|Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.|
|Volume 1.10||This Views Column||April 15, 2002|
Wolves in Shepherds Clothing
Perfidious Priests and What Must Be Done About Them (Part Six of Six)
All six parts are available in one (very large) webpage at ELCore.Net.
When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die. Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.... Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord God; so turn, and live. (Ezekiel 18:26-28, 30-32 RSV)
The Problem with Celibacy
I concluded last time by arguing that mandatory clerical celibacy is not the problem. Clerical celibacy, in and of itself, is not the cause, nor even a contributing factor, in the sexual scandals involving Catholic clergy: married non-Catholic clergy are also guilty of the same kind of sexual offenses of which celibate Catholic clergy are guilty.
Since then, a column by Stuart Reid, deputy editor of The Spectator, was published in the London Telegraph, Apr. 12; he states the case with memorable alacrity:
The same day, the Chicago Sun-Times published a column by well-known author Fr. Andrew Greeley, a long-time defender of continuing mandatory clerical celibacy. Though he mislabels the current scandal as one of sexual child abuse, his points are worth noting:
Greeley continues with a blast at resigned priests, whom the mainstream media so willing puts before the public these days:
(Another version reads loudmouths for loud louts. Greeley names nobody, but A. W. Richard Sipes and Eugene Kennedy are the two, usually labelled former priests, who seem to be most often given a national audience on TV and in major newspapers. One need not even wonder if anybody who could be labelled, say, former dissenter would be obliged so willingly, or given such ready credence.)
Celibacy does have a problem, however: it is far too often in and of itself.
Celibacy is a precious gift, to the individual and to the Church. Yet, it is a demanding gift. Over the centuries, the discipline of clerical celibacy developed along with a whole way of life comprising the spiritual, devotional, and ascetical to the benefit of the individual celibate, the community in which he lived and worshipped, and the Church as a whole.
Much of this involved adapting the disciplines of monastic life to the life of the priest in parochial ministry. And much of it was abandoned, lock, stock, and barrel in the 1960s. Not everywhere, not always. But in enough places, in enough ways, to have made a profound difference in the way many priests have conducted their daily lives. I have found support for this proposition in places I would not have thought very likely.
First, from author Gary Wills, from whom I quoted last time. He had a two-part article published in the Boston Globe, Mar. 24. The first part is notable for its egregious misrepresentation of Philip Jenkins book Pedophiles and Priests, from which I quoted extensively in Part One. (Wills has quite the reputation for egregious misrepresentation.) Now, Jenkins book is a remarkably even-handed treatment of the subject. Perhaps it is this very even-handedness that Wills fears, for he does his very best which, by the standard of honest men, would be the very worst to portray the book as a one-sided conservative diatribe. I myself would not defend Wills from the charge of lying about Jenkins book.
Moreover, in the second part of his column, Wills numbers Jenkins among protectors of the hierarchy. He conveniently neglects to mention that Philip Jenkins is an ex-Catholic Episcopalian: had he done so, Wills would have to explain why such a man would have any interest whatever in protecting the Catholic hierarchy. For which, of course, there is no explanation. And, thus, Wills would not have been able to dismiss the man, his book, and those (such as me) who cite and quote it. Had he been honest and forthright, Wills would have had to write quite another column.
And... yet... I think he hits the target dead-center when he writes about how celibacy has been left alone, in and of itself, as the sole descendant of ascetical traditions in parish clerical life:
Even if he is wrong about many other things, when a man is right, hes right.
Second, from political commentator Bill Press. He published a column at CNN, Mar. 28, in which he wrote about his own experience as a student for the priesthood:
Maybe some of them would, indeed, have been better off married. But wouldnt they all have been better off had the age-old ascetical tradition, of which celibacy had been but a part, not been largely cast aside in the wake of the Second Vatican Council?
John Henry Newman, while still an Anglican priest, preached on the necessity of this askesis of self-disciplined self-denial for the sake of the Kingdom of God to some degree, in some kind, for every Christian:
Decades later, after he had become a Catholic priest but before he became a cardinal of the Roman Church, Newman applied this principle to the interior life of the priest when he preached to Catholic seminarians, October 2, 1873:
Along with the ancient ascetical tradition must come the equally ancient spiritual tradition, without which the former is but meaningless and mechanical. My friend Fr. John J. Hugo, a priest of the Church of Pittsburgh, saw the need for a deep spirituality in the life of every Christian, but especially of the priest, and most acutely of the celibate priest. Friend and mentor of the great Dorothy Day, he wrote about it in a book published privately not long before he died in 1985:
I can almost hear the objections already: Oh, Newman and Hugo are so... so... September 10th! Old fashioned. Out of date. Superseded. Old Church. Pre-Vatican II.
