By Lenora Grimaud

For many people, the very word—“crisis” conjures up a negative image of doom and hopelessness—but, that is not the meaning of the word. According to the Webster Dictionary, the word, crisis, means: “the turning point; the decisive moment; a crucial time in which a decisive change is impending.” A crisis is a call to action or reform. A crisis can lead to good or bad depending on the decisions that are made or not made. A crisis cannot be ignored—it doesn’t just go away by itself—it demands attention. A crisis is analogous to a pot of stew that comes to a boil—the flame has to be turned off or down to a simmer. If the stew is left to boil, it will boil over or burn up. As Christians we know what the final outcome will be, from the promises of Christ—that the Holy Spirit will be with the Church until the end of time; that the gates of hell will not prevail over the Church; that Jesus came to establish his kingdom upon the earth and return in glory; and “that all things work for good for those who love God.” (Rom. 8:28). Nevertheless, if we do not act responsibly, there will be needless and prolonged suffering for all mankind.

The crisis in the Church, in our present times, began with the issue of sexual abuse of minors by priests. This is not simply an issue of morality and justice. This crisis affects not only Catholics, but all Christians—and ultimately, the whole world. It is a “wake-up call” to all Christians to return to the Lord, and to see how far we have drifted away from the teachings of the Gospel; the ways in which we have embraced the beliefs and practices of an atheistic humanism. Every church doctrine, every Christian belief, is on trial. Even natural law, as revealed by God and nature is on trial. For the Church, there is no conflict between natural law and divine law because God is the author of both—not society. Natural law and divine law are quickly becoming counter-cultural to our present society, which makes the Church and all Christians counter-cultural, as well.

America is the “Land of the Free”—“One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” There is no freedom, however, without God. Freedom involves responsibility. St. Paul warns us of the abuse of freedom: “My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence. Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is summarized in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal.5:13-14).

The words that Jesus quotes in the gospel, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Mat. 26:30), are significant for the Church, today. The world is attempting to strike down the shepherd—the Priesthood—in the hope that the flock will scatter. The more atheistic our society becomes, the more the Church will be a sign of contradiction. Atheism is not compatible with Christianity. The Church is a formidable opponent to the philosophy and goals of atheism for a global one world government—especially the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope still has a powerful voice and his stand on contraception, abortion, natural law, and the Gospel is an obstacle that atheism cannot tolerate. The hatred of atheists for the Church and the Gospel is growing each day. Jesus said, “those who are not with me are against me”—anti-Christ.

Not only is Christianity not compatible with atheism, but the Republican ideology of the American people is not compatible with atheism. When America was founded, it was founded on a new vision of Republicanism that the rest of the world had never known before. It was a vision of freedom and equality compatible with the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Separation of Church and State was not a problem because the people shared the same concept of natural law and virtue—based on scripture (Revelation of God). The people were Christian. George Washington said, in his farewell address:

. . . With slight shades of difference, you have the same Religion, Manners, Habits & political Principles. You have in a common cause fought & triumphed together—The independence & liberty you possess are the work of joint councils, and joint efforts—of common dangers, sufferings and successes. . . . Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men & citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect & to cherish them. A volume could not trace all the connections with private & public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the Oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure—reason & experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Separation of Church and State is impossible in an atheistic and pagan society because the Church will be the enemy of the State, and the State will set out to destroy her. The freedom of Republicanism is impossible in an atheistic and pagan society. The Christian concept of natural law and virtue is incompatible with an atheistic society. In an atheistic society, freedom of religion would not exist. Any Religion that would be countercultural would be unlawful, and not tolerated. The only government that could exist, if any, in an atheistic and pagan society is a dictatorship; tyranny; an anti-Christ far more powerful than Hitler, Stalin, or Lenin. When the American government was first founded, most of the people were Christian—or at least believed in the values of the Gospel and natural law as revealed by God. However, there were many different denominations of Christianity. The founders had a great concern about any one church controlling the state, as was the case in England. The government of the state was by the people, and for the people. This concern led to a separation of church and state. The people did not want the church to govern the state, nor did they want the state to control the church. Religious freedom became an important part of the constitution in order to insure that the state could not govern the churches. There was not a lot of problems with this separation of church and state because the people shared a common mind—common values and beliefs based on Scripture.

