Editorial: Is the Catholic Church in that Time of Purification that Ratzinger Predicted?
Editorial By John-Henry Westen
April 7, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The near-constant battering of the Catholic Church during the past month over the sexual abuse scandal has most Catholics reeling and much of the media in a feeding frenzy, seeing the scandals as an opportunity to bring down the archenemy of the sexual revolution. This latest cycle of the sexual abuse scandal is different from that which took place in Canada and Boston years ago. It involves new and disastrous revelations daily and from all over Europe and North America, with sustained coverage in the media.
For over 35 years Pope Benedict XVI has predicted a smaller, more faithful church. The 1970 book Glaube und Zukunft, based on five lectures by then-Fr. Joseph Ratzinger given in 1969 at radio stations in Baviera and Hessen, is the first recorded mentioning of this prediction.
In those lectures the future pope said, "From today's crisis, a Church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal. She will be small and, to a large extent, will have to start from the beginning. She will no longer be able to fill many of the buildings created in her period of great splendour. Because of the smaller number of her followers, she will lose many of her privileges in society."
In discussing the matter with my colleagues the consensus is that this crisis is definitely part of that long-predicted purification. Unfortunately, however, it comes in a very confusing package. It would be easier to see truth in an obvious conflict between good and evil: where, for instance, some in the church were advocating for abortion or at least ‘choice,’ versus those who maintained the defense of the sanctity of human life.
But the murkiness of this crisis has the influence of evil written all over it.
The abuse is not exclusively tied to liberalism in the Church, such as was the case with former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland. Weakland was a notorious liberal who, in addition to admitting to transferring priests with a history of sexual misconduct back into churches without alerting parishioners, admitted to homosexual encounters while serving as archbishop. Weakland retired in 2002 after it was revealed he paid hundreds of thousands of church dollars to a former homosexual lover who threatened to publicly accuse Weakland of sexually assaulting him.
But the ongoing and mindboggling revelations of abuse by Legion of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado show that this crisis touches even what seemed like an oasis of orthodoxy.
This crisis reminds me of Christ’s prophecy in Matthew 24:24 where he warns that times will come when ‘even the elect’ will be deceived.
It shakes the faith of many as even bishops are found to be guilty not only of horrendous cover-ups and unthinkable enabling by shuffling around abusive clergy, but also of sexual abuse and perverse activity themselves.
Today’s revelations about Norwegian Bishop Georg Muller are devastating. Muller, 58, who resigned last year saying only he was unsuited to the work, now has admitted that the reason for his resignation was his sexual abuse of a 10-year-old choir boy 20 years ago.
In another devastating revelation this week, retired French Bishop Jacques Gaillot of Evreux in France said of his taking in a convicted Canadian pedophile priest in 1987, who later went on to abuse children in France: "back then, that's how the Church operated."
But at the same time the media’s coverage on the scandal must be viewed with a very critical eye, as was seen in the recent attempts by the New York Times to unjustly smear Pope Benedict.
As Colleen Raezler of the Culture and Media Institute points out, the broadcast media relentlessly pursued their objective of smearing the Catholic Church during the holiest week of the year for Catholics.
“ABC, CBS and NBC featured 26 stories during Holy Week about Pope Benedict’s perceived role in the sex abuse scandal the Catholic Church is now facing,” she reported. “Only one story focused on the measures the church has adopted in recent years to prevent abuse. In 69 percent of the stories (18 out of 26) reporters used language that presumed the pope’s guilt. Only one made specific mention of the recent drop in the incidence of abuse allegations against the Catholic Church.”
While the media is now focused on the Catholic Church, this is an attack on all Christianity and Christian morality. That is why Lutheran pastor John Stephenson has come out so strongly in defense of the pope.
Will the church survive the crisis? Believing Catholics say that it will, since Christ promised (Matthew 16:18) that the gates of Hell would not overcome it. But, as the pope predicted, it will likely be a smaller and purer church.
Many Catholics are ramping up their prayers for the church, and the pope. The Knights of Columbus are encouraging all their members around the world to join in a special novena for Pope Benedict XVI, beginning Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11, and concluding Monday, April 19, the fifth anniversary of the Pope Benedict’s election in 2005.
Canadian Catholic author Michael O’Brien, a good friend of mine, spoke with me today about the crisis. Michael warns of where he sees things going from a spiritual vantage point. And while his is a stark vision, it remains hopeful.
The famed author of the prophetic novel Father Elijah said: “It has been ever thus with the Church. Satan sifts us like wheat.”
“In a generation (if we should be granted that much more time in history), the aging self-deceived liberalism of the Churches in the West will be gone, as dead wood that has dropped from the tree. At the same time, the internal rot that has disguised itself as orthodoxy will have been burned away by trial and tribulation, indeed by persecution.”