Permit me to quote, then, from another witness. With regard to the training of candidates for the priesthood:
See, the age-old strategies and tactics that have traditionally accompanied celibacy and help to safeguard its integrity which would now be scorned by many as Pre-Vatican II were actually recommended by the Second Vatican Council, explicitly and specifically. From the same witness, with regard to priestly life:
Practices of piety... the exercise of these practices... long usage of the Church.... Suitable safeguards... mastery of soul and body.... Growth in holiness... those means which the Church has approved.... Supernatural and natural aids... ascetical norms... the experience of the Church. Yes, the methods spiritual, devotional, ascetical developed and tested over the course of ages, which formed a whole way of life in which celibacy was supported and protected, were not rejected by Vatican II: they were, in fact, reaffirmed.
In more ways than one, we see, Newman was The Father of Vatican II, as he is often called. And Hugo was the faithful student of the Cardinal and of the Council, whose directives in this regard, as in so many others, were ignored or flouted by those paying lip service to its lead.
Celibacy, therefore, ought to be one thread of a fabric woven through the whole life of a priest: ripped from the cloth, why should anybody have expected celibacy to hold up at all, let alone to hold up well? Im sure that many people think that, since the rest are gone, we should do away with celibacy, too, to ameliorate the current problem. But the opposite would be true, too, wouldnt it? Were celibacy accompanied by the traditional methods, helping to safeguard its integrity, the current problem would be ameliorated. How can we know this? The lived experience of hundreds of thousands no, millions of clergy and religious across the centuries give testimony.
When the experiment of a new way having celibacy go it alone, while the rest of the celibates life becomes almost indistinguishable from a secular existence when the experiment produces all-too-abundant evidence of its failure, what sense does it make to experiment even further? Why not restore the old ways? Are we so stupid... so blind... so ideological... that we cannot learn from our mistakes?
Recapitulation: The Diagnosis
For decades, a crisis has been brewing in the Catholic Church in the USA: a crisis of faith, a crisis of morals, a crisis of courage. So I began the epigraph of Part One. The sexual scandals mostly homosexual encounters with juveniles that now plague the clergy, concomitant with the hierarchys failure to deal appropriately with miscreant priests, are, I believe, but a symptom of a deeper, more fundamental scandal: doctrinal confusion and doubt have been wrought, often deliberately, by Catholics in official positions clergy, religious, theologians. Sometimes, the result has been, in certain cirles, the outright denial of ancient Catholic teachings especially those regarding morality, particularly sexual morality but also those regarding, for instance, the divinity of Christ, the origins and meaning of Sacred Scripture and Catholic doctrine, and the role of the Churchs teaching authority and of individual conscience.
Thus have Catholic faith and life tended to be rendered largely impotent before the onslaught of a secularized culture that has become generally anti-religious and specifically anti-Christian. Merely reflect upon the truth: much of Catholic teaching, especially concerning morals, that evokes the shrillest, angriest, unthinking denunciation these days was taken for granted by virtually all Christians by virtually all Americans only a century ago: the immorality of abortion, artificial contraception, divorce and remarriage, and homosexual activity. In these respects, the role of the Catholic Church in the USA in determining public policy over the past forty years has been, effectively, nil. In fact, as somebody has noted recently, the Catholic Church and many others among the older, mainline Christian denominations have been evangelized by the world much more than they have been evangelizing the world.
Could anybody, anywhere, honestly deny any of this?
I must say it again: this neutering of the Catholic Church has been accomplished largely by Catholics. Beginning with their capitulation to wayward theologians in 1968, the body of American bishops has been effectively corrupted and has largely abandoned, in deed if not in word, their role of protecting the faith handed on in the Catholic Church and of protecting the faithful from Wolves in Shepherds Clothing, whether they be sexual predators or theological innovators (or both).
Yes, the neutering of the Catholic Church has been accomplished largely by Catholics, especially by those in the employ of the Church: clergy, religious, theologians, preachers, writers, teachers. They are usually called dissenters: I will explain later why that label is a lie. I call them subversive traitors. C. S. Lewis likened them, in the Anglican Church of his day, to prostitutes. (The scandal of dissent infested the Church of England long before it began to infest the Church of Rome.) Catholic writer Amy Welborn recently posted her own observations about an Anglican priest in Ireland who denies that Jesus Christ is divine and that He is savior; she notes inimitably what can be said of him and others like him, whether Anglican or Catholic:
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (of which I am a member), has spoken out recently about doctrinal dissent because he recognizes it as a threat to the Catholic Church. A Catholic League press release, Apr. 11, invites us to connect some dots; it is not really that difficult to do:
An earlier press release, Apr. 4, notes the agenda of dissident Catholics:
Intellectual Cover. Highway Robbery. Theft. Fraud. Prostitution. Dissent. Call it what you will: it is slowly killing the Catholic Church in the USA, as surely as immoral priests have been abusing children and adolescents, and their superiors have let them get away with it.