The state receives its authority to judge from the people. The church receives its authority to judge from God. Jesus said to the apostles: “Those whose sins you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven; those whose sins you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” A person may be judged innocent by the state, but they may not be innocent when judged by God. A person may be judged guilty by the state but not by God. The mission that was given to the Bishops by Christ was to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples; to save-guard the teachings of Christ and of the church. The church must submit to the laws of the state and abide by them as long as they do not go against the moral teachings of Christ and the church. Christians are called to trust in the church and its shepherds—to trust in their judgment as they would the Lord. Jesus said, “Those who listen to me will listen to you; those who reject me will reject you, also.” Today, it appears that Christians trust more in the judgment of the state and society than they do in the judgment of the church. The early church in Corinth had many of the same problems that we seem to have in the church today. The Jewish law expressly forbade a Jew to go to law in a non-Jewish court, and to do so was considered blasphemy against the divine law of God. But, for the Greeks in Corinth, the law courts were one of their chief entertainments. Christians were frequently taking each other to court. St. Paul was shocked by their behavior and reproached them:

How dare one of your members take up a complaint against another in the lawcourts of the unjust instead of before the saints? As you know, it is the saints who are to ‘judge the world;’ and if the world is to be judged by you, how can you be unfit to judge trifling cases? Since we are also to judge angels, it follows that we can judge matters of everyday life; but when you have had cases of that kind, the people you appointed to try them were not even respected in the Church. You should be ashamed: is there really not one reliable man among you to settle differences between brothers and so one brother brings a court case against another in front of unbelievers? It is bad enough for you to have lawsuits at all against one another; oughtn’t you to let yourselves be wronged, and let yourselves be cheated? But you are doing the wronging and the cheating and to your own brothers. (1Cor.6:1-8).

Who and what is the Church? The Church is the people—the body of Christ—not only the laity, not only the hierarchy, but both. America was built on the ideology of Republicanism. The Church is not a Republic, not a democracy, not a corporation or a business, not an ideology. The Church belongs to Jesus, not to the people. Jesus set the model for his Church, the model of a family. He gave authority, not to the children, not to all his followers, but, to the parents—the Apostles and those called to walk in their shoes. He gave authority to the clergy and religious, the hierarchy; those consecrated for this mission. A church without apostles is not apostolic, and has no mission or authority. A family that is controlled by the children is a dysfunctional family, without balance and order. A church that is controlled by the laity is a dysfunctional church.

Years ago, Bishops wouldn’t think of turning over their authority to judge, to the civil authorities. If they did, the laity would have been scandalized. Christians wouldn’t think of taking their priests and Bishops to the civil courts for satisfaction; or even taking one another to court. It would have been unthinkable for Bishops to turn their priests, their sons, over to the civil authorities, years ago. Even so, if a Bishop turned his priests over to the civil authorities to judge on sexual molestation of a child, years ago, do we really believe that the civil authorities would have handled those cases any differently? Even today, some courts still throw out many cases of women being raped and children molested by adults. The abuse of women and children and of the poor and marginalized, comes from society, not from the Church. Some countries, today, not only accept sexual relations between men and boys and adults and children, but encourage them.

In disputes between Christians and non-Christians it was understandable that Christians would need to turn to the civil courts for litigation. But, it was inconceivable that a Christian would use the civil courts to judge disputes with another Christian. It was also inconceivable that two married Christians would enter divorce litigation in the civil courts, not only because divorce was not allowed by the Church, but also because the couple are submitting their sacramental marriage and each other to non-believers for judgment. This is scandalous for a Christian, and an admittance that either one or both of them have lost faith and broken their covenant through sin, or that their marriage was never a Sacramental Christian Marriage, due to some impediment, from the beginning. This is determined through the annulment process. The Church is much more compassionate and accepting of those who have obtained a civil divorce, today. Nevertheless, with this in mind, could any Catholic really expect that their Bishops would “wash their hands” of any of their priests and turn them over to non-believers to judge them?

