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September 21, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. It’s been several years since a Vatican commission was appointed to investigate the legitimacy of the alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje. What is the status of that investigation? — M.K., South Carolina.
A. In 2014, the commission concluded a four-year study of the Medjugorje phenomenon and sent a report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The CDF is to prepare a document on the reported apparitions and send it to the Pope for his final decision. That has not happened yet as far as we know. Pope Francis did send a special envoy to Medjugorje last year, but his role, said retired Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Poland, is “exclusively pastoral.” He said that his assignment is to ensure “a stable and continuous accompaniment” of the people of St. James Church and the many pilgrims who visit Medjugorje.
The alleged apparitions to six young people in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina began on June 23, 1981, and are reportedly still going on. In 1991, the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference declared by a vote of 19 to 1 that “on the basis of inquiries conducted up to the present time, one cannot affirm that we are dealing here with supernatural apparitions or revelations.”
Pope Francis visited the country in 2015, but declined to stop in Medjugorje. He told reporters on the way back to Rome that the commission report is “very, very good” and makes a distinction between the first alleged apparitions and those of recent times.
The Holy Father said that “the first apparitions, which were to children — the report more or less says that these need to continue being studied,” while in regard to “presumed current apparitions, the report has its doubts.” He has expressed some doubt about them himself, saying on one occasion that “I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of an office, who every day sends a message at a certain hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus.”

Q. Christopher Manion’s article in a recent issue (August 23, 2018) referred to a 2006 USCCB Administrative Committee meeting that was chaired by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick with four other bishops present. According to Manion, two of the five bishops “were practicing homosexuals, two more were ‘gay-friendly,’ and the fifth dismissed abuse crimes in his diocese as ‘boundary violations’.” He did not name the bishops. Can you tell me who they were? — J.S. Missouri.
A. In addition to Cardinal McCarrick, the others at the 2006 meeting were Archbishop Wilton Gregory, then-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., then-vice president of the USCCB; Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Bishop William Friend of Shreveport, La.
McCarrick we know about and Lynch was accused of sexually harassing a married, male employee in 2002, and the Diocese of St. Petersburg eventually paid out $100,000 to the employee. Lynch vehemently protested his innocence, but the employee stood by his accusations.
Skylstad once wrote in his diocesan newspaper that “there are many wonderful and excellent priests in the Church who have a gay orientation, are chaste and celibate, and are very effective ministers of the Gospel.”
Gregory said in 2002 that “there does exist within American seminaries a homosexual atmosphere or dynamic that makes heterosexuals think twice” about entering the priesthood. He said that “it is an ongoing struggle to make sure the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men.”
We are not aware of any negative information about Bishop Friend, who was bishop of Shreveport from 1986 to 2006, when he retired at the age of 75. He died in 2015.

Q. With the recent scandals among priests and prelates, which I believe have only scratched the surface, I think it is not unreasonable to think that there are hosts of clergy who believe little or nothing of what the Church teaches. How could they? They have surely ascertained what would be very cushy lives for themselves by pretending to believe in their Ordinations and consecrations, while luxuriating in their various evil proclivities surrounded by those just like them. Can you answer the following questions? — J.A., Arizona.
A. We can try. What about their Masses and sacraments? If these priests and bishops received valid orders, their Masses and sacraments are valid. As we have noted in the past, the validity of a sacrament does not depend on the worthiness of the minister. This is so because it is Christ, and not the minister, who baptizes, confirms, forgives sins, and confects the Eucharist.
How about those men who have been ordained priests or consecrated bishops by unbelieving bishops? Those men were still validly ordained even if the bishop had lost his faith. Are large numbers of us probably attending invalid Masses and receiving invalid sacraments? No, for the same reason mentioned in answer to the first question. The fact that some priests and some bishops are leading immoral lives does not affect the validity of the Masses they celebrate or the sacraments they administer.
Finally, don’t exaggerate the scope of the problem. You surely know many priests and some bishops who are leading holy lives, who are as saddened by the scandals as you are. Offer your prayers and fasting for these good priests and bishops, as well as for the repentance of those who have soiled the Mystical Body of Christ by their actions.
By the way, this homosexual assault on the Body of Christ is nothing new in the history of the Church. A thousand years ago, St. Peter Damian (1001-1072), Benedictine monk, bishop, and cardinal, wrote a withering book on this same problem. In The Book of Gomorrah, St. Peter bluntly asked, “For God’s sake, why do you damnable sodomites pursue the heights of ecclesiastical dignity with such fiery ambition?” The answer is obvious, said a priest-friend of ours. “The priesthood can be an easy and comfortable life to those who don’t give a damn about damnation.”

Q. This current Church crisis is largely the result of apparent behavior that violates Church law, civil law, and the natural law by an unknown portion of Church clergy and hierarchy. What can be done to restore trust and confidence in our clergy and wash away those clouds of suspicion?
I have heard it suggested that the U.S. Justice Department might even investigate the Church for possible RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violations.
Could the Justice Department determine that the Church is teaching against the established law of the land regarding abortion and same-sex “marriage,” impose fines and/or loss of tax-exempt status if they continue to do so, and require the Church to perform such “marriages”? — D.M., via e-mail
A. We suppose that anything is possible in our current political and moral environment, especially by people who have long hated the Church for its teaching about the immorality of a variety of sexual evils — from contraception to abortion, from fornication to adultery, from pornography to sodomy. Many of the Church’s critics in government and the media are ecstatic over the sins of prominent members of the clergy and hierarchy because it draws attention away from their own sins and undermines the credibility of the Church as the voice of Christ on Earth.
What can be done to restore trust and confidence in the Church? First, recall the words of St. Paul, that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Romans 5:20), and step up your prayer and fasting to overcome these evils. Second, follow the advice of Msgr. Charles Pope, who said that “reform almost never comes from the top; it comes from religious life and from the grassroots, from among God’s people. Please stay faithful to the Lord and His Body, the Church. Pray as never before. Realize that the Devil would like nothing more than for you to walk away from the sacraments. However, please also feel freer than ever to confront Church leadership and insist upon reform.”
He said Catholics should “write a physical letter to your bishop and request a written reply, at least acknowledging receipt. Be brief and charitable, but also be clear about the crisis of trust in episcopal and clerical authority and your deepening concerns over what this means if trust cannot be restored. Remember, too, not every bishop or priest is equally to blame. Some are suffering as much as you are. However, no one, clergy or lay, should exempt himself from the task of summoning the Church to reform and greater holiness.”

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