A Meeting in Nowhere Land
There is a rising tide of commentary in the Catholic blogosphere about the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore, and there are even small ripples of interest in the secular media. The invariable focus is on the protocols for reporting sexual abuse and misconduct by bishops. The rules are being examined, their merits and defects weighed, their probable effectiveness prophesied.
What is missing from most of this commentary is the truth: the problem is not with protocols, but with moral corruption. Catholic bishops in multiple instances have shown themselves to be either complicit in sexual abuse through cover-ups or active participants. This issue is not about formal mechanisms for reporting and discipline. It is about evil. It is about betrayal.
When Judas betrayed Our Lord, the apostles convened a meeting in the Upper Room to discuss the implementation of regulations for reporting such betrayals and possible disciplinary measures. Wait! They did no such thing. Because such action would have been absurd.
Evil is not a procedural problem. You would think that the men designated successors of the apostles would be the first to recognize this. Judas’ betrayal was rooted in his lack of faith and, it would seem, also in his greed. No protocol or oversight could have turned his doubt into faith or his greed into charity.
Bishops who do not have the love of Christ in their hearts will not have our spiritual good as their principle of action. Bishops who are not horrified by sexual abuse among their fellow bishops or their clergy will not be compelled by any formal mechanism to change their hearts. Self-protection and legal jeopardy may cause them to become more circumspect, but not more virtuous.
There is something ludicrous about the denials of Archbishops Vigano’s accusations that Pope Francis knew about Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual deviance and corruption of seminarians. Of course he knew. Everybody knew. It was no secret among his auxiliaries and priests and other prelates of the Church. The point is not that Francis knew, but that he knew and didn’t care. And still doesn’t care.
It must be acknowledged that there can hardly be an innocent bystander among today’s clergy. Many must know homosexual priests and are aware of the danger they pose to the young, not to mention the scandal of their conduct with other homosexual priests. But how many voices are raised in alarm? Who is willing to put their priestly career on the line and incur the wrath of his bishop by speaking openly about the problem? By naming names?
The notion that anything of any consequence will come out of the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore is founded on the false belief that external structures can change the orientation of human souls. It is a common belief, one that drives our public policies. For every ill, a government program, a bureaucratic prescription. This is our approach toward the moral disintegration that is all around us. You would think history by now would have demonstrated the futility of social engineering to all but the most deliberately obtuse
No public policy, no act of Congress, no bishops’ protocols, no five-year plan, can root evil out of the human heart. We are facing a moral crisis. We need a moral solution. And a moral solution requires that grace and truth enter into individual hearts and minds and radically change them. This was and remains the mission of the Church.
So long as we have a pope who doesn’t care about the corruption of his bishops and clergy and their abuse of the innocent, so long as we have bishops who are careerist bureaucrats instead of lovers of Christ, so long as we have priests who are homosexual, nothing will change, no matter how many protocols are approved. The evil will not be rooted out; instead, a malefactor will be offered up from time to time as a sacrifice to good public relations and legal self-protection.
If the Pope were true to his office, if the bishops were true pastors, if priests took the care of souls as a paramount and sacred duty, a cry of lamentation would be heard from them and the good would drive the corrupt from the temple. But no such cry is heard.
If we are to save ourselves, if we are to protect our children, if we are to oppose the moral dissolution of our society, we must look to ourselves now. The Pope is preoccupied with ecology and encouraging Muslim immigration and rousing people to the barricades against the injustices of capitalism. The bishops are largely engaged in salvaging what remains of their public image and staving off bankruptcy from lawsuits. Some are even facing jail. Priests must be judged carefully and on a case-by-case basis. Nothing can be taken for granted.
Such is the current situation. We may feel abandoned and betrayed by those we trusted. This is justifiable. But the temptation to despair must be resisted. It is time we stood on our own feet. And we should remember what Our Lord said to the apostles, immediately before they deserted Him. He predicted they would all run away and He would appear to be left alone: “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” (John 16:32) Neither will we be alone, so long as we have Christ in our hearts.