I was about 8 years old when I first heard the whispered rumors slithering about, the full sound of their strike and strangle muted to a silence. “But he’s such a funny priest!” I protested. “Trust the Church,” my mom would repeat again and again. “He is leaving for a reason.”
That priest left my home parish as the trail of his scandal grew cold. The leadership of my current Bishop of Pittsburgh and the presiding Cardinal of the Arch Diocese of Washington D.C helped in moving him away only to have his destruction continued elsewhere.
The real life nightmare is detailed in the recent Pennsylvania grand jury document. It took three decades since I first heard of that priests dismissal to learn the whole truth. The reason for his relocation is that he was running a ring of child pornography and rape in the same sacristy where I warmed up for church choir. He continued for years to groom victims, wreak havoc, and wreck lives. He did it all while wearing a smile and telling a joke. My mother’s hopeful trust in the prudence and resolute action of Church leaders of whom she, and so many, still so desperately want to see as good, in the Church to which she gave her life, in the Church in which she raised her children, was trampled and tossed out.
The details of this abuse are no longer remarkable in their occurrence. They are another torrid tale of too many to count, proving to me once and for all that my hope of isolated incidents is as naive as it is dangerous. How could evil and destruction exist within the same institution that helped me foster my faith, find my vocation, shape who I am, what I believe, and why I believe it? But yet, throughout my 32 years, the steady stream of Church scandal persists. Decades upon decades of the same old story of abuse and cover up, deceit and deception, money that should have fed the poor being wasted on the settlements of sexual impropriety, criminal intent. Incident upon incident managed by the very same people who are currently in power, with no way of getting them out unless they resign. IT IS TIME FOR THEM TO RESIGN.
I love my Church. I trust the core tenants of my faith, and I will cherish them always. I do not, however, trust the current hierarchy nor its systems because their behaviors and beliefs have shown themselves as inherently heretic, and criminal in creed. Corrupt cardinal, it seems, is not a rarity, but merely a term of redundancy. If we have any hope for the future of our children’s faith we must face this corruption head on and with the full force of an armory of courage, and an arsenal of prayerful peace.
As awful as this all is and is going to continue to be, I do at my core see this as an opportunity. We need a renewal. We need resignations. We need reorganization. And the only way any of those things are going to happen is if we, as the laity of the Church work from the ground up. We must work with our faithful priests (of which there are many!!) It is certainly easy to get wrapped up in the muck, to get stuck in the sensationalism, overwhelmed physically, mentally, and spiritually by the magnitude of calamity because the higher we go the worse it seems. So this, fellow lay Catholics, is our chance to take back the Church from those who are trying to steal it and destroy it. I don’t want my kids to have a remnant. I want them to experience Catholicism in its fullness. And I want them to know that I am willing to fight for that.
To me, what is the most central to this crisis is the topic of Celibacy. When is the last time you heard a priest speak about his celibacy? Most likely, it wasn’t that recently.
The concept of lay obedience is based on an exchange of goods. Priestly Celibacy is given to the laity in exchange for our obedience. Our obedience is of great value! If leadership is to be worthy of our obedience, they ought to be doing something difficult and they ought to be doing that difficult thing well! And they ought to be able to talk about it.
Celibacy is not meant to stifle sexuality, but to activate a burning desire for eternity! It is meant to fuel the mission of each priest in the same way that sexual desire fuels a marriage! Sexual desire in its fulfillment of gratification and in the fulfillment of its sacrifice are meant to bear a similar fruit: unity, and passionate pursuance: A husband towards his wife, a priest towards his Church.
Alas, long ago, the church leaders, as well as the laity, lost a lot of the richness of the understanding of human sexuality. Our sexuality is not stagnant, and it cannot be stuffed down. It is the exception rather than the rule that a priest will address celibacy as something that is active. It needs to be communicated and discussed openly.
Until our Church fathers demonstrate an understanding of what active celibacy is, they are undeserving of our obedience. We have a responsibility to remind them of that, and to redesign our current leadership according to this fundamental exchange.
We have a homosexuality problem. We have pornography problem. We have a mismanagement problem. We have narcissism problem. We have a lust for money problem. We have a lack of women in roles of leadership problem. Many of these things are very well discussed in depth on Catholicpsych.com and I strongly encourage reading through his site.
It is time for a hierarchical overhaul. Time is Up. Eternity is waiting. Lets get to it.
I hope this tiny corner of the internet can be a place to share ideas and discuss hard things with charity. Please join me.