The crisis at hand affects doctrinal issues such as sin, conversion, mercy and forgiveness, and judgment by God. These beliefs are counter-cultural to the beliefs of society, at large. We are no longer a predominantly Christian society. Our present culture is an atheistic, humanistic society. Much of our society does not believe in eternal life, the resurrection of the dead, or a final judgment—where God (Jesus Christ) is the judge. These differences may seem inconsequential to many Christians, but they are central to the problems that Christians face today. The crisis in the Church today is not just about persecution from non-Christians or non-Catholics, it is an internal struggle and persecution. Persecution from non-Christians actually forces Christians to unite and to become stronger. Internal persecution divides and destroys, like a family that breaks down. Internal persecution and rebellion is a tearing down instead of a building up. There are many forces at work, inside and outside the Church, that are determined to bring down the Catholic Church. What is happening in the Catholic Church will also happen in every Christian Church. This is really just the beginning. Then again, perhaps it is necessary to “separate the wheat from the chaff”—to purify us and reform us into the “body of Christ” we are supposed to represent. We can only deserve the name Christian if we have put on the “mind of Christ” and believe, profess, and live the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The crisis in the Church today reveals many problems: the failure of Church ministers to proclaim the Gospel—the teachings of Jesus Christ and of the Church; the lack of trust and reverence for God, the Hierarchy, the Priesthood, parents, and basically, all authentic authority; a lack of understanding of the role of priests—how it differs from that of the laity and protestant ministers; a lack of belief in the paschal mystery—the power of the cross and of suffering, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; a lack of an awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ in the sacraments, the priests, the Church and in all the people of God; a loss of faith, hope, and love among believers; a lack of an awareness of sin and the need for repentance; an inability to distinguish good from evil; the decline of morality among Christians and society; the increase of divorce, and the breakdown of the family unit; the failure of the Church to heal the wounds of those who suffered abuse by priests—ignoring the seriousness of these sins; the increase of false teachings and teachers within the Church and within society; and the failure of Christians to affirm and live out the “Creed” that they profess with their lips—The Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Our present society is centered on this life only—except as it relates to heredity and the evolution of man. Some believe in reincarnation, which is not the same as resurrection, and in fact, is radically opposed to it. Whereas, Christians believe that man does not have the right to judge another person, only their actions, atheists believe that every person is responsible to judge every other person. Christians believe that God is our judge; Atheists do not believe that God is our judge, because they do not believe in God. Christians believe that this life is a journey, or pilgrimage to the next life; atheists believe that this life is the end of the line. Therefore, suicide, euthanasia, abortion, and war make sense to atheists—our culture is a culture of death, not life. Atheists do not believe in the forgiveness of sins—the need for salvation and redemption by God. They do not believe in sin, or that all humans are sinners. They believe that humans are either functional (productive and whole) or dysfunctional (sick and unproductive). They believe that a person is judged by his behavior—he is either good or evil, according to the standards set by society. They also do not believe in the need to forgive others or to receive forgiveness from others—it serves no real purpose. Christians believe they are called to love their enemies, and to see everyone as their “brother.” This is ludicrous and even evil, for the atheist. Christians believe that God can bring good out of evil, even though he is not the cause of evil; atheists believe that “the end justifies the means,” and therefore, humans can bring good out of evil—or do evil in order to obtain good.

Christians believe in the virtue of humility—that we are called to “serve,” and to take the lowest place. Atheists believe that humility is dependence and passivity—evil. They believe that serving others is slavery. An atheistic society is bent on success, winning, being first; competition and the survival of the fittest. Christians believe that God can redeem suffering, that there is value in suffering. Atheists believe that the “cross” is folly—no one who is “free” would choose to be a victim. They believe that most people are either abusers or victims; only those who are neither, abusers or victims, are free. They see everyone who submits to others, who accept suffering, who is humble—as a victim. In every relationship where one is a victim, the other is presumed to be an abuser, so atheists gradually move away from all relationships in order to be free and “whole.” Christians believe that wholeness is an effect or consequence of holiness—we can’t be whole without becoming holy, first. Jesus is our holiness, and it is only in union with him that we are made holy. Christians believe that all people are basically good—that God dwells in every person—and at the same time, all people are also vulnerable to weakness and sin, and always in need of God’s grace. Christians believe in the need to repent and to forgive, in order to be open to receive God’s grace.

