lack of a better word) a practicing homosexual but nonetheless claims to be
a faithful Catholic, wrote thus, Mar. 14, concerning some difficult
issues in a section entitled Sparing Rod:
The first is whether the Church has a single unchanging doctrine
on every matter of morals which every Catholic is obliged to assent to and
practice at all times. This is a common view among pre-Vatican II Catholics,
ex-Catholics and non-Catholics. Its wrong. The Church is not a democracy,
but neither is it a Vatican dictatorship. The Second Vatican Council specifically
carved out a larger area for the laity to discuss, reflect upon and debate
matters of morals, of the application of broad principles to particular issues,
and so on. We not just the Pope are also the Church. For example,
most Catholics find the complete bar on any birth control to be, not to put
too fine a point on it, bizarre. When the Church imposes something by diktat
that the faithful cannot square with their own moral sense, experience and
prayerful reflection, two things happen. The laity ignores it; and the hierarchy
loses credibility. To a lesser extent, the Churchs teachings on re-marriage,
the role of women, celibacy, and homosexuality are also so theologically muddled
and troubling upon inspection that they have generated considerable debate.
Bottom line: I dont think such debate is faithless or un-Catholic.
Sullivan posted a letter from a reader, who asked the following: Where
specifically did Vatican II carve out a broader area for the laity to debate
the Pope on matters of morals? The question will go unanswered, of course,
because Vatican II did no such thing: Catholic theologians
who wanted to carve out a larger area for their own influence have
convinced many Catholics of it, though.
He also posted part of a letter from Catholic philosopher Alexander R. Pruss,
who has provided me with the entirety of his letter:
I see several misconceptions in your piece Sparing
Rod that I thought I should respond to both as a Catholic born after
Vatican II and as someone who teaches ethics.
To the extent that the Church is a democracy, it is a democracy
that enfranchises all the generations of Catholics before us. Seen in this
way, the Churchs official teachings on sexual matters are, as far as
we know, the beliefs of the majority of Catholics. While there is a sense
of the faith among Catholics, any one Catholics sense, or even the sense
of the majority of Catholics at a given time, can be clouded. After all, according
to a 1992 Gallup poll, only 30% of Catholics accept the correct view of the
Eucharist. If someones eyesight of clearly visible objects is defective,
we disregard his testimony about more murky objects. Likewise, if a Catholic
gets wrong things on which the Church is completely clear like abortion or
the Eucharist, then his sense of the faith is not functioning properly, and
so his views on things like contraception that are somewhat more controversial
Some Catholics may indeed find the Churchs teachings
on matters like contraception bizarre. But this is only because
they are unaware of the work of philosophers like John Finnis, Germain Grisez,
Janet Smith and Karol Wojtyla. Once one understood this work, even if one
were not persuaded (as I think one should be: see my own articles at www.georgetown.edu/faculty/ap85),
one would no longer be able sincerely to call the teachings bizarre.
On the contrary, one would see the Church as espousing a coherent, plausible
and all-encompassing ethic of sexual love based on the notion of ontological
Your references to Vatican II are
puzzling, largely due to a lack of specific references. According to Vatican
II, whenever the bishops at any one time unanimously teach that a position
is to be definitively held, then that position is thereby infallibly taught
(Lumen Gentium, 25). No doubt, the bishops in, say, the 13th or 18th century
were in unanimous agreement that it was to be definitively held that, say,
homosexual acts and contraception are wrong. Hence this is infallibly taught.
Sexuality is central to human life, and is closely tied
to that which is at the center of the Gospels: love. If the Church is wrong
on contraception, re-marriage, celibacy and homosexuality, then the Church
over the past twenty centuries has got a central area of human life almost
completely wrong. Thinking that the Church is so massively wrong about love
is indeed un-Catholic.
Some might call Prusss explanation pathetically old-fashioned; others
might call it remarkably brave. It is neither: an informed, intelligent, articulate Protestant
or Muslim or atheist could say as much as Pruss wrote to Sullivan so
long as he honestly intended to accurately express the Catholic faith.
