Sunday, September 16, 2018

Pope Francis - Angelus prayer

Fr. Corapi: Corruption in the Church with Failure in Leadership

Is Confession in Scripture?

The Lord declares in Isaiah 43:25:

I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Psalm 103:2-3 adds:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases…

Many will use these verses against the idea of confession to a priest. God forgiving sins, they will claim, precludes the possibility of there being a priest who forgives sins. Further, Hebrews 3:1 and 7:22-27 tell us Jesus is, “the… high priest of our confession” and that there are not “many priests,” but one in the New Testament—Jesus Christ. Moreover, if Jesus is the “one mediator between God and men” (I Tim. 2:5), how can Catholics reasonably claim priests act in the role of mediator in the Sacrament of Confession?


The Catholic Church acknowledges what Scripture unequivocally declares: it is God who forgives our sins. But that is not the end of the story. Leviticus 19:20-22 is equally unequivocal:

If a man lies carnally with a woman… they shall not be put to death… But he shall bring a guilt offering for himself to the Lord… And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin which he has committed; and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.

Apparently, a priest being used as God’s instrument of forgiveness did not somehow take away from the fact that it was God who did the forgiving. God was the first cause of the forgiveness; the priest was the secondary, or instrumental cause. Thus, God being the forgiver of sins in Isaiah 43:25 and Psalm 103:3 in no way eliminates the possibility of there being a ministerial priesthood established by God to communicate his forgiveness.


Many Protestants will concede the point of priests acting as mediators of forgiveness in the Old Testament. “However,” they will claim, “The people of God had priests in the Old Testament. Jesus is our only priest in the New Testament.” The question is: could it be that “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) did something similar to that which he did, as God, in the Old Testament? Could he have established a priesthood to mediate his forgiveness in the New Testament?


Just as God empowered his priests to be instruments of forgiveness in the Old Testament, the God/man Jesus Christ delegated authority to his New Testament ministers to act as mediators of reconciliation as well. Jesus made this remarkably clear in John 20:21-23:

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Having been raised from the dead, our Lord was here commissioning his apostles to carry on with his work just before he was to ascend to heaven. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” What did the Father send Jesus to do? All Christians agree he sent Christ to be the one true mediator between God and men. As such, Christ was to infallibly proclaim the Gospel (cf. Luke 4:16-21), reign supreme as King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Rev. 19:16); and especially, he was to redeem the world through the forgiveness of sins (cf. I Peter 2:21-25, Mark 2:5-10).

The New Testament makes very clear that Christ sent the apostles and their successors to carry on this same mission. To proclaim the gospel with the authority of Christ (cf. Matthew 28:18-20), to govern the Church in His stead (cf. Luke 22:29-30), and to sanctify her through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist (cf. John 6:54, I Cor. 11:24-29) and for our purpose here, Confession.

John 20:22-23 is nothing more than Jesus emphasizing one essential aspect of the priestly ministry of the apostles: To Forgive men’s sins in the person of Christ— “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained.” Moreover, auricular confession is strongly implied here. The only way the apostles could either forgive or retain sins is by first hearing those sins confessed, and then making a judgment whether or not the penitent should be absolved.


Many Protestants and various quasi-Christian sects claim John 20:23 must be viewed as Christ simply repeating “the great commission” of Matthew 28:19 and Luke 24:47 using different words that mean the same thing:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

… and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations…

Commenting on John 20:23 in his book, Romanism—The Relentless Roman Catholic Assault on the Gospel of Jesus Christ! (White Horse Publications, Huntsville Alabama, 1995), p. 100, Protestant Apologist Robert Zins writes:

It is apparent that the commission to evangelize is tightly woven into the commission to proclaim forgiveness of sin through faith in Jesus Christ.

Mr. Zin’s claim is that John 20:23 is not saying the apostles would forgive sins; rather, that they would merely proclaim the forgiveness of sins. The only problem with this theory is it runs head-on into the text of John 20. “If you forgive the sins of any… if you retain the sins of any.” The text cannot say it any clearer: this is more than a mere proclamation of the forgiveness of sins—this “commission” of the Lord communicates the power to actually forgive the sins themselves.


The next question for many upon seeing the plain words of St. John is, “Why don’t we hear any more about Confession to a priest in the rest of the New Testament?” The fact is: we don’t need to. How many times does God have to tell us something before we’ll believe it? He only gave us the proper form for baptism once (Matt. 28:19), and yet all Christians accept this teaching.

