Back in September of 2018, I reported on the call by Pope Francis to have the presidents of the Catholic Church’s bishops conferences meet in Rome in February 2019 to deal with the clerical sexual abuse crisis in the Church. Today, the Vatican released new details on this summit:
The February Meeting on the protection of minors has a concrete purpose: the goal is that all of the Bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors. Pope Francis knows that a global problem can only be resolved with a global response. The Pope wants it to be an assembly of Pastors, not an academic conference – a meeting characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering.
It is fundamental for the Holy Father that when the Bishops who will come to Rome have returned to their countries and their dioceses, that they understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried.
Regarding the high expectations that have been created around the Meeting, it is important to emphasize that the Church is not at the beginning of the fight against abuse. The Meeting is a stage along the painful journey that the Church has unceasingly and decisively undertaken for over fifteen years.
The first sentence of this communiqué shows how they are deliberately setting up for failure and how utterly out of touch the Vatican is with the anger of the lay faithful. For the most part, the Church has dealt with the sexual abuse of minors. What looms large over the Church now, and what the Vatican deliberately ignores, is the problem of homosexuals in the priesthood, their predatory actions, and the cover-up of this part of the scandal by the bishops.
In November of 2000 (prior to the Boston Globe exposing the problems of sexual abuse in the Church), Fr. Paul Shaughnessy SJ (a Marine Corps and Navy Chaplain) wrote a bombshell essay entitled The Gay Priest Problem. Reading it, one realizes that nothing — nothing — has happened in the Church to deal with the problem of the lavender mafia and the predatory homosexuals in the priesthood. Fr. Paul blames this on the sociological corruption within the Church:
I define as corrupt, in a sociological sense, any institution that has lost the capacity to mend itself on its own initiative and by its own resources, an institution that is unable to uncover and expel its own miscreants. It is in this sense that the principal reason why the action necessary to solve the gay problem won’t be taken is that the episcopacy in the United States is corrupt, and the same is true of the majority of religious orders. It is important to stress that this is a sociological claim, not a moral one.
If we examine any trust-invested agency at any given point in its history, whether that agency be a police force, a military unit, or a religious community, we might find that, say, out of every hundred men, five are scoundrels, five are heroes, and the rest are neither one nor the other: ordinarily upright men who live with a mixture of moral timidity and moral courage. When the institution is healthy, the gutsier few set the overall tone, and the less courageous but tractable majority works along with these men to minimize misbehavior; more importantly, the healthy institution is able to identify its own rotten apples and remove them before the institution itself is enfeebled. However, when an institution becomes corrupt, its guiding spirit mysteriously shifts away from the morally intrepid few, and with that shift the institution becomes more interested in protecting itself against outside critics than in tackling the problem members who subvert its mission. For example, when we say a certain police force is corrupt, we don’t usually mean that every policeman is on the take—perhaps only five out of a hundred actually accept bribes. Rather we mean that this police force can no longer diagnose and cure its own problems, and consequently if reform is to take place, an outside agency has to be brought in to make the changes.
By the same token, in claiming the US episcopacy is corrupt, I am not claiming that the number of scoundrel bishops is necessarily any higher than it was when the episcopacy was healthy. I am simply pointing to the fact that, as an agency, the episcopacy has lost the capacity to do its own housecleaning, especially, but not exclusively, in the arena of sexual turpitude.
Pope Francis has proved Fr. Shaughnessy’s point — he cannot diagnose the problem. The Holy Father has surrounded himself with men of dubious character (Coccopalmiero, Rocca, Rossica, Farrell, Cupich, Tucho, et al.) and has totally revamped his communications staff to carry his water and spin things favorably.
Fr. Shaughnessy offers some good advice to Rome and the bishops:
What Rome can do
Require Heads on Platters. No man should be made a bishop, and no bishop should be promoted, unless he embraces authentic Catholic doctrine about sexual morality and leads a morally upright life. But the first condition is too easy to fake; anyone can give lip service to the teaching. Therefore no man should be elevated unless he has a track record as a head-cracker and has cleaned up problems of sexual wrongdoing, by dismissing gay seminarians or seminary faculty, for example, or by getting rid of miscreants at a university chaplaincy. The reason is that gays are perfectly prepared to let one of their own number mouth Church teaching if by so doing he earns a promotion; but if a man exposes their iniquity and acts against it, they will retaliate fiercely if there is any ammunition to be had, any wrongdoing, that is, in their adversary’s past. They will do the necessary vetting out of vindictiveness. Keep in mind that this goes for heterosexual mischief as well. Rome should make it clear that, before a man can be considered episcopal material, he needs scalps hanging from his belt. God knows there is no shortage of opportunities.
What bishops can do
Do ask, do tell. The policy should be made explicit that homosexuals are not admitted into the seminaries. Inter alia, this will result in an increase in vocations, and those of the right kind. Ordained priests found to be homosexual should be given the option of seeking reparative therapy by which they may be freed from their disorder, or else obliged to cease ministry. The time for gentler solutions is past.
Abolish general absolution. It doesn’t take great imagination to guess who has the deepest investment in absolution without confession. End it.
Restore simplicity to priestly life. Physical comfort is the oxygen that feeds the fires of homosexual indulgence. Cut it off. When you enter a rectory, take a look at the liquor cabinet, the videos, the wardrobe, the slick magazines, and ask yourself, “Do I get the impression that the man who lives here is in the habit of saying no to himself?” If the answer is negative, the chances are that his life of chastity is in disorder as well. It goes without saying that reforming bishops should lead by example in this department and not simply exhort.
Yet as I’ve pointed out, Francis requires no heads on platters, and instead surrounds himself and promotes miscreants. And as for the US bishops, silence seems to be their MO. Phil Lawler pointed out yesterday that following the call from Archbishop Vigano for Theodore McCarrick to publicly repent, only one US bishop spoke out: Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, TX.
Once again as a bishop of the Church I add my voice to the plea of Archbishop Vigano. He speaks of ETERNAL SALVATION, language seldom heard throughout this nightmare. In New Letter, Archbishop Viganò Calls on McCarrick to Publicly Repent https://t.co/AeO7YxHPjN
— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) January 14, 2019
This is a crucial time in the Church. The laity must not be silent and we must demand accountability. Unfortunately, it appears our corrupt Church will not act, and as Phil Lawler cautions:
Right now it seems the most likely path toward reform in the Church is the intervention of an “outside agency”—government authority. But that route could lead to disaster; our political leaders are not friendly to the cause of Catholicism, and a healthy Church always fights against the imposition of political control. If only a “morally intrepid few” bishops, here and in Rome, could call for and make public acts of repentance, we might yet avoid that danger. But time is running out.
I hold no hope that the February summit at the Vatican will provide any solution to this problem.