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November 26, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: Kudos to Catholic League President Bill Donohue on his new book The Truth About Clergy Sexual Abuse (available at Ignatius.com). In a statement, Donohue says that his book demonstrates that “the sexual abuse scandal effectively ended decades ago.” This is confirmed, he said, “by the 2020 Annual Report on clergy sexual abuse published by the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The data were collected by StoneBridge Business Partners.”
During the period July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, said Donohue, “there were 22 current allegations involving minors. Given that there are approximately 50,000 members of the clergy (49,926), and the number of substantiated charges are 6, this means that 99.9 percent of the clergy did not have a substantiated accusation made against him in the last year we have data.”
He said that “there is no other institution in society where adults regularly interact with minors that can match this record. But don’t expect state attorneys general to launch a probe of the sexual abuse of minors in any of them, especially the public schools, where it is sorely needed.”
What has changed, said the Catholic League president, “is a reduction in the percent of abuse committed by homosexuals. Typically, 8 in 10 cases of abuse involve male-on-male sex, the victims being post-pubescent boys. The latest data show that this figure has dropped to 6 in 10. The decrease makes sense: the seminaries have done a much better job screening for candidates who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”
Donohue said that his book “also addresses the two major parties to the scandal: enabling bishops and homosexuals priests, and why they did what they did.”

Q. One statement of Jesus that troubles me is when He said, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:23). How can Jesus who is love speak like that? — K.R., via e-mail.
A. Jesus was using hyperbole to make a point. He didn’t mean “hate” in the usual sense of despising someone; rather, He was saying, “If you do not love me more than family members, then you cannot be my disciple.” We are certainly to love family members, but to love them less than we love Jesus. They must take second place to the Lord if we are to be His true disciples.
This statement is reminiscent of the time Jesus said that He had not come to establish peace on Earth, “but rather division. From now on a household will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter, and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51-53).
Jesus doesn’t want to break up families, but He is warning that there will inevitably be divisions in families among those who want to keep His teachings and those who don’t. For example, there could be splits between a father and son over Mass attendance or moving in with a girlfriend, or between a mother and daughter over divorce and remarriage, or between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law over abortion.
Jesus doesn’t desire these divisions, of course, but He is reminding us that following Him is serious business if we wish to get to Heaven. It was the real Jesus, not the marshmallow version, who said that “whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38).

Q. You have written about the existence of Purgatory, but what do we know about the suffering there? Are there degrees of suffering? – T.L.H., via e-mail.
A. In his Catholic Catechism (cf. pp. 273-280), Fr. John Hardon, SJ, has said that “we are not certain whether Purgatory is a place or a space in which souls are cleansed. The Church has never given a definite answer to this question. The important thing to understand is that it is a state or condition in which souls undergo purification.” He also discussed the biblical roots of Catholic belief in Purgatory, including 1 Cor. 3:13-15.
In that reference, St. Paul implies suffering in Purgatory when he says that “if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.” The suffering is thought to be of two kinds: a pain of sense and a pain of loss. According to Fr. Hardon, “Writers in the Latin tradition are quite unanimous that the fire of Purgatory is real and not metaphorical. They argue from the common teaching of the Latin Fathers, of some Greek Fathers, and of certain papal statements, like that of Pope Innocent IV, who spoke of ‘a transitory fire’ (DB 456).”
How intense these pains are, we don’t know, although St. Thomas Aquinas held that the least pain in Purgatory was greater than the worst on Earth. He was joined in this opinion by St. Bonaventure and St. Robert Bellarmine.
The other kind of suffering in Purgatory, said Fr. Hardon, is the pain of loss. He said that this suffering “is intense on two counts: 1) the more something is desired, the more painful its absence, and the faithful departed intensely desire to possess God now that they are freed from temporal cares and no longer held down by the spiritual inertia of the body; 2) they clearly see that their deprivation was personally blameworthy and might have been avoided if only they had prayed and done enough penance during life.”
He pointed out, however, that “parallel with their sufferings, the souls also experience intense spiritual joy. Among the mystics, St. Catherine of Genoa wrote: ‘It seems to me there is no joy comparable to that of the pure souls in Purgatory, except the joy of heavenly beatitude.’ There are many reasons for this happiness. They are absolutely sure of their salvation. They have faith, hope, and great charity. They know themselves to be in divine friendship, confirmed, in grace and no longer able to offend God.”
In his book An Exorcist Explains the Demonic, the late Fr. Gabriele Amorth, who was the chief exorcist in Rome for many years, said that “there are gradations or diverse states in Purgatory; each one accommodates the situation of the soul that arrives there. There are the lower strata, more terrible because they are closer to Hell, and the more elevated that are less terrible because they are much closer to the happiness of Paradise. The level of purification is linked to this state. The souls in Purgatory are in a state of great suffering. We know, in fact, that they can pray for us and that they can obtain many graces for us, but they can no longer merit anything for themselves. The time for meriting graces finishes with death. Purged souls can, however, receive our help in order to abbreviate their period of purification.
“This occurs in a powerful way through our prayers, with the offering of our sufferings, paying attention at Mass, specifically at funerals or at Gregorian Masses, celebrated for thirty consecutive days.”
Fr. Amorth said that “this last practice was introduced by St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century, inspired by a vision he had of a confrere who died without confessing himself and, having gone to Purgatory, appeared to him, asking him to celebrate some Masses in his favor. The Pope celebrated them for thirty days. At that point, the deceased appeared to him again, happy for having been admitted to Paradise. One must take care: this does not mean that it will always work this way: that would be a magical attitude, unacceptable and erroneous toward a sacrament. In fact, it is solely God who decides these matters when He wills it through His divine mercy.”
In his 2007 encyclical on Christian Hope (Spe Salvi), Pope Benedict XVI said it is possible that “the fire which both burns and saves is Christ Himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with Him is the decisive act of judgment. Before His gaze all falsehood melts away. . . . In the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives becomes evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of His heart, heals us through an undeniably painful transformation ‘as through fire’ [1 Cor. 3:15]. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of His love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God” (n. 47).

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