September 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The following reflection is the result of a couple of days of my reading and thinking about the last five years, but then also about the last fifty years. Trying to get an interview with a prominent Catholic politician, I just wrote: “What went wrong in the last fifty years in the Church to such an extent that we could have now the McCarrick case?” And now we all have to figure that out.
As I recently wrote for different European outlets, at the heart of the matter is the loss of the Faith and the loss of the supernatural attitude and sensitivity. If I am constantly aware of a) the need of God's grace to live a good life on earth unto eternal salvation and b) the danger of sin and the effects of a scandal, then all my acts will be more prompt unto the good, i.e., the salvation of souls. Thus, if I as a bishop see a priest living a homosexual life, I would promptly rebuke him, for the good of his own soul, and remove him from the priesthood, for the sake of the salvation of others.
It is that simple. Yet, the last decades have shown that those in responsible positions did not have that supernatural promptitude, but they too easily accommodated themselves to other entities or attenuations, such as human respect, the “carnal prudence” not to cause a stir, to let things sleep that sleep. And these avoidances apply also to cardinals and popes, as we now have painfully seen in the recent weeks.
Let us consider here what Edward Pentin just wrote. Speaking about the former Pope Benedict XVI and the punitive sanctions he allegedly had put on then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Pentin quotes a “reliable source close to Benedict” as saying:
The source said the allegations of abuse of seminarians by McCarrick, now 88, were “certainly something known” to Benedict. And, he said, “Certainly, it was known that McCarrick was a homosexual, that was an open secret, all were very aware of that.”
So, let us assume that at that time, it was not yet known that McCarrick had also abused minors, as it has been made known in the recent weeks. The source close to Benedict says that people knew in the Vatican that McCarrick was a practicing homosexual (and with seminarians who were under his authority, to boot). Why was he then not removed from his office? Why was he just quietly told to withdraw from public life, without even further punishing his violations of that private command?
Is this the way that the Catholic Church takes the Catholic Faith and her teaching seriously? Is this how you say what you mean and mean what you say? And then act accordingly!
Pentin himself ends his article with three very important questions:
- Why were Benedict XVI’s sanctions against McCarrick never made public, and given only in the form of a private instruction?
- Why were the sanctions not properly enforced after they were ordered?
- What role did Cardinal Bertone play in the execution of Benedict’s order (in his testimony, Archbishop Viganò asserts that the cardinal had obstructed it)?
In light of these fundamental questions, I would also ask: what did the victims themselves and those who witnessed McCarrick's homosexuality think when they never saw any sanctions put on him in public for his grave misbehavior? The victims must have thought that the Church does not sincerely care, after all; and the witnesses must have thought the same. Words become empty and hollow.
Here I wish to quote Matthew Schmitz whom I regard as one of the most honest members of the younger generation of writers who assesses the Church's situation with a clear and a logical mind. In an article for the Catholic Herald in England, for example, he says that this false “truce” between the conservative forces and the progressivists in the Church in the last decades has led to this current disorder and spreading ruin. He says that this false peace – a kind of tranquilization – has to end. This peace was a deception, and a self-deception, too!
Describing the false truce in the Catholic Church with regard to Humanae Vitae (1968), Schmitz says:
In that year , Pope Paul VI famously reaffirmed Catholic teaching on birth control in Humanae Vitae, but then declined to discipline the many bishops and priests who rejected that teaching. The result was an uneasy truce: the teaching was formally upheld, but obedience to it was not demanded.
Yes, that's what it was. The popes did not really mean what they said because, otherwise, they would have insisted that each one of their clergymen dutifully uphold that teaching. It is very simple. If I tell our sweet children that they should not take the cookies, but then do not say a word when they do it in any case, they conclude that I did not mean my words sincerely and seriously. This applies to all of us, to be honest. And this could be applied, for example to the cases of moral dissenters such as Karl Lehmann and Walter Kasper. Why did Pope John Paul II make both of them cardinals in 2001, in spite of their previous grave disobedience and heterodoxy with regard to matters of life and marriage?
Schmitz has a form of honesty that is now much needed when he continues, saying:
The same dynamic played out in 2005, when the Vatican decided that men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should be barred from the priesthood.
Countless bishops ignore this guidance; some even tolerate discreet romances. They only require that the priests not openly challenge Church teaching.
Yes! That is it. They put out a teaching they did not then adequately implement. It was a sort of a fake-teaching. As Schmitz says, this attitude does not do justice, neither to those who wish to preserve the teaching, nor to those who don't. In another truthful article for the New York Times, Schmitz comes back to this topic of a false truce and warns us once more of a false accommodation between the two “camps” within the Church. He calls for the resignation of each one of the members of the Church's hierarchy who has participated in the cover-up, and he then adds:
But even if all the men at fault are held accountable, the hypocrisy will continue. The real danger the church faces is not ideological challenge from left or right but a muddled modus vivendi that puts peace before truth.