People are very angry today and don’t seem to know how to deal with it. There is a lot of energy in anger just waiting to explode. There are three general paths we can take with anger: we can turn anger in upon our own self and suffer the destructive consequences of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual illness; we can look for a scapegoat—someone we can project onto and crucify; or we can transform that anger, through the grace of forgiveness and acceptance, into virtue and something creative. Most people try to deny anger—to let it go—but, instead, they simply suppress or repress it. Anger is too volatile an energy and won’t stay repressed. It surfaces when we least expect it to and we are usually blind to it. It surfaces through intolerance, impatience, abusive remarks, criticism, spite, rejection, withdrawal, scorn, prejudice, revenge, and violence. Our “blind spot” (everyone has one) does not allow us to even recognize it. We are oblivious to the fact that we have been abusive. Abuse is a part of life. We abuse each other everyday, knowingly or unknowingly. We will never find an ideal relationship where we are never abused or never abuse the other. This is why the grace of forgiveness is so important—especially in marriages. Marriages fail more often from unforgiveness than from abuse.

Our American Bishops, today, are being coerced and pressured to go against their own hearts and consciences in order to comply with the demands of society and civil authorities. When the Bishop’s council met in June 2002, to debate church policy on sexual molestation of children, they were addressed by so-called “experts” as well as by some victims of sexual abuse who shared their stories. These victims were not children, but adults who were molested as children. The experts proceeded to show that sexual molestation of children is irreparable and that the consequences are worse than death. There is no valid research that can prove their theories. It is impossible to prove because there are too many factors to consider. While these experts are presenting their case, other so-called experts in the field of psychology are trying to prove the opposite through invalid research. They believe they can prove that sexual molestation of children does not cause any psychological damage, and in fact, is normal, healthy, and beneficial to psychological growth. They are even attempting to change the law to accept pedophilia as normal and legal, as they did with homosexuality. Both of these extremes are against natural law and Christian teachings. Acceptance of one extreme leads to an enactment of the other extreme.

Sexual molestation can be a great challenge and obstacle to faith and psychological growth for a child. But, this one event cannot destroy faith or irreparably damage him. He has a whole life-time of potentially healthy and loving experiences ahead of him. There are many children who have been sexually molested and yet have made good choices in life instead of choosing sin and depravity. Children are very resilient and will heal very quickly if they are taught that the abuse was wrong, to forgive their abuser, and to trust in God to heal them, which comes to them through those who love and nurture them. Unrealistic guilt, fear, shame, and unforgiveness is what destroys us, not the act of sexual molestation. A child that is sexually molested by a stranger is often traumatized and filled with fear and anxiety. A child that is molested by someone they love, respect, or admire may experience confusion, depression, betrayal, and a loss of trust, if their consciences have been sufficiently formed. Normally, children do not feel betrayed or abused by loved ones. They cannot comprehend that. They prefer to believe that they are loved by those they love. They do not recognize abuse as abuse. But, they do recognize and feel abandonment and rejection by those they love. Sexual molestation has a damaging affect on a child’s conscience and could make him vulnerable to becoming promiscuous, indulging in illicit sex with no awareness of sin. If these children develop a moral conscience, by the time they become adults they will experience hatred and bitterness toward their perpetrators, as well as guilt, fear, and shame. They will continue in this state, becoming more hopeless and depressed unless they are able to forgive their perpetrators, and have faith in God’s power to heal and deliver.

We need to avoid the two extremes—magnifying the affects of sexual molestation beyond proportion, and minimizing the affects of sexual molestation to the point of acceptance. We need to realize that there are many children who have been victims of sexual molestation and have grown into healthy, moral, and loving adults. There are also many of our children who have never been sexually molested, but have suffered the same, and worse affects as those who have been severely wounded by sexual molestation—confusion, depression, loss of morals and faith, loss of meaning and purpose in life, sexual disorders, suicidal tendencies, alcohol and drug addiction, shame, guilt, fear, hopelessness, bitterness, unforgiveness—the list goes on and on. The real reason is the false teaching and moral decline of our society. They are bombarded with pornography, false values, and immoral behavior that is incongruent with natural law and the divine life they carry within their souls.

The Pope represents the “shepherd”—Jesus. The Priesthood also represents Jesus—the shepherd. The shepherd is all those in Holy Orders. In addition to atheism, there are many dissident groups within the Church that are working to bring down the Institutional Church and the Priesthood. These groups are really not Catholic, but paganized Catholics in bed with atheism. They want to expose all those priests and bishops who have failed to live the Gospel—those who are a scandal to all good Christians. Numbers are important. They want this in order to destroy the credibility of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They hope to prove that if the gospel has no power to affect the lives of these priests and bishops, than it cannot affect the lives of the laity, and cannot be valid or true. If they can crush the priesthood, they believe that the “flock will scatter” and embrace the humanistic atheism of society. Christians need to be wise—to trust in the Church and her many, many faithful priests and servants. They need to know that the priests who have fallen fell because they were not faithful to the Gospel—because they turned away and embraced the humanism that the world offered.

