Scandal Influenced by the World & the Devil

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Contagious Scandal & the Loss of Reputation

Any one priest signifies every priest. This collective appreciation has made the present crisis a damning one. When the laity look at their priests, they immediately wonder, “Could he be one of those priests?” While regarding only a few, these dark revelations of sin and crime are sufficient in damaging overall trust.

Men presumed as truthful revealed as duplicitous liars.

These are the same men appointed as preachers of the Gospel. The priest and pastor is the chief catechist of every parish and is entrusted with the faith formation of his people. What becomes of the message or the Good News when the messenger becomes a witness of bad or scandalous news? What becomes of his credibility when the mouthpiece of God not only stumbles in his witness but is unveiled as an agent of the devil’s anti-gospel? How can such a man speak to us about the truth when he has failed to put on the mind of Christ?

Men presumed as merciful exposed as sources for sin.

These are the men chosen to give flesh to the Divine Mercy in the ministry of the Church. Who would want to go to confession to such rogues? Many might think that their sins pale in comparison to such reprobates. While the efficacy of the sacraments is assured; it is understandable that the faithful would feel stained or polluted by association with these men. Is it all just empty words and gestures? Compounding the problem, they sometimes substitute malice for mercy and draw others as accomplices into their lives of sin. How can such men draw us into the love of God when they do not have the heart of Christ?

Men presumed as healers caught as sadistic destroyers.

Jesus condemned the Pharisees for placing unnecessary burdens upon good people. As an antidote he delivered the freedom and healing that belongs to the children of God. Priests were called to mend souls and to give hope, not to breach their victims from the family of God or to give them cause for despair. The miscreants in the news destroyed innocence and purposely misdirected the faith trajectory of people’s lives. They placed their own sexual gratification over sacred promises and the good of persons. How could they live with themselves, exchanging the joy of right relationship with God for a cruel transitory delight toward others? Even if there were a failure to love, did they not fear God?

Men presumed as pure are brought to light as defiled.

Priests are commissioned as eschatological signs of Christ’s kingdom. This is a basic premise behind the promise or vow of celibacy. Celibacy is not the same as chastity or virginity. Rather, it is a wondrous way of loving others. We are corporeal-spiritual composites, creatures of spirit and flesh. The purity of the body is supposed to immediately signify the virtuous nature of the soul, the existential resolution as one who loves the Lord so tremendously that it spills over in concern for the neighbor. As opposed to the pattern of the rich man going away sad because of his many possessions, it is the follower of Jesus who seeks to abandon earthly satisfaction so as to be rich in Christ. What happened to this singleness of purpose in these men? How is it that they could be satisfied with the carnal man when they were pledged to something greater, the one who lives in the Spirit?

Men presumed as holy are divulged as devils.

We are all called to be saints. That is our fundamental purpose in life. Christ as the new Adam comes into the world to restore an innocence that was lost by sin. The priest is charged as an instrument of the Lord to dispense the divine mysteries in making this objective possible. His ministrations allow us to enter in the saving paschal mystery. Here is where the sins of these men become a kind of blasphemy against all that is holy and good. Instead of realizing their role as sharers in Christ’s priesthood and extending his saving works, they look to the wimpish failure of the first Adam; indeed, worse than this, they play the role of the serpent. Do they not see how they have been thoroughly soiled as slaves to the devil? Have they stopped believing entirely?

We are told that a priest, even in mortal sin, can validly administer the sacraments. This is one of the great absurdities of faith and yet one necessary to insure the efficacy of the sacraments in the life of God’s people. Of course, while a bad priest might do some good, his bad character often sours the milk and corrupts or tears down what is built up. This dissimulation probably constitutes a special wound in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our Lord is pained by the priest who is a cheat or hypocrite, even as he is supposed to be “another Christ” at the altar.