Yes, that it is what it is. We have put peace before the truth, for too long. If Pope Benedict would have been more concerned about the truth of the Gospel, he would have put McCarrick back into the state of a layman. And he would have made sure that the whole world knew it, so that McCarrick's victims will then be justified in public and will be given some recompense, at least morally.
Here Schmitz reminds us of what the Church really teaches – in spite of how she has acted for too long:
According to Catholic teaching, every act of unchastity leads to damnation. But many bishops would rather save face than prevent the ruin of bodies and souls. If the church really does believe that homosexual acts are always and everywhere wrong, it should begin to live what it teaches. This would most likely mean enforcing the 2005 decree and removing clergy members caught in unchastity. If the church does not believe what it says — and there are now many reasons to think that it does not — it should officially reverse its teaching and apologize for centuries of pointless cruelty.
O! How these words are a breath of fresh air! Let us, finally, start ourselves using better reasoning with a valid logic. Let us turn on our “thinking machines,” as it were, and act as if Our Lord's words really matter.
I am with Matthew Schmitz. This whole false truce needs to stop. “Everyone who wants to end sex abuse should pray that the Catholic civil war does not end in stalemate.” Nor in a dishonorable impasse.
I wish at this point to speak openly about my own attempts to receive information, or even a slight confirmation, from high-ranking sources in Rome. It has been my experience over the past five years that they are reticent even to talk about the slightest thing. They would rather be silent while we the sheep are being harmed by the wolves. We should start calling them out, too. Where are they when the Pope undermines Christ's teaching on marriage, when he puts in doubt all kinds of long-standing teachings of the Church? Contrary to all fantasies on the part of the progressivists, there is no alliance between the resisting laypeople and high-ranking clergymen. No, we lay people have had to do most of our work by ourselves, and we had to be grateful if we received a crumb. But a crumb it was, and nothing more. It is they who should have told us, already a year ago, about the background story of this terrible homo-and-drug party in the Vatican, and who else participated in it. It is they who should have alerted us about what the Pope is really up to. Why did most of them leave us alone? Why were they silent when they saw to whom Pope Francis gave greater power and influence, in spite of the damning facts that they knew, but we did not? As I recently reported, one very good source told me that some high-ranking curial members in Rome knew about the private restrictions placed on McCarrick under Benedict. Why did they not at least leak that information to good journalists, so that some of us could have called Pope Francis out already in 2014? Why all these years squandered, with so many souls possibly lost?
I as a German am well aware that there will be later generations who will ask: where were you, and what did you do at that time?
I shall then make my own contribution so that that fuller history will one day be written, and each one of the cardinals should be aware that they will, even then, be held accountable.
This time of turmoil will be over. Be aware of that, please.
We as faithful have a right to know if there is a wolf on the loose in the sheep's den. It is utterly irresponsible for each and every one of the influential clergymen who remained silent.
And who do not now, not even now, rush to Archbishop Viganò's side to defend him.
In this light, I wish to quote Dr. Markus Büning, himself a German sex-abuse victim who did not speak about his abuse for many a year. He has now received some material recompense, but his life has been tainted forever. He now accuses all of us of papolatry and says that we must stop defending the popes in whatever they may choose to do. And he does not exclude himself from this requirement, saying that his own conservative upbringing inclined him to be silent – or mute – about papal actions that, instead, should have been criticized. He has now written an article in German entitled: “Why the truth makes us free.” He calls upon Pope Francis to answer those just questions that have been raised in the wake of the Viganò report.
Do these prelates and popes really think they are not finally accountable to all the Catholic faithful in the world, as to whether or not they have safeguarded the Faith and protected the vulnerable souls from evil, the only reason why they are in their ecclesiastical offices in the first place? Do they act as if God exists?
Markus Büning writes:
One thing is very clear: the Pope's pouting words “I shall not speak a word about it!” are not at all sufficient here. No, he is called to present the matter from his own standpoint. If he does not do it, the dirt as described by Viganò will remain on his white cassock!
The Pope must be aware of that, truly. No, the Pope also has to give answers to questions, when he is being accused of something. He is not the dear God! All corrupt papolatry – whether conservative or progressivist – has to find an end, and for good! If this is not the case, the abuse cases will never be investigated and clarified.
There is nothing to be added to such a trenchant word from Dr. Büning.
Let us help start a house cleaning. May all those who defy Christ's teaching either sincerely convert or honorably leave the Catholic Church, so that the little ones not be harmed any more, and so that the faithful may be sanctified in grace unto eternal life.
May the Grace of Christ become more fully alive once again in the Church, with many of its beautiful fruits for everyone to see and savor!