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Wuerl Turned Upside Down

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By SHAUN KENNEY

Much ink has already been spilled on the activities of the Catholic hierarchy in Pennsylvania, principal among these being Donald Cardinal Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
Let us dispense with the idea that priestly celibacy is the root cause of this crisis. No one looks at these child molesters and wonders aloud whether things might have been different if they had a wife and children.
Yet the problem here isn’t merely “child molesters” in cassocks. Rather, once again we are brought face to face with a problem no one seems to want to discuss — either in 2002 or in 2018, and that is the presence of a sexually active homosexual clergy ordained in the 1960s and 1970s.
This is a problem of pederast priests; grown men who prey upon physically mature yet mentally immature teenage boys. Homosexual men who abuse a position of power and trust for their own desires and lust. In short, wolves who should never have become priests (much less bishops), if given proper formation and direction.
Of the cases of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, the total number of cases from those ordained after 2000? Four — just 1 percent of all cases. During the two decades of the 1960s and 1970s? Over half. When one includes the cases from priests ordained in the 1950s who permitted this tidal wave of scum to break upon the laity? That number goes up to 72 percent.
Yet the problem becomes much more manifold if one considers the miasma of bureaucrats these prelates have brought along with them. Rather than a faithful laity, they surrounded themselves with enablers, administrators, theologians of a sort that would make excuses rather than foster the faith. One can only think of King Henry VIII surrounding himself with the casuistry of his theologians in order to oppose the Catholic Church five centuries ago.
It is for reasons such as these that we would be very cautious about any “lay-run investigation” coming from within the USCCB. For years, organizations such as the Lepanto Institute have put spades to the rot that many prelates and bureaucrats have spent careers trying to hide from the sunshine, only to be call the most horrible of names and calumnies as a result of their fidelity.
What might be appropriate? The Chilean bishops resigned en masse just this year after being confronted, but only after the media asked questions about Pope Francis’ promotion of known enabler Bishop Juan Barros to the episcopate.
Yet Chile offers several cautionary tales of overreaction as well. It should be no secret that there are forces — left and right — looking to delegitimize and destroy the Catholic faith in toto. These forces would love nothing more than to cleave the Church into political factions, or starve the Church of resources, or make Catholics utterly reliant on state provision (as we are in Germany and as organizations such as Catholic Relief Services are here in the United States).
After the sexual abuse scandal in Chile, the result was a mass defection from the Catholic faith, one that left the Church impoverished both in spirit and in resources. As a result, Chile is now one of the more secularized nations of Latin America.
It isn’t worth it.
We might feel good about refusing to donate to the Church for the first 15 minutes, but the end result? It will be our priests who suffer first, followed by our parishes themselves. Pro-life ministries, homeless shelters, visiting the sick and the suffering, CYO and CCD classes all will get the axe while the legal bills and lawyers still get paid.
In short, the “John Paul II Generation” of priests and nuns will get hurt by shortsighted efforts to boycott the Body of Christ.
John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote in his seminal book The Idea of a University about how we, as lay Catholics, have a solemn duty to trust the Body of Christ:
“Trust the Church of God implicitly, even when your natural judgment would take a different course from hers, and would induce you to question her prudence or her correctness. Recollect what a hard task she has; how she is sure to be criticized and spoken against, whatever she does; — recollect how much she needs your loyal and tender devotion.
“Recollect, too, how long is the experience gained in eighteen hundred years, and what a right she has to claim your assent to principles which have had so extended and so triumphant a trial. Thank her that she has kept the faith safe for so many generations, and do your part in helping her to transmit it to generations after you.”
Tough medicine indeed, but one will immediately notice that Newman does not ask us to trust our priests, our bishops, or even the Holy Father implicitly — but the Church.
This is the great mystery of the Body of Christ that we find ourselves in as Catholics. We are all part of it, gangrenous in our own way, yet Christ through His sacraments begs us to become whole. Some of us manage to do this; others see it as a grift. For those of us who prize grace above treasure and rectitude, we hear the words of Christ that “the poor will always be with you” (Matt. 26:11).
For one, I am not convinced in the slightest that Christ meant the materially poor. Rather, the spiritually poor are all around us. It is for this reason that St. Vincent de Paul counseled that these poor in spirit will always be our masters, and that the dirtier and uglier they are, the more charity we are to give in response.
As St. Vincent observes: “It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them.” This Body of Christ, whose Mystical Body we have wounded through our own sins, is crying out for relief.
It would be easy to abandon the Church at a time of need. Principles and faith are easy to stand by when they are cheap and rarely contested. As laity, we have a moral duty and a sacred covenant to defend and protect the Body of Christ, even when our shepherds fail. The McCarricks and the Wuerls of this world will always be with us.
But the victims of abuse cry out for our help. Whether we have the courage to treat these wounds rather than abandon the patient remains the great task of the next two decades, and St. Vincent de Paul (among others) shows us the way.

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By the time this reaches you, the Kavanaugh hearings should be nearing kickoff. The votes are barely there at the moment — 51-49 in the U.S. Senate — for confirmation. Do not be surprised if a few Democrats come along for the ride in states where Trump is polling well: Missouri (McCaskill), Manchin (West Virginia), Jones (Alabama), Heitkamp (North Dakota), and Tester (Montana).
The trick here is whether or not the Democrats feel as if they can take the U.S. Senate in November 2018. If so, they will fight Kavanaugh tooth and nail. If not? They will put up a fight and, in a show of moderation, more than likely allow senators in tough re-election fights the chance to show how nonpartisan they are. At least, to those gullible enough to believe them.

Send Me Your Thoughts

Of course, I am succeeding (but not replacing) the inestimable Mr. James K. Fitzpatrick for the First Teachers column. Please feel free to send any correspondence for First Teachers to Shaun Kenney, c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, Virginia 23084 — or if it is easier, simply send me an e-mail with First Teachers in the subject line to: svk2cr@virginia.edu

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Right now the most likely path toward reform in the Church-- intervention of government authority-- could lead to disaster. If only a “morally intrepid few” bishops, here and in Rome, could call for and make public acts of repentance, we might yet avoid that danger.

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