It remains a conundrum that a priest might take his people to the very gates of heaven but himself be unable to enter. While we might think that the graces of priesthood would make it easier for him to go to heaven; certain authorities have argued that it makes the prospect of hell more pressing and dangerous. Why? The more one is given, the more for which one will be held accountable. The priest knows better and cannot claim ignorance. Everything needed for salvation is immediately available. That makes any neglect inexcusable. Further, because he has been configured to Christ by his ordination, the devil targets him for every temptation and assault. At his altar, at his desk, in his car and in his bed he is always in the midst of a fierce battle with the prince demon of perdition. Priests who forget this will immediately stumble. The senses are especially targeted. The scandals of late all appeal to the flesh and sexuality. The sins committed are virtually unimaginable. Minds are clouded. Hearts are hardened. The devil will take any crack he can find to pierce the priest’s soul— smoking, drunkenness, gluttony, sloth, anger, jealousy, whatever. The devil may have failed in his temptation of Christ; but starting with his apostles and coming down through history to his priests and bishops of today, he has found men who sometimes falter and even become his property. Judas may not be the only bishop-priest in hell.

It is a terrible business when the weak link of faith is the shepherd. The weapons to hurt souls and to attack the Church then come from the very hands of the priest— hands that were consecrated for the chalice and the host. We as Catholics become our own worst enemies. It is at such times that we must remember that our faith is placed ultimately not in men but in God. We should also recall the saints, for theirs is the true legacy of the Church. Instead of running away, it becomes all the more imperative for God’s people to keep the faith and to demand fidelity and holiness of their priests. All sins might be forgiven, but the sins against innocence must not be forgotten. A reform of the Church will mean that some higher churchmen will have to step down, certain priests will have to be removed from ministry and others will have to embrace a heroic apostolate of penance and sanctity. This is not a time for window dressing but of a true moral reform, to deal both with a hostile secular modernity and a rigid clericalism that makes careerism and a fear of scandal into higher imperatives than protecting God’s flock from the robber and the wolf.

If we enter into the light (not afraid of what will be unmasked) and not in the darkness (where the roaches of sin hide), then we will truly walk with Christ. As opposed to the clamoring enemies of the Church who see the current scandal as the death knell for Catholicism, maybe it is an unavoidable summons to “grow up” and to become a more effective and genuine witness targeted. The scandals of late all appeal to the flesh and sexuality. The sins committed are virtually unimaginable. Minds are clouded. Hearts are hardened. The devil will take any crack he can find to pierce the priest’s soul— smoking, drunkenness, gluttony, sloth, anger, jealousy, whatever. The devil may have failed in his temptation of Christ; but starting with his apostles and coming down through history to his priests and bishops of today, he has found men who sometimes falter and even become his property. Judas may not be the only bishop-priest in hell.

It is a terrible business when the weak link of faith is the shepherd. The weapons to hurt souls and to attack the Church then come from the very hands of the priest— hands that were consecrated for the chalice and the host. We as Catholics become our own worst enemies. It is at such times that we must remember that our faith is placed ultimately not in men but in God. We should also recall the saints, for theirs is the true legacy of the Church. Instead of running away, it becomes all the more imperative for God’s people to keep the faith and to demand fidelity and holiness of their priests. All sins might be forgiven, but the sins against innocence must not be forgotten. A reform of the Church will mean that some higher churchmen will have to step down, certain priests will have to be removed from ministry and others will have to embrace a heroic apostolate of penance and sanctity. This is not a time for window dressing but of a true moral reform, to deal both with a hostile secular modernity and a rigid clericalism that makes careerism and a fear of scandal into higher imperatives than protecting God’s flock from the robber and the wolf.

If we enter into the light (not afraid of what will be unmasked) and not in the darkness (where the roaches of sin hide), then we will truly walk with Christ. As opposed to the clamoring enemies of the Church who see the current scandal as the death knell for Catholicism, maybe it is an unavoidable summons to “grow up” and to become a more effective and genuine witness for Christ in the modern world?  Divine providence is most unfathomable when God draws something of the good from the misdirected evil of men.

