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A Leaven In The World… Where The Clergy’s Moral Failings Began

August 5, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

“For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
“But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you have not kept my ways but have shown partiality in your instruction” (Mal. 2:7ff)
The Church exists to preach Christ and Truth: These two things always go together; it is impossible to have the one without the other. Truth involves both what we believe and how we live: faith and morals. About this there can be no compromise whatsoever.
The “despised” and “abased” among priests, bishops, and cardinals caught up in the homosexual and pedophilia crisis today can trace their crimes all the way back to the first moment they compromised the moral teaching of the Church in word or action.
For some bishops it was failure to demand that pro-abortion politicians abstain from Communion. For some priests it was silence on this or other pressing moral dilemmas dividing and scattering their flocks.
The moral failings of priests began with a failure to teach the truth which was not faced with honesty and corrected. When bishops in so many cases failed to act and to reprimand or remove such priests moral failure went unchecked. The atmosphere in parishes and dioceses became one of increasing collective moral failure because of the tone set by bishops and priests who, together, failed to teach as the Church does and to call their people to account as they themselves are accountable.
For many priests and bishops, the most recent crisis of faith began fifty-two years ago, in July 1968, when so many rebelled and failed morally by refusing to teach that every use of contraception is done with an anti-life will and is therefore morally prohibited. Humanae Vitae was promulgated in an atmosphere already boiling with dissent among priests and laity. Many never read the document and were already prepared with statements of rejection before it ever hit the streets.
Bishops looked the other way as priests blessed moral evil and committed moral evil themselves by rejecting the teaching of Humanae Vitae. Priests looked the other way as their own people rejected the Sacrament of Confession while rejecting the truth about chastity in marriage.
We’ve all been there: sitting uncomfortably in the pews wondering why the priest dances artfully around the truth while never naming it, even in a 30-minute homily. This was especially true of my parish experience in the 1970s as a teen. I often wondered why the priests so often did not draw out the implications and arrive at the hard truths that everyone knew were under attack, even back then, about which the Scriptures of the day so often begged discussion.
A priest who, especially in homilies, avoids the moral pink elephant in the room may not be in sexual or criminal trouble yet himself. He, however, is already in moral trouble simply by his omission in matters of teaching. Whether it is contraception, abortion, fornication, adultery, or any of the other unpopular or rejected teachings among the laity, the silence on the part of the priest is collusion. And it is a moral failing that leaves him very vulnerable to falling further into moral harm.
The one thing that sets priests apart from the laity is that we are the only ones especially charged by the Lord with speaking the truth, especially the moral truth in times like today when it is so often thought to be separable from doctrine. There is no doctrinal orthodoxy without moral truth.
Faith and morals always go hand-in-hand and are the two matters for which the Church is especially responsible and authorized by Christ to teach. And the preachers in the Church, both priests and deacons as well as bishops, have no choice when it comes to their ecclesial role. If they are unable themselves to give full assent with intellect and will to all that the Church teaches in faith and morals, and to clearly teach it to others “in season and out of season,” then they must resign.
We priests teach both faith and morals, what to believe and how to live what we believe, by the way in which we live. When we fail to do so we are not living our priesthood with integrity and are guilty of a moral failing. For some it can then be a short step to crimes such embezzlement or sexual sins and crimes.
We’ve been caught up with the results of pedophilia, as well as sexual acting out in other ways, in the wake of the McCarrick scandal and other moral crises. But someone being caught is not the reason for rooting out these sins and crimes. We are responsible for preventing them. But many of these problems began with the moral failing to preach the truth and such was the root of the current crisis.
The watershed moment was July of 1968, when Humanae Vitae was promulgated, promptly disobeyed by many and failed to be defended and taught by others. There is no middle way: When truth is disavowed evil is welcomed.
Ambiguity or outright rebellion against chastity in every vocation stems from rejection of the truth about marriage. Embracing the truth about marriage in Humanae Vitae is necessary for living every vocation. Humanae Vitae is essentially a teaching on marital chastity and, by extension, about the chastity proper to all vocations.
If we do not hold what is true of marriage forthrightly, in preaching and teaching, by extension we cannot uphold what is true about any vocation. Priests who teach rightly about marriage imply their own charism of celibacy. Or not.
The days of puff-piece diocesan Catholic journalism are gone, though some hold on tenaciously, part of the dysfunctional system that allowed Church leaders to carry on with power unchecked as corruption and hypocrisy grew unabated. Catholics are speaking out and demanding resignations and transparency among our bishops and priests where crimes were committed or covered up.
Bishops all need to learn humility. Clinging to personal power at any cost should never have a place in our Church. Souls have not come first and we have much penance and reparation to do before Almighty God for the harm done to so many of them. May God have mercy on us!
We must work and pray that moral corruption, in teaching and in conduct, no longer taints and jeopardizes salvation of souls, diffusing itself and spreading like an infection to imperil the Body of Christ.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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