The Pope and the Priesthood represent the apostolic succession and the Institution of the Church—instituted by Christ. If we remove the distinction between the Priesthood and the laity, the Institution will fall and so will its authority in the world. If we allow women priests and married priests, we remove the distinction between the Priesthood and the laity, and the apostolic succession will cease. Atheism will have no formidable opponent in the Church. It will be the beginning of the end. If the Church falls, there will be a terrible persecution of those who are still Christian. The Church will once again have to go underground—which may be the impetus to reunite all Christians. If this happens and the Institutional Church is not revived, we may see the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would remain with us until he returns—that does not mean that what happened in Germany, Russia, and China cannot happen in America, as well. It does not mean that the Church will never be persecuted again.

The laity also have a mission in the Church, but it is not the same as those who are consecrated to and for the Church. They are called to found families, and to propagate the faith throughout society—to proclaim the gospel and its teachings to their families, their communities, cities and towns, work-places, government, schools, education, courts of law, businesses and corporations, etc. How faithful have the laity been to their mission? Why has our culture gone from a Christian society to a pagan society, where narcissism, hedonism, nihilism, and pragmatism reign? What happened to the “kingdom of God” in our societies? Some people think the answer to our current crisis is for the laity to have more control or to take control of the Church— but this has already happened in many ways, and is part of the problem. The mission of the laity is not to reform the priesthood or the Magisterium of the Church. If it is difficult for those who are trained in theology, scripture, and canon law to guide and direct the Church, why do we think that the laity could do it better? Certainly, it could be said that there are some lay persons more qualified than religious’ or clergy, but to set a policy to give more authority to lay persons just because they are lay persons is asking for trouble. The mission of the laity is family life. Human nature is always ready to take on other people’s responsibilities while we neglect our own—to save and change other countries while we let our own die—to parent other families while our own children are made orphans—to reform the hierarchy while our societies become corrupt. Women want to change men, while burying their feminism—men want to free women, while enslaving their masculinity—children become tyrants, while adults become their subjects and slaves—good becomes evil and evil becomes good. The Church needs more involvement of laity in the various Church ministries—to assist the hierarchy—not destroy it, control it, or remake it. There are many spiritual and gifted lay persons that are being called by God to Church ministry—lay persons that are humble and obedient; persons that reverence and trust the Pope and the Priesthood. The Church needs these lay persons—and needs to recognize, acknowledge, and empower them.

The Church has always taught the universality of sin and the need for salvation from God, through Jesus Christ. She has always taught the forgiveness of sins for anyone who repents, and the hope of transformation by the Holy Spirit—supernatural healing through the “grace” of God. She has always taught the need to make reparation for sin. She has always taught that nothing is impossible for God—God can bring good out of evil. She has always taught that only God can judge a person—we can judge the behavior, but we cannot judge the person. The Church has always taken a stand against slander and public scandal—in regards to all members of the body of Christ—especially the Priesthood. The gravity of sin is magnified in its consequences once it becomes a public scandal. Therefore, the Church has always been careful to protect the faithful against public scandal, as well as taken measures to protect her members from having their sins publicly exposed. Jesus taught:

If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: "the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge." But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector… I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:15-18)

One of the greatest values of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the “private” confession of sins. The public exposure of a person’s sins not only affects the rest of the Church, but it is a form of psychological murder, or social assassination, which can destroy a person’s name and character for life. The wisdom of St. Francis de Sales, based on the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 7:1-5) reflects the mind of the Church in this matter:

To deserve the name of a vice or a virtue, there must be some advance in an act and it must be habitual. Hence it is untrue to say that so and so is bad tempered or a thief because we once saw him in a fit of anger or guilty of theft.

Since God’s goodness is so immense that a single moment suffices for us to ask for and receive his grace, what certainty can we have that a man who yesterday was a sinner is such today? A day that is past must not judge the present day and the present day must not judge the day that is past. It is only the Last Day that judges the day that is past. It is only the Last Day that judges all days. Hence we can never say that a man is wicked without exposing ourselves to the danger of telling a lie.