But be that as it may, there are multiple texts that deal with Confession and the forgiveness of sins through the New Covenant minister. I will cite just a few of them:

II Cor. 2:10:

And to whom you have pardoned anything, I also. For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned anything, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ (DRV).

Many may respond to this text by quoting modern Bible translations, e.g., the RSVCE:

What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ (emphasis added).

St. Paul, it is argued, is simply forgiving someone in the way any layperson can forgive someone for wrongs committed against him. The Greek word—prosopon—can be translated either way. And I should note here that good Catholics will argue this point as well. This is an understandable and valid objection. However, I do not concur with it for four reasons:

1. Not only the Douay-Rheims, but the King James Version of the Bible—which no one would accuse of being a Catholic translation—translates prosopon as “person.”

2. The early Christians, who spoke and wrote in Koine Greek, at the Councils of Ephesus (AD 431) and Chalcedon (AD 451), used prosopon to refer to the “person” of Jesus Christ.

3. Even if one translates the text as St. Paul pardoning “in the presence of Christ,” the context still seems to indicate that he forgave the sins of others. And notice: St. Paul specifically said he was not forgiving anyone for offenses committed against him (see II Cor. 2:5). Any Christian can and must do this. He said he did the forgiving “for [the Corinthian’s] sakes” and “in the person (or presence) of Christ.” The context seems to indicate he is forgiving sins that do not involve him personally.

4. Just three chapters later, St. Paul gives us the reason why he could forgive the sins of others: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:18). Some will argue that “the ministry of reconciliation” of verse 18 is identical to “the message of reconciliation” in verse 19. In other words, St. Paul is simply referring to a declarative power here. I don’t agree. I argue St. Paul uses distinct terms precisely because he is referring to more than just “the message of reconciliation,” but the same ministry of reconciliation that was Christ’s. Christ did more than just preach a message; he also forgave sins.

James 5:14-17:

Is any one among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain… and… it did not rain…

When it comes to one “suffering;” St. James says, “Let him pray.” “Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise.” But when it comes to sickness and personal sins, he tells his readers they must go to the “elders”—not just anyone—in order to receive this “anointing” and the forgiveness of sins.

Some will object and point out that verse 16 says to confess our sins “to one another” and pray “for one another.” Is not James just encouraging us to confess our sins to a close friend so we can help one another to overcome our faults?

The context seems to disagree with this interpretation for two main reasons:

1. St. James had just told us to go to the presbyter in verse 14 for healing and the forgiveness of sins. Then, verse 16 begins with the word therefore—a conjunction that would seem to connect verse 16 back to verses 14 and 15. The context seems to point to the “elder” as the one to whom we confess our sins.

2. Ephesians 5:21 employs this same phrase. “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” But the context limits the meaning of “to one another” specifically to a man and wife—not just anyone. Similarly, the context of James 5 would seem to limit the confession of faults “to one another” to the specific relationship between “anyone” and the “elder” or “priest” (Gr.—presbuteros).


A major obstacle to Confession for many Protestants (me included when I was Protestant) is that it presupposes a priesthood. As I said above, Jesus is referred to in Scripture as “the apostle and high priest of our confession.” The former priests were many in number, as Hebrews 7:23 says, now we have one priest—Jesus Christ. The question is: how does the idea of priests and confession fit in here? Is there one priest or are there many?

I Peter 2:5-9 gives us some insight:

… and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people…

If Jesus is the one and only priest in the New Testament in a strict sense, then we have a contradiction in Sacred Scripture. This, of course, is absurd. I Peter plainly teaches all believers to be members of a holy priesthood. Priest/believers do not take away from Christ’s unique priesthood, rather, as members of his body they establish it on earth.


If one understands the very Catholic and very biblical notion of participatio, these problematic texts and others become relatively easy to understand. Yes, Jesus Christ is the “one mediator between God and men” just as I Tim. 2:5 says. The Bible is clear. Yet, Christians are also called to be mediators in Christ. When we intercede for one another or share the Gospel with someone, we act as mediators of God’s love and grace in the one true mediator, Christ Jesus, via the gift of participatio in Christ, the sole mediator between God and men (see I Timothy 2:1-7, I Timothy 4:16, Romans 10:9-14). All Christians, in some sense, can say with St. Paul, “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…” (Gal. 2:20)


If all Christians are priests, then why do Catholics claim a ministerial priesthood essentially distinct from the universal priesthood? The answer is: God willed to call out a special priesthood among the universal priesthood to minister to his people. This concept is literally as old as Moses.