The degradation of the Catholic Church the trashing of traditional Catholic faith and life has taken thirty, forty, fifty years or more. When one realizes how quickly and effectively the teachings of the Second Vatican Council were thwarted and hijacked, it becomes clear that the groundwork of subversion must have already been laid, however loosely and informally, before the Council even began its work. Thirty, forty, fifty years or more may be required to undo the damage done.
I am but one layman, in a small parish in small-town America. I have no solution to provide. Fortunately, nobody needs for me to provide a solution: it is at hand, as it always has been. The solution to what ails the Catholic Church is, as it has been in all bad times, the Catholic faith, undiluted and unashamed.
The degradation, the trashing, the neutering, has been done by an effective coordination of brazen deceit and sly stealth. The restoration, the cleansing, the strengthening of the Catholic Church in the USA will require a great deal of thorough honesty and of courage in action.
Indeed, the moral authority of the bishops will not be regained, and genuine Catholic faith and life will not be restored, without outstanding courage, making itself known through actions, on the part of orthodox clergy and laity, of every rank and station.
Dissent Is Not Dissent
The first requirement it is sad and telling to have to say this the first requirement is honesty.
When the Boston scandal broke in January, and ever since, the lack of honesty from bishops, priests, and official spokesmen has been appalling. (From some of them, of course: I do not mean to tar them all with the same broad brush.) They have attempted limited hangouts telling some of the truth, hoping that it will satisfy curiosity, while holding back the whole truth. They have hidden, as far as they could, behind closed doors, behind lawyers, behind legal settlements, and behind sealed court documents. And they have, sometimes, flat-out lied. To the press. To other Catholic officials. And to their parishioners.
This... this... this disingenuousness, this dissembling, this posturing, this dishonesty, this lying is part of the current crisis of morals in the Catholic Church in the USA a foundational part, on which all the rest has been built.
How can we trust our Catholic leaders many of them priests ordained to conform more closely to the Image of Christ, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life how can we trust them to make decisions about the future of dioceses and parishes, to manage funds, to pastor souls, to worship God worthily in spirit and in truth: how can we trust them in all those other matters, when we cant trust them to merely be honest?
Didnt they learn that they should be honest before they even went to grade school?
A prominent Catholic in Boston asks similarly, in a Boston Globe article, Apr. 10:
I say more: I do not believe it is asking too much for the leaders of our faith to actually believe, and live, that faith.
So we must stop calling subversive traitors dissenters. We must start calling them... subversive traitors.
Okay. Maybe that would be asking too much of sensitive souls; instead, I can recommend a less demanding approach: call them assenters. For that is what they are: every Catholic priest, religious, bishop, theologian every Catholic who dissents from Catholic doctrine is, in point of fact, assenting to some other kind of doctrine.
A priest or religious who denies the divinity of Christ is not a brave dissenter from archaic Christian doctrine: he is a hypocritical assenter to the doctrine that Jesus Christ is not God a doctrine (Latin for teaching) common to Jewish belief, pagan religions, Communist propaganda, and atheistic thought. A theologian who claims that homosexual activity is acceptable to God, so long as it involves a stable, loving relationship, is not a brave dissenter from outdated moral codes: he is a hypocritical assenter to moral relativism and psychological fads that can and have been, and will continue to be used to justify any and every behavior. (I refer you in passing to a timely article, Apologists for pedophilia, by John Leo, dated Apr. 22.) Catholic writers, preachers, and teachers who countenance divorce and remarriage, and artificial contraception, are not brave dissenters from the rigid teaching of popes and bishops: they are hypocritical assenters to the latest dictum from the editorial staff of The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Infidelity Cannot Help the Faith
The real authorities, the real leaders, of dissenters (that is, assenters to any-and-every-belief-not-Catholic) and of defiantly immoral priests (including bishops) are not the pope nor ecumenical councils nor tradition nor the Bible. No. Their real authorities, their real leaders, are secular humanism, moral relativism, the latest psychologies and sociologies, and the rest of the secular milieu espoused in mainstream media. Subversive traitors and activists-for-immorality serve their real leaders, not the Catholic Church nor its faithful. So, we must make sure that Catholics in official postions are actually, honestly, really Catholic.
The second requirement, therefore, is courage in action.
Heterodox theologians especially if they are bishops must be removed from their positions, if not put out of the Church entirely. Defiantly immoral priests, and those who encourage and support immorality especially if they are bishops must be removed from their positions, if not put out of the Church entirely.