His Enemy Came and Sowed Weeds All through the Wheat

These are dark days for the Church.  One of my friends even said, “These scandals make me feel ashamed to work for the Church.” I well understood.  At every Mass a priest mentions and prays for his bishop by name.  What if a bishop should disappoint you or you discover that one was likely a reprobate?  I suspect a number of priests have paused or recently winced during the saying of the Eucharistic prayer.  In any case, we are called to pray for the good and the bad, always remembering as priests that we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God.

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Jesus’ apostles often disappointed him— one even betrayed and despaired, taking his own life.  I suppose the best of priests are wounded healers.  Nevertheless, there are certain sins that cry out to heaven.  I am reminded of one of the parables:

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Is it time for the harvest?  It is so very hard to separate the weeds from the wheat. Indeed, the weeds threaten to strangle the wheat. We desperately want to see the weeds bundled and burned.

The Devil Made Me Do It

Alarmists about Vatican II regularly cite a quotation attributed to Pope Paul VI that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” While I neither have a naïve celebratory nor a pejorative view of the Council, I do feel that a diabolical attack upon the Church extending back to the very beginning of the incarnation is reaching a fever pitch in these latter days. The assault targets both clergy and lay. The complicit backdrop is a culture where sexual perversion is increasingly regarded as normative, where immigrant families are derided as criminals and sub-humans and where mothers argue for the choice or right to murder their children.

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Just as Christ is the fulfillment of the ancient promise for redemption given our first parents; the devil is all about broken promises. He corrupted Adam but failed when it came to Jesus and that failure fills him with an eternal spite. He numbs consciences to the truth about the sanctity of life and the dignity of persons. He hardens hearts, not merely against charity but even about what should be obvious in regards to compassion, mercy and decency. Truth is an immediate casualty but so is the love that beckons to us from the Cross. We become comfortable with our sins and selfishness. Divine commands become weak suggestions that can be readily dismissed.

Christ was tempted but could not fall; however, we still struggle with the brokenness of the first Adam. Apart from Christ we are destined to fail. The world pampers our pride. The flesh entices our senses. The devil seeks to oppress and even to possess us. Satan has a burning hatred for us and the Church. He lost the war against Christ but continues to corrupt and steal in skirmishes for individual souls. We should not pretend that the devil is a fool. He knows that the best way to hurt the Church is to undermine her ministers— as goes the priesthood, so goes the Church. It was only a matter of time that this crisis would turn to the bishops given that they possess the fullness of priesthood.

Jesus redeemed us and yet some would return to their bondage of suffering, sin and death. We hear the devil speaking through the mouths of his slaves all the time: “I am not a saint so why try?” “You can’t tell me what to do!” “If it feels good then do it.” “It is my body.” “Everyone is doing it!” “Those foreigners are all drug dealers and rapists!” “I’ll run over anyone who gets in my way!” “Going to church is a waste of my time.” “To hell with her brains, I want her for her body.” “We don’t want his kind around here.” “It only becomes a baby if you want it.”

Frequently living in a manner that is moving ever closer to hell, they try to deny to themselves that they will ever get there. But it comes sooner than they think because they draw something of hell into the world. Yes, I am convinced that the devil has a hand in this abuse scandal; but, of course, none of the guilty can escape personal culpability.

Man Has Made Himself the Measure of All Things

153444973830414067-3Everything is salted with sensuality and eroticism: television, movies, music, books, art, the internet, etc. Fifty Shades of Grey becomes a bestselling book and it leads to sequels and films, affirming that pornography has truly gone mainstream. We feed our children to demons, not only with abortion but by eroticizing adolescents— dressing them as provocative adults, putting makeup on babies, romanticizing their juvenile relationships and allowing them to set the rules in our homes (giving them everything they want). We fill their heads with profane music and delight in their dancing, much as did lecherous Herod over Salome. Nevertheless, denying our own cooperation in sin, we point the finger at others when lines are crossed. Man imposes his strictures of fad as dictates over natural law, the height of lunacy. Few are willing to admit that gender confusion and same-sex unions have fashioned a twisted parody of marriage. A political correctness mislabels the clergy scandal so that it cannot be adequately addressed. We clamor about a few pedophiles when the problem remains a cabal of unsated homosexual pederasts.

