Friday, February 04, 2005

Judgement begins at the house of the Lord

The taint of scandal has reared its ugly head in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Many of us who are faithful to the Church and who believe that God will triumph and good will come out of this great evil are also asking when it is that this terrible ordeal of abuse allegations made of priests and former priests of this local Church will ever end.

I must admit that I find it hard to believe the allegations of some people who claim they are victims because they waited so long to report the abuse, and while I understand that the trauma caused by abuse can cause those who have been violated to shut that trauma out, I found it strange that some of these people only came forward when similar allegations were uncovered in Boston.

The latest series of allegations, however, seem all too credible, and there is a paper trail to substantiate them. What's more, the same trail seems to indicate that the Archbishop used his influence to keep allegations against certain priests that were years old from coming to the surface. The logical side of me understands the reasons why: The Church, whose members, and especially her clergy, are subject to the provisions of the more scripturally and ecclesiastically correct Canon Law, does not wish for civil law (the City of Man) to interfere with Church matters. That kind of thinking makes sense, even in a terrible situation like this. The Holy Catholic Church is the Organ of God, and the State has no earthly business interfering with Her.

When priests have physically and sexually abused children, however, and further demonstrate a pattern of such abuse, they have lost their right to the privileges of canonical protection, and their ordinary prelate should not protect them from civil interference. This is because the clergy are in a position of spiritual trust, and the violation of that trust in this way undermines the very nature of the priesthood (the representatives of Christ) itself. If a priest has been shown to have abused children, and the allegation has proven substantive, the last thing the Archdiocese needs to do is cover this up and not let the faithful know. The faithful need to know when a member of the clergy cannot be trusted with them or their children, and that cleric should be removed from active ministry.

The Archbishop, however, now stands accused of sweeping credible allegations of abuse against several priests under the rug, and the paper evidence seems to suggest that this has indeed been the case. Like Cardinal Law, I truly believe Archbishop Pilarczyk never indended to hurt or damage anyone when he transferred some of these priests to other places, and kept the allegations against them hidden. I think he believed that he was acting in the best interests of the Church at the time, and the best interests of the larger flock. This does not mean that these decisions were in the Church's best interests, however, whether the Archbishop thought they were or not. If it is indeed true that the Archbishop attempted to cover the tracks of abusive priests, he has undermined the Church's credibility with the faithful, and with the larger non-Catholic public.

The Holy Catholic Church has done many great things over 2,000 years. She has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, educated the ignorant, buried the dead, and preserved sciences and the Arts. She has been promised by Our Lord that no matter what happens, she will survive even unto the end of time. However, for all the wonderful things that the Church has done and still does for the betterment of the world in which we live, the Church only has one primary mission: The care and salvation of human souls. When scandalous things such as the priest-abuse scandal happen in the Church, it undermines that chief mission because the credibility of the Church is brought into question by outsiders, and the beliefs of many of the faithful are rocked to their core. In short, this is causing Satan to have a field day.

How many people who were thinking of coming into the Church won't do so because of the clergy sex abuse scandal, because they mistakenly believe that all priests are like the ones on the evening news? How many Catholics will leave the Church because their faith has been rocked and shaken until it is all but gone? How many professional anti-Catholics out there will lead people further away from the Church because this terrible scandal has given them all the ammunition they need to say that God's Church is the Whore of Babylon? How many souls will be lost forever? God only knows.

The Archbishop should remember that his first priority is to the faithful he serves, and that when he is judged by God hereafter, he will be held partly accountable for the souls under his care, and the souls that were lost as a result of his actions. Therefore, it is time for him to publicly come clean with the faithful, and to reclaim the credibility of the Archdiocese in the name of the Lord by ridding it of those who would harm children. He should recommit the Archdiocece to total fidelity to the Church's teachings, and to the Holy Father, and he should only place people in authority who also pledge total fidelity to the Church, all its teachings (no exceptions), and the Pope. What's more, he ought to rigorously insure that those who enter Mt. St. Mary's Seminary are going to be faithful priests who will not be inclined to harm those under their care. (Note: I have met and talked with many seminarians here, and I believe them to be faithful and committed, and to be good men, so I believe there is hope. God will send us the GOOD priests we need.)

The Vatican is slated to conduct an apostolic visitation of American seminaries this year. I hope the officialdom come to Cincinnati, and that clean this Archdiocese right down to the bone.


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