When St. Peter taught us about the universal priesthood of all believers, he specifically referred to Exodus 19:6 where God alluded to ancient Israel as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” St. Peter reminds us that there was a universal priesthood among the Old Testament people of God just as in the New Testament. But this did not preclude the existence of a ministerial priesthood within that universal priesthood (see Exodus 19:22, Exodus 28, and Numbers 3:1-12).

In an analogous way, we have a universal “Royal Priesthood” in the New Testament, but we also have an ordained clergy who have priestly authority given to them by Christ to carry out his ministry of reconciliation as we have seen.


A final couple of texts we will consider are Matt. 16:19 and 18:18. Specifically, we’ll examine the words of Christ to Peter and the apostles: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” As CCC 553 says, Christ here communicated not only authority “to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church,” but also “the authority to absolve sins” to the apostles.

These words are unsettling, even disturbing, to many. And understandably so. How could God give such authority to men? And yet he does. Jesus Christ, who alone has the power to open and shut heaven to men, clearly communicated this authority to the apostles and their successors. This is what the forgiveness of sins is all about: to reconcile men and women with their heavenly Father. CCC 1445 puts it succinctly:

The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.

Dutch Catholic Church reportedly knew of sexual abuse and actively covered it up

High-ranking members of the Dutch Catholic Church have been accused of taking part or actively covering up child abuse between 1945 and 2010.
More than half of Dutch bishops, cardinals and auxiliary bishops knew about the abuse allegations, an investigation by Dutch newspaper NRC showed.
Four of them were accused of having sexually abused children.
According to the report, high-ranking clergy moved priests who had been accused of abuse to other parishes where they could start anew. 
Sometimes, clergy members were moved more than once to cover up their abuse. 

Catholic Church covered up child abuse by 300 US priests: report

They also kept quiet about allegations and destroyed the files of accused members of the clergy.
According to organisations dealing with victims of abuse, these practices led to many more victims over the years.
The Netherlands is not the only country where abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church.
In recent years, institutionalised cover-ups of child abuse have popped up in the United States, Australia, Ireland and Germany.
Last month, the US state of Pennsylvania released a report detailing the abuse of more than 1,000 children over a period of decades.
More than 300 clergy members were implicated in the report.
In May, Chile's 34 bishops were summoned to Rome by the pope after Vatican investigators produced a 2,300-page report alleging that senior Church officials in Chile had failed to act on abuse claims and in some cases hid them. 
Pope Francis has accepted the resignations of five of those bishops.
In Australia, a former archbishop was recently convicted of failing to disclose abuse by a priest to the police after being told about it by two of the survivors in the 1970s.
He was spared jail time when he was ordered to serve his one-year sentence at home due to a range of health issues.
In July, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of 88-year-old US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, ordering him to lead a lifetime of prayer and penance amid allegations that McCarrick had for years sexually abused boys and young adult seminarians.
Pope Francis came under scrutiny himself for his actions in the McCarrick case. 

Pope tells Ireland he feels 'pain, shame' over sex abuse scandal

A senior Vatican official wrote a statement in which he called on Pope Francis to resign, accusing the pontiff of failing to act sooner on the sexual abuse allegations.
During a visit to Ireland in August, Pope Francis told tens of thousands of people gathered in Dublin: "None of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence and left scarred."
Francis also met privately with eight victims of clerical, religious and institutional abuse, saying he would seek greater commitment to eliminate the "scourge".

Monday, September 10, 2018

The scandal of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick: Just how much power does any Newark seminarian have to withstand his own Bishop?

On Election Day 2008, I was not following the historic election of Barack Obama to the presidency.
Instead, I was meeting up with a priest. At the time, I was religion editor for the Washington Times.