Two thousand years ago, an innocent man was tried and convicted as a criminal by the crowds—his own people, whom he served. They put him to death, while their enemies sat back and laughed. He was accused of blasphemy, idolatry, and of destroying the faith of the people. There must have been a lot of evidence against him, in circulation, for so many of his brethren to turn on him—evidence that later turned out to be lies and only circumstantial. This man was Jesus Christ. We have much experience of how even our courts of law fail at times—and innocent men are sentenced to life imprisonment or death. Yet, we have turned the world into a court of law and are quick to condemn the Church and our priests because of what we see in the media. We have not been appointed their judge or jury, yet we are quick to pass sentence on them. The spirit behind this kind of crowd reaction is the same spirit that nailed Jesus to the cross. American justice says that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. Christian justice says that only Jesus Christ has the authority to judge the hearts of each human being.

The Church has always demanded that those called to the Priesthood be free from the bondage of serious sin, sinful addictions—especially sexual—and various natural and psychological impediments. These are spelled out in Canon Law. The Church has never taught that once a man is ordained, it is impossible for him to sin again. Priests are still human and subject to the same temptations as the rest of humanity. All priests are called to—and must be capable of—embracing a celibate life. This is a requirement of Ordination. Some people see celibacy as the cause of the recent sex scandals, and believe that a married priesthood would solve the problem. They don’t understand that celibacy is a gift. Religious celibacy is not the same thing as abstinence from sexual activity. It is a gift or grace of God that transforms sexual energy into a higher energy—a very creative energy—without the person even being aware of it. It is not something that is static. It does not leave a void in a person’s life, but adds something to it. Abstinence is temporary—to abstain or do without for a period of time. A single person does not choose to be celibate for life, but only to abstain from sexual activity until marriage. The gift of celibacy is given to those who are called to consecrate their lives to God, for the sake of the kingdom of God, and have freely chosen to live a celibate life forever—not simply until they meet the right person, or with the hope that the Church will soon change her laws. The gift of celibacy builds on nature—on those who are living chaste lives. Single people who are sexually active are in a state of sin or spiritual blindness, according to Church teaching. A person cannot go from living a sexually active lifestyle (including masturbation) to the celibate life of a religious or priest without going through a conversion process, first. This process is not instantaneous—it requires a moral conversion, as well as a break or change of lifestyle. A person should be able to abstain from any kind of sexual activity for two or three years before considering a vocation to religious life. A religious cannot merely abstain from sex, but must come to a place of being able to choose to be celibate for life—for the sake of the kingdom of God—in order to receive the gift of celibacy.

All Christians are called to live the counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience—in accordance with their particular state of life. Poverty calls Christians to recognize their dependence on God for everything—to be poor in spirit—to recognize their need of salvation, their need for forgiveness from God and deliverance from sin, their need of God’s love and his grace to carry out God’s purpose and call to them—and to trust God to fill these needs. Chastity calls those who are single to abstain from all sexual gratification and activity, and never to separate it from the Sacrament of Marriage. Chastity calls those who are married to fidelity to their spouses, to procreation, and to honor and treat each other’s bodies (and their own) with dignity and affection. Obedience calls Christians to reverence and respect all legitimate authority—to trust and obey Natural Law and the Revelation of God, handed down through Scripture and Tradition by the Magisterium of the Church. It should be recognized in vocational discernment that all those discerning a call to Religious Life or the Priesthood need to be faithful Christians who are already living the counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. This doesn’t mean that those who are not living the Christian life cannot undergo conversion, change their life, and later be called to Religious Life. To deny the power and change of conversion would be to deny the power of the Gospels—we would not have the Apostles or Saints, such as Augustine and Mary Magdalene. On the other hand, there is a period of growth and testing that one must go through before one is called to apostolic ministry—which is also required of new converts to the faith.

