Listen with your heart then discern what you have heard.
Long ago I read someplace, “If there is something wrong in a society eventually someone will wander out into the marketplace and shout out the truth.” That seems to be what is happening with the Catholic Church and the sex scandals today.
The shout is something like the ‘voice in the wilderness’ of Ancient times but the trouble with our times, because of all the means of communication available to us – especially TV and the Internet – is there’s a whole lot of voices calling out and how do we know which one to listen to? After a lot of listening here’s the voices that to me most speak the truth and make the best sense.
William Donahue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, appearing on TV, seems to offer a good understanding of the problem with possible solutions. What I especially liked about him is he backed up his statements with solid, verifiable facts. Two things I heard him say, regarding the perception that all priests are suspect of being child molesters, were that there were only 2 percent of priests that were offenders and in the general population the percentage is 8. He stated where these statistics came from and it was a very credible source. He also brought out the issue of the Catholics who feel married clergy and women priests would solve the sexual abuse and priest shortage problem. They have married clergy and women priests in the Protestant Churches, he said, and since they’ve instituted those practices attendance at their churches are constantly diminishing – while in the Catholic Church the numbers are increasing. He called the attempts to ‘copycat’ women’s ordination and married priests ‘Protestantizing the Catholic Church’ and thus following them could lead us down the same road of dwindling membership and maybe even eventually nonexistence.
Robert Novak writes for the “Chicago Times Sun” and is a TV pundit serving on the panel of the CNN show “Capitol Gang”. They were discussing the ‘scandal’, a favorite topic these days. When it came his turn to comment, he said he thought Catholics who hated their own Church were one of the problems and then, I got a real surprise when he went on to say he had just joined the Church a few years ago and he loved the Catholic Church.
Joseph Sobran wrote an article “The Catholic Position” which someone forwarded to me on the Internet. The views expressed where somewhat similar to Robert Novak’s. “Catholicism still has a strange moral authority…” was one of his sentences and a lot of what he wrote makes sense to me.
A young friend of mine has been lamenting to me, for quite a few years now, about the way potential priests are screened and accepted or declined by the Los Angeles Archdiocese. I have always taken the tales she relates with ‘a grain of salt’ so to speak. When she again brought it up in relation to the ‘new scandal’, I asked: “What proof is there?” Well – she blew my socks off – when the next day she E-mailed me a review of a new book just out titled “Good bye! Good Men”. The headline of the review by Paul Likoudis was – “NEW BOOK ON SEMINARIES RAISES TROUBLING QUESTIONS – and it goes on… “Michael S. Rose’s new book on the crisis in Catholic seminaries in the United States and Europe, “Good Bye! Good Men”: How Catholic Seminaries Turned Away Two Generations of Vocations from the Priesthood, powerfully illustrates Pope John Paul II’s words in his Holy Thursday letter to priests on the “mystery of evil at work in the world.” There’s a lot more to the review and at the end of this Commentary I will give you the Web Site address as well as other Internet sources I am using.
Pope John Paul II addressed the American Cardinals gathered in Rome to access the ‘scandal’ and from his words this stayed with me: “A great work of art may be blemished, but its beauty remains, and this is a truth which any intellectually honest critic will recognize.”
There’s another voice that lingers deep within my soul and speaks to me and guides me. It’s the sum total of many recollected memories of Catholic teachings that were passed on to me by nuns, priests, good lay people and always that ever solid ‘voice of experience’. I wrote a Commentary two years ago, “Avoid Evil – Do Good”, which was about what I had learned from a priest, Fr. Michael Smith. It could have been titled “What is the Worst Sin?” I wish you would go back and read that now and understand how grave the sin of these offending priests has always been considered by the teachings of Jesus contained in the Catholic Church. Another Commentary I wrote, “You are Master of the Unspoken Word and Slave of the Spoken Word”, tells how important it is to build a loving line of communication with your children so you are the first one they run to and tell anything troubling them. This came out when telling the Fatima Children’s story and how little, now Saint, Jacinta ran and told her mother what the children had decided should be kept a secret.
I remember quaking in my seat in grade school when the nun described the torments waiting in hell for errant priests. They always told us priests were held to a higher standard of judgment. Had I been a boy, I would have thought long and hard what God expected from a priest and if I would be able to sustain such holiness for my lifetime before I would ever feel comfortable entering a seminary.
As I usually do, I discussed all this with Lois Donahue and her memory is just like mine, about being taught the high morality and holiness demanded of priests, and she said there was a saying that went along with it: “The floor of the deepest pit in Hell is lined with the skulls of bad priests.”
The voice I am most compelled to listen to is the voice of the victims of these predator priests. I feel their pain and I do not remain a helpless bystander because I know I can become a partner in their healing and restoration. So I pray everyday for them and know Jesus has a special place for them within His heart. Won’t you please join me in prayer for them and for all victims of sexual abuse no matter where they are or who they are.