But wolves in shepherds clothing have managed to undermine, diminish,
and distort the Catholic faith while claiming the aegis of the Second Vatican
Council, though a careful no, even a casual reading of
the Councils documents will reveal, as already indicated here, that this
has been done in spite of the Council, not because of it.
The American bishops will regain their moral authority when they
start acting like Catholic bishops, acknowledging by word and deed their momentous
responsibility to safeguard and hand on the faith they have received from the
Apostles. And not before then.
Am I saying that dissent from Catholic faith and life caused
the outbreak of immoral priests in our midst? No. But there is, indeed, a very
good argument to be made that confusion about Church teaching, caused by deliberate
and public deception by prominent Catholic theologians,
contributed to the outbreak and justification of immoral behavior
among Catholics of all stripes.
Heres a bit of evidence from an article
in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mar. 17; the story is about retired priest
Joseph P. Lessard, now 76, who admits to having molested boys back in the 1960s
His first victim was a boy of about 12, the son of a couple
from a neighboring parish whom he knew well. Lessard, an avid outdoorsman,
arranged a fishing trip. After fishing, he took the boy back to the rectory
and started fooling around, which he said involved touching each
others genitals and masturbating. I emotionally and physically
wanted to have sex with him, Lessard said. There was a mutual
interest in having sexual gratification. The abuse went on for a couple
years.... Lessard said he was guilt-free, believing he was educating the boys
in sex. He didnt consider this breaking his vow of celibacy. It didnt
seem as if he was hurting anyone.
If anybody has any evidence that Its OK As Long As Nobody Gets
Hurt was an attitude one could find among parish priests of even one
generation earlier, please let me know.
The connection between this particular priest and the distortion of Vatican
II, however, is quite direct, and does not need to be surmised; the article
later quotes a man who says that he had been one of Lessards victims:
My parents loved him. They would rather me be out with
him than roaming the streets, said the man, to whom the archdiocese
paid $60,000 in 1997. He had a camper. A big mobile home, and lots of
great places to go camping and hunting and fishing. He knew several people
who had farms and great fishing ponds around Chesterfield. Lessard
talked openly about masturbation, the man said. It wasnt a sin anymore
after the Second Vatican Council, Lessard would say. He wouldnt
let up on the subject. (emphasis added)
If the bishops are to restore their moral authority, they must
go further back, and deeper down, than merely dealing with immoral priests in
their ranks: they must root out Catholic professionals in official positions
who effectively confute, confound, and contradict the settled mind and law of
the Catholic Church.
Is this such an unthinkable request?
If the Democratic candidate for the governorship of a state actively did
his best to promote the candidacy for state legislature of every Republican
on the ballot throughout the state, how many votes would he get from Democrats?
If the new Republican governor appointed only Democrats to his cabinet,
wouldnt there be calls for impeachment?
If the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod announced that he
believes the pope is Christs Vicar on earth, would he remain long in
If the president of Bob Jones University started filling positions with
conservative Catholic educators, would he not be suspected of trying to change
the thinking of the university?
If a CBS reporter wrote an article criticizing the left-leaning bias of
his organization, would he remain in good standing there for very long?
That last example takes us from hypotheses to a real situation. And here is
another: if professional Catholic theologians and pastors and religious
on the Churchs payroll, at all levels effectively compromise Catholic
faith and life to the point where they are becoming indistinguishable from the
prevailing secular milieu, why are these men and women not called subversive
traitors and expelled?
Okay, we could call them something else. C. S. Lewis knew what to call subversion
of the faith by clergy, in an interview in 1963, when he was asked what he thought
of contemporary Christian writing:
A great deal of what is being published by writers in the
religious tradition is a scandal and is actually turning people away from
the church. The liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling
down the truth of the Gospel are responsible. I cannot understand how a man
can appear in print claiming to disbelieve everything that he presupposes
when he puts on the surplice. I feel it is a form of prostitution. (God
in the Dock, p. 260)
Call it prostitution; call it traitorous subversion; call it dissent: it must
be rooted out of the Catholic Church in the USA to effectively restore the bishops
moral authority among Catholics, and the Churchs moral
authority in public life.