Forbidden are a host of words and concepts like purity, chastity, virginity, temperance, obedience, duty, sacrifice, etc. Truth is no longer “what is” but simply “what we want it to be.” A Christian society has largely vanished. Many elements of the Church have given up the fight and have been seduced. Custody of the eyes is virtually impossible. If there remains any element of shame from damaged consciences and complicity in scandal then it is brushed aside by critics so as to be stamped upon others. We find much of this transference in how the Church is faulted, especially her clergy. A problematical infestation of active homosexuals is ignored or tolerated because the culture wants to affirm and normalize homosexuality. Thus, the errant priests who largely target males are labeled as “pedophiles” when in actuality they are essentially repressed homosexuals acting out with other men or committing pederasty with older minors. (I must quickly add that this judgment should not diminish a respect for persons or insinuate that all homosexuals are a danger to minors. We need to be sympathetic to those who seek to be chaste and celibate, even if they should not be welcomed into holy orders.)

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Where do we go from here? Silence is not the answer; indeed, it becomes part of the problem. Moving the men around is not the answer; like shipping the trash out to sea it only makes a problem for others somewhere else. Much of the damage evades healing, at least in this world. What is done cannot be undone. (Many of us hoped and prayed that this problem was largely behind us.) Now we know that most of us will be long in the grave before these troubled seas are calm again. The late cardinal-priest Avery Dulles was a prophet about this problem, urging adequate protections for innocent priests but also alerting the bishops that they should not exclude themselves from inspection, reprimand and public penance. When these issues first began to make headlines the USCCB recommended a day of penance for the laity to pray upon this issue— but the criticism was rightfully made that the laity would prefer to see the bishops and priests on their knees. The situation with the disoriented and misbehaving clergy might have been a symptom of a sick society and a repressive Church but still people were right to argue about the blinders that some of the shepherds were wearing. I suppose the issue of fault is often connected to liability and lawyers. It should be about contrition, amendment of life and penance.

The recent revelations in Pennsylvania and other places during the last few weeks have caused many of us who love the Church, clergy and laity alike, to weep as we have prayed. How can we win back the confidence of God’s people as credible witnesses to the Gospel? The flock has every right to be upset at the many allegations of misconduct and the passivity from bishops in protecting our children. Where was accountability in all this? How could anyone move up the ranks of the hierarchy when there were sordid rumors and even past settlements for sexual misbehavior? Many of us are shaking our heads; it is so unbelievable. And yet, like throwing gasoline into an open fire, there are many in authority claiming “I did not know” or “We thought we could morally reform the man” or “A few of the details need correction or clarification.” No one should be falsely charged, either in the commission of atrocious acts or as concealing that which cries out to be known; however, missteps were made and we will never move forward while there is a refusal to accept responsibility for how matters were handled.

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I’m Mad as Hell & I am Not Going to Take This Anymore!

Most bishops do not regularly live and work in parishes. They may not be fully aware of how angry people are. I am reminded of the 1976 movie Network where the television newscaster shouts, “You’ve got to say: I’m a human being, g-dammit! My life has value! So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

As I said, the faithful have every right to be upset. They deserve good and holy priests. They should expect that their bishops and priests would love and protect them, especially the children. Will we see more empty pews? Will needed funds dry up? I cannot yet say, although I have heard more than one person say that he or she will be cutting back. As with the lawsuits and large monetary awards to victims and their lawyers— we could also end up victimizing the faithful in the pews and the needy in our communities. While the Church’s moral authority is compromised, we are still a voice and helping hand for the oppressed and the poor. What will happen to them if our resources are stripped away from the Church?

About Father Joe

Father Joe Jenkins I am the pastor of Holy Family Church and a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Homosexuality, Pastor, Sexuality. Bookmark the permalink.

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