The documents he gave me were sensational. At first I thought it was about a priest who’d been forced out of the priesthood because he’d been caught fondling two teen-aged boys. Then I read why the priest had done this. In layman’s terms: He said he was an emotional and spiritual mess after having been sexually assaulted in 1987 by none less than then-Newark Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.
Now, perhaps many of you have read yesterday’s news about McCarrick, who went on to become cardinal for the see of Washington, D.C., a most prestigious post. This UPI story describes the bare-bones of the matter:
Retired Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C., announced he was stepping down from the ministry Wednesday amid allegations of sexual abuse.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of New York said the Vatican secretary of state, at the direction of Pope Francis, asked McCarrick to step down from the ministry.

Rocco Palmo, the blogmeister for the Vatican-insider blog “Whispers in the Loggia” announced yesterday that McCarrick is the highest-ranking U.S. prelate to be charged with sex misconduct to date. He has some other important details that are a must-read.
More from UPI:

The allegations against McCarrick stem from the abuse of a teenager nearly 50 years ago, while the former archbishop was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York ... Although McCarrick said he has "no recollection" of the case and was "shocked" by the report, he accepted the pope's request to no longer publicly exercise his priestly ministry.
"While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence," McCarrick said in a statement Wednesday, "my sadness was deepened when I was informed that the allegations had been determined credible and substantiated.
"I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people."

He was “shocked” at the report? Allegations about the cardinal have been floating about the Internet , and in religion-news circles, for way more than a decade regarding much heavier stuff than a 47-year-old incident. More on this in a moment.
This CNN story details what the allegations were:
Patrick Noaker, the attorney for the man who made the accusation against McCarrick, said his client was molested by McCarrick on two separate occasions, once in 1971 and once the following year...
Both alleged incidents, Noaker said, occurred at St. Patrick's Cathedral as his client, an altar boy, was being fitted for a cassock for Christmas Mass. At the time, McCarrick was secretary to Cardinal Terence Cooke, New York's top churchman.
"McCarrick started measuring him, then he unzipped his pants, stuck his hand in and grabbed his genitals," Noaker said.
Looking around at various news reports, I noticed that some of the more detailed ones were by longtime beat reporters who were well aware of McCarrick’s inclinations and may have had an ongoing file on him.

This New York Times story interviews two former priests: Richard Sipe and Robert Hoatson, who've been telling reporters about McCarrick for years. One other thing that I’m taking from the Washington Post’s article, which many other publications likewise reported:
Additionally, Newark’s archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, and the bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., James Checchio, said on Wednesday that McCarrick had earlier been accused of sexual misconduct with adults, allegedly committed when he was the leader of those dioceses decades ago. Two of the three allegations led to settlements, they said.
That is huge, huge news. Several of us knew there were settlements but we didn’t know how many. Below are details about what those settlements may entail.

What I have to say next is a bit long, so please bear with me. Numerous journalists – and Catholics – knew that McCarrick has been accused of this sort of thing for decades and that he cultivated male seminarians for sexual purposes for years. Wednesday’s news was no secret to many of us. It is one of the great untold stories of the religion beat.
Look at this essay posted in 2010 by Richard Sipe, a former priest who has been a psychotherapist specializing in sexual abuse cases by Catholic clergy.

Yep, eight years ago. It is an R-rated account of McCarrick’s homosexual antics. One sordid incident – described in a four-page document – involved McCarrick and three other clerics and their sexual play during a summer 1987 trip to a fish camp in New York. It matches the legal documents I was given. Please read it.

It wasn’t Sipe who gave me the documents, but someone else. Those documents involved Gregory Littleton, a seminarian who later became a priest in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., a diocese that McCarrick headed in the early 1980s. In 1993, Littleton got implicated in some sexual acting out with two teen-aged boys; he underwent several years of counseling, then got sent to the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C., in 1997 where, as far as I know, he was performing just fine until the sex abuse crisis hit the U.S. Catholic Church in 2002.

Then, a new bishop of the Metuchen diocese reviewed Littleton’s file and sent his information south. By this time, no diocese could afford to have a priest on staff who had abused anyone for any reason, so in 2004, Littleton was removed. All this came out in a press release from the Charlotte officials. “My own life was left in psychological, emotional and financial ruins,” he wrote in a plaintive note to McCarrick (now a cardinal in Washington, D.C.) in 2005. “I was made a promise by the Diocese of Metuchen that I would be cared for.”
It was Littleton’s file that I was handed in 2008. On page after page, Littleton tells how he told bishops, other priests, counselors and whoever else would listen about McCarrick and that many of his sexual problems dated back to this prelate. Littleton is the writer of the memo about the fish camp.

