By Bob Sullivan
Several months ago, I wrote a column pointing out that the priest sex abuse scandal has been handled well by the Catholic Church in the United States.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a different problem in the Church which has not yet been addressed. You may have heard of Theodore McCarrick. He was the Archbishop of Washington D.C., and a Cardinal in the Church. The key word in that last sentence is, “was.” He just resigned his position in the College of Cardinals, and Pope Francis has suspended him from the exercise of any public ministry, and a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a canonical trial.
I hope law enforcement is involved too.
The allegations surrounding McCarrick are sickening. You can read about it further by reading articles recently published by J.D. Flynn, Phillip Lawlor, me, and Rod Dreher. These are not easy things to read if you are Catholic. In a nutshell, McCarrick appears to have led a long life of molesting and sexually harassing young seminarians and possibly even adolescents and at least one child. If true, and the Archdiocese of New York has stated that at least some of the allegations are credible, it is time for reform in the Church.
Worse yet, many believe that there are numerous people who knew about McCarrick’s treatment of seminarians. Some believe that other bishops and archbishops knew of the behavior. Apparently, the behavior was very well known in the seminaries and across the dioceses in which McCarrick lived and worked over the years. The people following this story closely expect additional allegations to come forward. McCarrick’s resignation suggests that the evidence of immorality is very strong, even if some of the allegations may not be true.
The entire situation is utterly disgusting. If others had reasonable suspicion that this was happening, or if they had credible evidence, and remained silent or even covered for McCarrick, this is the perfect time to resign. The Church truly needs honesty and humility from these people at this time, and all involved need our prayers.
However, there is a larger problem. People close to this story also say that this type of immoral behavior is not as rare as one would expect in some seminaries and geographical areas.
This brings to mind some of the past columns I’ve written on the decline of Catholicism in America. The laity does not bear all the responsibility in the decline. It appears reasonable to conclude that men like McCarrick did a significant job of destroying the faith of individual seminarians, priests, and other victims, but he also sabotaged or undermined the Church’s teachings in less direct ways.
In 2004, while he was the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. but before being made a Cardinal, he downplayed the Vatican’s directive to deny communion to obstinately pro-abortion political leaders. Later, he told the theology professors at Georgetown University (a school with a wayward Catholic identity), that information as to which professors had received a Mandatum and which had not, was to remain strictly confidential. The Mandatum was required by St. John Paul II, for all Catholic universities and colleges, in order to confirm that theology professors were teaching theology consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Why would an archbishop want to keep that secret?
In 2006, he spoke in favor of same-sex unions so “people could take care of each other when they are grievously ill and hospitalized.” He later retracted those statements, saying that he was only speaking about proposed legislation, not in support of same-sex unions.
On September 10, 2014, Cardinal McCarrick ignorantly spoke about the actions of ISIS during a press conference in Washington, D.C. Among other things, McCarrick downplayed the Islamic persecution of Christians in the Middle East, stating: “The truth of the matter is in these terrible massacres of the Islamic state, most of the victims have been Muslims, most of them have not been Christians.” Apparently he was not aware that 100% of these Christians were being enslaved, displaced, killed, or forced to convert to Islam by ISIS.
These are just a few examples of one archbishop and/or cardinal, who openly defied the Church in deed and in word, while at the same time being honored, promoted, and even exalted. It is evident that the Church, including the laity, have simply been too complacent with regard to immoral behavior and the distortion of the teachings of the Church among some of the bishops. It is time for zero tolerance for bishops, seminaries, heads of orders, and theologians who live an immoral lifestyle and who teach questionable or downright flawed things about faith and morals.
As a lay Catholic, this does not shake my faith. The Church was established by God Himself, and with trust in Jesus, obedience to the Holy Spirit, and with humble recognition that God’s ways are not my ways, I will not stop going to Holy Mass, receiving Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist, or praising God with His angels and with His saints. This is one of the true blessings of living in the diocese in which God has placed me. Our shepherd and his predecessors have kept the true faith in our diocese, often to the disdain of people who wanted them to go with the flow of the culture. Praise God our shepherds have been strong.
And while I’m praising God, I’ll pray that all those in the Church who behave the way Theodore McCarrick behaved, and that all those who allowed it, will immediately retire, resign, and take life of prayer and penance in solitude, where they can no longer harm people or the Church.