Last Wednesday evening, on the Feast of the Assumption (Holy Day of Obligation), I was approached by a church-goer who said that she only came to church because she knew that if she didn’t, then she would commit a serious sin and would wind up in hell if this sin was not forgiven at the time of her death. She then proceeded to quote me from the New Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2181. Correct though she was, I began to ponder about whether she even considered something that I found more troubling — one that has been plaguing the Church in recent times, with more than sufficient news media coverage. I wondered if she was bothered as much by this sin as her select sin.
After the recent publication of retired Archbishop (and former Cardinal) McCarrick’s past scandalous sexual perversions and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Grand Jury report, many US Catholics are in a virtual state of shock, frustration, anger — and sadness — as I am. In some ways, it feels like coming home to find your own house burglarized and ransacked. You feel violated and exploited. But in this case, we’re not just talking about things, but persons!
Many factors have contributed to this crisis that weren’t properly addressed. Some of the more serious ones include: widespread dissent from Church teaching on human sexuality; the failure of Church leaders to defend the truths of our Faith; failure to handle the issues with transparency; and properly disciplining the malefactors without fear of consequences that might diminish their standing in the community. We can no longer pretend that those who willfully ignore Church teaching, and the wolves who pose as shepherds that tend the sheep, have not contributed deeply to this crisis.
Once again, we’re forced to confront the widespread abuse of human souls – by our own purported leaders, in our own generation, in our own Catholic Church! In truth, many of the newly-revealed cases of abuse occurred decades ago and are only being reported now. I’m still stymied by how former Cardinal McCarrick’s upward promotion through the ranks of the Church hierarchy occurred after his misdeeds were known to many. I even heard of them as much as eighteen years ago, though I was never under his jurisdiction. New evidence shows that many current bishops, even Cardinals, participated in cover-ups and failed to take quick and decisive action against abusive priests. Some, as in the case of McCarrick, were actually predators themselves.
Although this may seem to be one of the darkest moments in the Church’s 2,000-year history, our Church history also shows us the way forward as it did in the Middle Ages, when even more heinous crimes were committed by parallel type characters. It’s an age when some of the greatest saints in our history arrived on the scene — just in time! The great reformer saints did wonders to change the face and composition of the Church.
So, when burdened with despair and hopelessness, we must cling to the example of St. Peter. Jesus, seeing many followers leave Him when He gave His first instruction on the Holy Eucharist, asked the Apostles: “Will you also leave?” Peter looked Him in the eyes and said: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life!”
It is with these thoughts in mind that I still can find a spark of hope and dare to rejoice when I tell you that we have a second good seminarian from our parish who, just this summer, was accepted into the seminary. Louis Padavano now joins seminarian Marc Gustinelli, in the program of priestly formation. Pray that these fine young men will be given the grace to pursue their vocation journey to the Priesthood. Louis just entered
St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami (from which Marc just graduated) and Marc has entered St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Even though the winds of chaos and confusion tend to swirl about the Church and Satan is proclaiming some sort of victory in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, Christ has built the foundation of His Church on the weakened Peter who became the “Rock,” and the powers of hell will not prevail in the long run!
As for the clergy who have abused or abetted abuse in the Church, pray for them. If they are living, pray that they repent of their past before they come to stand before the tribunal of God; if they are deceased, pray that God will have mercy on their souls! Then pray that Our Lord will send good and HOLY priests to minister in His Church. Amen!