But no one dared to go against such a powerful personality. I covered the election of Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005 in Rome and McCarrick was the darling of the American press there. Who would believe the words of a disgraced priest?
But word was beginning to seep out.

In December 2005, Catholic journalist Matt Abbott wrote a column about McCarrick’s invitations to seminarians to join him for weekends at his beach house in Sea Girt, N.J. These young men would race to grab an available bed with the odd one out being the one who would have to share a bed with the archbishop. He added:

A priest who did his seminary training in Newark wrote me and said he remembers the Newark seminarians dreading Fridays because it meant they might have to go to McCarrick's house at the Jersey shore.
But little else came out after that, as even if there had been sexual activity, these men were consenting adults, right? And the sexual abuse crisis dealt with minors, not with grown men. So if someone complained of being sexually abused as an adult, a diocese didn’t have to report it. Instead, it could pay you to stay quiet.

But how much power does any seminarian have to withstand his own bishop? I began to look into these allegations. My supervisors at the Washington Times knew what I was doing, but they also needed me to do my regular beat coverage, leaving me no time to go after this scandal. I did drive up to Metuchen to go through court records and to Sea Girt to go through property records, but I could find nothing pointing to any diocesan-owned beach house.

Journalist Rod Dreher was also looking into McCarrick, which he talked about yesterday in his blog for the American Conservative.
I heard that Littleton had gotten a settlement from the church but that it was not much; somewhere between $75,000-$150,000. When I contacted Littleton in North Carolina, he refused to speak with me.
Then in 2009, my erstwhile Washington Times colleague George Archibald (who had left the paper several years before) came out with “Journalism is War,” a book partly about “miscreants and sexual deviants in high places in government and the media,” as he said in the preface. He should have thrown in “the church,” as he gave one full chapter to his efforts to cover the McCarrick affair years before.

Archibald named more names, including Robert Ciolek, a former seminarian said to have been wooed by McCarrick. Ciolek, who was one of the men mentioned in the fishing camp narrative, had moved on to become a successful lawyer. So I called Ciolek one September morning and asked him to comment on what George had written. Ciolek wouldn’t comment but I noticed he didn’t deny the account in the book.
I ran into similar blockages everywhere. There were priests and laity alike for whom McCarrick’s predilections were an open secret, but no one wanted to go after him. I heard about various settlements but couldn’t confirm the details. No newspaper can publish such explosive accusations with only anonymous sources and no court documents to back it up.

Various Catholic friends advised me to let it go. “What difference does it make now?” they’d say. “McCarrick is retired.” The archdiocese was represented by a powerful law firm. Did I want to take that on?
After I was laid off in 2010, I sent copies of my files to another reporter on the East Coast so he could have a go at cracking this story. He too ran into the same barriers: People who refused to go on the record and there was always the threat of a lawsuit should he get one detail wrong.

My reporter friend did tell me that another writer managed to get the necessary details for a big story that should have run in the New York Times magazine around 2012. But it got killed. Over the years, I’ve told other reporters about this story; even pitched it to one magazine myself but again, no one would be the first to go public.

So now it’s all coming out. Philip Lawler, a writer for, asks why, if so many journalists knew about this story, no one came out with it. I’ve explained why I could not. And I hope the New York Times magazine explains why they did not.

Julia Duin
June 21, 2018

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Letter to Pope Francis:“Sleep no longer, and raise the standard of Christ, Courageously!”

Dear Holy Father and Bishops of the United States:

As Catholic laymen, we are faithful husbands, fathers, business leaders, lawyers, tradesmen, medical doctors, professors, teachers, artists, and leaders of Catholic lay apostolates. But most fundamentally, we are men in love with Christ and His Church, and it is for this reason that we beseech you to purge the corruption which has so grotesquely disfigured the face of Christ’s Bride. The present scandals have placed our wives, sisters, brothers, and children in danger. Therefore, echoing the words St. Catherine of Siena addressed to Pope Gregory XI, we beseech you to “sleep no longer, and raise the standard [of Christ] courageously.” The Church needs purification, and by virtue of your offices as our shepherds, no one is more qualified to bring about this purification than yourselves. We beg you to do so without a moment’s delay.