These removals may necessitate ecclesiastical trials. They may require intervention by the Holy See, especially if the miscreant is a bishop. They will certainly evoke much howling, spitting, back-biting, and name-calling.
Appeals by subversive traitors to academic freedom, or to theological inquiry and diversity, would be, in plain language, claims to be allowed to doubt, dispute, distort, deny, and defy everything that has ever been distintively Catholic, yet to still be able to call oneself Catholic. So the first requirement, honesty, is the basis that must never be left behind.
But courage in action will be the key to going forward, especially among orthodox bishops whom St. Paul the Apostle admonished and encouraged:
A bravo is in order for officials of my own diocese; according to an AP story, Apr. 10:
(Sewickley is surely one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the region, in a relatively quiet district. Shadyside, too, is a very posh neighborhood skirting the academic district of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.)
A bigger bravo will be in order if Father Bill is actively encouraged by his superiors to consider whether intellectual honesty might not require him to come to a change of heart, or to a change of living.
I am not calling for witch hunts, pogroms, inquisitions. I am calling for fidelity to the Sacred Scriptures, which teach us what to do with subversive traitors, and how to live faithfully in the Church:
Though it may seem so, though he may feel it to be so, the man in the pew is not powerless. Catholic author Michael Dubruiel (husband of Amy Welborn, quoted above) recently posted this advice:
Whatever the truth be, let it be known. Amen.
Frankly, I think the prognosis is bleak. The next ten years will be critical.
May God grant Pope John Paul II multos annos! Sooner or later, though, we will have another pope. Subversive traitors, in collusion with the secular culture, have trained a large number of Catholics to believe that outdated, archaic moral strictures against divorce and remarriage, artificial contraception, homosexual activity, pedophilia and outdated, archaic doctrines such as male-only priesthood have been retained beyond their time for no reason other than the current pope is (dare I write the horrible word?) conservative.
Gradually, as Catholics-In-Name-Only (CINO) come to realize that the Catholic Church is not going to approve divorce and remarriage, artificial contraception, homosexual activity, and pedophilia, and that the Catholic Church is never going to ordain women to the priesthood because it cannot do so gradually, the rage will build even more than it has already. CINO have been deceived: the Catholic Church maintains its doctrines and practices, not because a given pope is conservative, but because the doctrines and practices are surprise, surprise Catholic.
The next twenty-five years will witness a fight over the future of the Catholic Church as has not been seen since the Reformation in England, from the schism of King Henry VIII, through the draconian demolition of Catholicism under Queen Elizabeth I, and past the forced abdication of King James II.
If the Catholic Church in the USA does not begin its own reformation soon, along the lines of the prescription sketched above, it will not be able to resist the fury of dissenters whose desires will be further stymied by the next pope. We do not have to wonder where this will lead: we already have ample evidence. In that case, the Church will, sooner or later, go the way of the Episcopal Church in the USA; as indicated in an essay by Leo Penn in the New Oxford Review, Oct. 2000:
Penn continued with a review of a resolution adopted at that Convention:
Some will say this cannot happen to the Catholic Church, not even in the USA. They are wrong. Surely, the Catholic Church cannot fail: for this assurance we have the dominical promise to St. Peter the Apostle. But constituent Churches, even many of them together in great regions of the world, can fail. And they have failed. Often.
Though for a time racked by heresy and schism, North Africa was once a garden in the Catholic Church: it was laid waste by Muslim conquest. England, arguably, was once the jewel of the Catholic Church in Europe: by rack and rope, it was virtually annihilated for centuries. The corruption of prelates and clergy in Germany was so great, it sparked the Reformation that tore Europe into warring religious factions, leaving many areas largely Protestant. France, called the eldest daughter of the Church, has seen the Catholic Church in its midst wither until it is but a wraith of its former self.
In the beginning of King Henrys schism, only one bishop, and only one prominent layman, stood their ground and refused to forsake the Catholic Church: St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. Both were executed for their fidelity to the Holy See, by a man whose only quarrel with Rome was that he could not divorce his wife.
We will not, I think, have to face the executioner for restoring and maintaining Catholic faith and life in fidelity to the Church Universal and the Holy See. But we will have to face the wrath of our secular culture, expressed every day in mainstream media. And I do not mean to exaggerate perhaps even the wrath of the courts if activists ever make it illegal for the Catholic Church to discriminate against homosexuals (by refusing to bless their unions) and women (by refusing to ordain priestesses). Do not be so foolish as to think that to be impossible.
The Catholic Church, said G. K. Chesterton, is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. So it has always been. So it is now.
St. Athanasius, pray for us.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep. For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven other persons, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example to those who were to be ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. (2 Peter 2:1-10a RSV)
© ELC 2002
|Volume 1.10||This Views Column||April 15, 2002|
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