Taking courage from St. Paul, and knowing that “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rm 5:20), we are appalled by the recent abuses. We have read of the allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick; the grand jury report regarding the Church in Pennsylvania; the horrific abuse in Honduras and Chile; and the rampant reports of clerical homosexual activity, pedophilia, and ephebophilia throughout the global presbytery. Most recently, we have read Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s testimony alleging that bishops in senior leadership positions within both the Holy See and the United States have covered up sexual abuse, evidencing widespread and systemic corruption throughout the Church’s hierarchy.

Holy Father, we come to you for answers. You personally have been faced with allegations. These allegations have been leveled by a high-ranking church official, Archbishop Viganò. Further, many bishops in the United States have publicly stated that they believe these allegations should be investigated. We implore you to address them. Specifically, we request that you answer the questions posed by our sisters in their letter to you, issued on August 30, 2018.

Moreover, regardless of the veracity of Archbishop Viganò’s allegations, our concerns about corruption remain. Your Holiness, Your Eminences, and Your Excellencies: Amidst widespread global abuse, coverups, and hierarchical failure, what are you doing and what will you do to protect the people of God? We urge you to answer this simple question because the cost of the episcopal corruption is catastrophic. At present, many families are reluctant to send their sons to seminary. Efforts at evangelization have been crippled. And distrust from donors jeopardizes the Church’s ability to serve the poor, promote environmental stewardship, and carry out works of mercy. One Catholic mother has said that this crisis will either reinvigorate the Church or cause an exodus. We beg you to encourage reinvigoration through radical purification, realizing that you are at risk of losing credibility in the eyes of millions of Catholics.

Holy Father, we are personally committed to our own purity and the purification of the Church. We are reminded of the words of our Lord in John 8:7: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” All sin, including our own, weakens the Church. As men, we must all have the strength to seek the Lord’s healing. For this reason, we will begin with ourselves, examining our own consciences and renewing our own commitment to chastity. We will work to build up our own families, especially our sons, and our own communities. Further, the signers of this letter commit to serious and difficult fasting for the next seventeen Fridays, beginning this Friday, September 7 through the end of the calendar year. We will not relent. We will embrace suffering as penance for our own sins and the sins of the Church. We desire nothing more than to become saints amidst scandal.

Holy Father and Bishops of the United States, we plead for justice for the victims of abuse. We add our voices to those of the bishops who have called for an investigation of the Church hierarchy, both in our own country and in the Vatican. This investigation should be carried out by faithful lay men and women. Further, we encourage other groups to make their voices heard by writing more letters of this nature.

Finally, we praise our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His abundant mercy founded the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We affirm our hope for the future of the Church. We ask you to be courageous and not afraid. We affirm our affection and gratitude for the holy priests and bishops who have served us faithfully as stewards of the mysteries of Christ. The Church’s history has seen many seasons. Nevertheless, after the dark season of winter comes spring, and we pray that the difficulties of the present time will be surpassed by the victories to come. Trusting in our Lord Jesus Christ, we have full confidence that the light of the Holy Trinity will break through this present darkness revealing the full beauty of our beloved Church.

We promise our lives, our talents, and our resources for the purification and renewal of the Catholic Church. Relying on the intercession of the Blessed Mother, we will fight for this cause to the very end.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Bishop Barron: Resources on the Sexual Abuse Crisis

Many people have written to us, asking for resources and commentary from Bishop Barron on the recent sexual abuse scandals involving Archbishop McCarrick, the Pennsylvania grand jury report, and the recent report from Archbishop Viganò. 

To address all of these scandals and suggest a way forward, Bishop Barron released a candid Q&A about the Sexual Abuse Crisis on August 27. He also wrote an article earlier in August titled The McCarrick Mess.

Here are four other resources he’s produced on the Church’s sex abuse scandals over the years:

In addition, the Word on Fire blog has featured five reflections on the current crisis—four of them by our Editor-at-Large, Elizabeth Scalia:

Monday, September 3, 2018

The clerical church in search of its Soul

It is difficult to find the words to capture what I feel as the report of the 18-month investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania is revealed. The number of priests — more than 300 — and the number of children abused — over 1,000 — is staggering.

In the victims' testimonies, one feels the pain and the shame even these many years later. The magnitude of the violation is hard to imagine when the victim sees the abuser as a representative of God.

The abuse is horrific. I felt I wanted to bring the victims to prayer and chose the contemplative practice of Tonglen so beautifully taught by Pema Chodron. Engaging in this practice, I tried to breathe in the feeling of their pain. I experienced the heaviness of a boulder pressed against my chest; darkness all around; tightness of my body; cornered with no escape. Then I imagined gifts I sensed they needed. I breathed out the image of a mother cradling her infant child with unconditional love; a field full of wildflowers creating a safe space for them to play; and a gentle healing embrace of Divine Mystery. Breathe in the pain. Breathe out the gifts.

The tragedy is that the abuse continues, with the ongoing investigations and the new reports of abuse in Chile and Australia, and new accusations of abuse of seminarians and young priests by older men often in positions of power — bishops and cardinals. The abuse of women by the ordained clergy in countries throughout the world is now coming to light, creating what Mary Hunt calls "a Catholic trifecta of disgrace."

As I reflected on all this, something else kept trying to emerge within me and wouldn't leave me. At first, it was anger over the abuse of power in the church. Power when exercised through the lens of a hierarchical system classifies people according to relative importance. Those deemed more important often dominate those considered lesser, requiring them to do things they would not choose to do.

Those dominated know they will be punished or suffer serious consequences if they don't comply. For too many centuries, the complement to such a worldview has been the belief that men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it and are to be submissive to men. Both of these are operative in the Catholic Church.

Then my anger deepened as I thought about how these assumptions about the inferiority of women have been dangerously coupled within the official church in terms of its teaching about sexuality.

The Catholic Church's teaching on sexuality was framed within a theology and a psychology of dualism that saw the human body as dangerous and therefore in need of being brought under control.

The primary purpose of sexual intercourse always understood within marriage was to insure the continuation of the species and male lineage. The woman was to submit to her husband's sexual demands without question. This integration of conscious and unconscious assumptions, values, beliefs and behaviors created an untenable position for many Catholics, and especially women.

Given the insights of contemporary psychology, theology, science and spirituality, many women refuse to be seen as inferior to men or submissive to male power. They understand the beauty of one's sexuality and know they are equally as capable as men for making decisions and acting as moral agents, especially when it comes to decisions relating to their sexuality. These women understand the power of being in relationship and acting within a community, especially when making critical decisions.

At first, these thoughts seemed so tangled, and yet as I read once again about the abuse of children by priests, I know it is all related. Unhealthy understanding of one's body, one's sexuality; power over and male superiority; and the belief that women are less than men are all interlocked.

And so I asked myself how can I embrace all of this in a contemplative way. Surprisingly, the whole hierarchy of pope, cardinal, bishop, monsignor, priest, deacon ... appeared in my mind. I felt it was a challenge but also an invitation.

I recognized that although certain policies and procedures have been put in place to prevent such horrific abuse from happening again, that doesn't necessarily transform the worldview or the consciousness that permits and allows such behavior. That only comes with grace and prayer.

I decided to bring the whole hierarchical male clergy as a collective to my Tonglen practice.

At first, it was difficult seeing them as victims. But then I saw them as victims of a different order.

They become victims by continuing to consent to the privileges of a historical worldview that has sanctioned a theology and a clerical structure that is now destroying the credibility of the church as a moral leader. Tears welled up within me feeling the betrayal, as I believe some of the clerics do as well, of the power of the church's teachings regarding peace, justice, right relationships, care of our Earth home, and the preferential option for the poor — no longer heard or taken seriously.

I pictured the male clerics and tried to breathe in the pain that such a worldview inflicts on its victims. I felt the tight constriction of my throat; the weight of centuries pressing down; stomach cramps fighting inner fears; darkness enveloping me.

I then tried to imagine what gifts were needed. I breathed out the images of chains falling away that have bound this worldview to them; Pentecost fire opening minds and hearts to see in new ways; a humility that invites a profound prostration asking forgiveness and signaling transformation; and a courage to let go of all the privileged trappings. Breathe in the pain. Breathe out the gifts.

I sense I will do this practice more than once. I believe that by doing this practice and sending gifts of transformation to the clerical members of our church, something will be transformed in them and in me as well.

I believe the clerical church is in search of its soul. I also recall something that is always said: The church is human. Perhaps this scandal will help us to claim our humanity as the church, the people of God, inviting us all to reimagine how to live into our future.

[Nancy Sylvester is founder and director of the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue. She served in leadership of her own religious community, the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, Michigan, as well as in the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Prior to that, she was national coordinator of Network, the Catholic social justice lobby.]