It seems evident that good discernment has been lacking in the past in regards to religious vocations. Perhaps too many assumptions were made, and the Church received vocations among persons who were not truly converted, prepared, tested or called by God. The Christian belief that God can and will deliver any truly repentant sinner from sin has also been an influence in some bad judgments made by Church authorities. The answer, however, is not to discard or deny this Christian belief, as secular humanism would have us do. This belief is central to the Christian faith. There are bound to be some slips and back-sliding even among those religious’ who have a true calling from God. However, notorious crimes against humanity, especially children, committed by religious and priests would suggest that they never had a true calling from God to begin with. These acts are so inhuman that it would seem more probable that they are the work of evil spirits, and that what is needed is deliverance rather than therapy. At the same time, we need to be careful not to jump to conclusions that all of these charges made against priests and religious today, or even a majority of the charges, are true or valid. It cannot be denied that the Church is under attack, both from within and outside. In some of the cases I have heard about, especially those that occurred years ago, the charges seem to be against “touching” or “groping,” without any mention of it leading to explicit sexual acts. It brings to mind the image of the way sports jocks relate to each other. There seems to be a “locker room” behavior that only men and boys are privy to. I wouldn’t want to minimize any actual case of sexual abuse, or to suggest that any of these cases were anything but abuse, but everyday the media reports numerous cases without any details, evidence, or proof. I would think, however, that a judge would need to investigate the intention of the accused, the actual acts, and the validity of the perception of the victim. Our perception can turn an act of innocence into an act of evil, or an evil act into an act of innocence. Every case of sexual molestation and every priest that is accused must be judged and evaluated individually.

There is a lot of difference between someone who is a repeated abuser and someone who has committed a single act. Even the healthiest and most stable people go through a period of crisis in some of the transitions of life that render them out of control and vulnerable to behaviors not consistent with their character. When humans become consumed by anger, fear, and revenge, they become irrational and lose all objectivity. When this happens, it is no longer safe to express any kind of affection or tenderness through touch or embrace to another person, especially a child. This kind of environment distances us from one another. All this publicity makes me wonder why people are reacting with so much anger against priests that they don’t distinguish at all between the pedophile priest who has sexually abused numerous victims and the priest who is guilty of only one or two offenses that happened twenty or thirty years ago, during a time of crisis. Surely the cessation of abuse is evidence of conversion and healing. At the time of these scandals in the Church, there were 47,000 priests in the Catholic Church and only 2% were charged with sexual molestation. The fact seems to be that it is not really individual child molesters that are targeted by the public and media, but the whole priesthood—the Roman Catholic Church is the real target.

As Christians, we need to accept the blame for what we have done as a society, or not done, in contributing to the evils we face today within the Church and its members. We, the people, are the Church. Even greater evils take place within families and society. How many parents are guilty of what they accuse the hierarchy of the Church? How many parents have denied or looked the other way when their children were molested by family members and friends? How many of these same members are attacking the Church today? What have we done about ridding society of the exploitation of children through physical and verbal abuse, abandonment, slavery and forced labor, kidnapping, drugs and alcohol, prostitution, pornography, and using children to fight wars? Why are people only speaking out against sexual abuse, now—and only against priests and religious? The priesthood and hierarchy of the Church are primary targets for judgment by the laity and society—because they represent Jesus Christ. Priests are also, however, representatives of the people. They come from the people—from families and societies, through which they are formed and molded. If families and society become morally bankrupt, many of their priests will also be morally bankrupt. It is no secret to anyone that our American culture has suffered a radical moral decline, destroying families and the faith of many Christians. We are a society of people that have lost respect for life—encouraging abortion, euthanasia, suicide, capitol punishment, violence and war, and rejection of the poor. We embrace homosexual behavior as normal, exploitation of women and children through pornographic media, and illicit sex outside of marriage. Is it any wonder that we should have so many fallen priests? We still have a double-standard, not only in regards to men and women, but also in regards to religious and the laity—the laity are called to the same holiness that priests and religious are called to. What is happening is a “wake-up call” for all who claim to be Christian. We all need to repent—and to begin with ourselves.

If an atheistic society does not acknowledge sin or a God that can forgive and deliver people from sin, what happens to sin? Sin didn’t suddenly disappear, society just gave it a new name—pathological disease. A person who exhibits pathological behavior cannot repent—unless he believes in a God who can forgive. He cannot change unless he repents and believes in a God who can deliver him from his bondage to sin. Psychology has told him that he cannot repent because he is not responsible—his behavior is outside of his will and control. He can only change if he gets the right medication and therapy. If that doesn’t help him, there is no hope for him—because he does not have free will in regards to his pathological behavior. He is destined to repeat his pathological behavior over and over again. According to Webster, a psychopath is a person with a psychopathic personality—“an emotionally and behaviorally disordered state characterized by clear perception of reality except for the individual’s social and moral obligations and often by the pursuit of immediate personal gratification in criminal acts, drug addiction, or sexual perversion.” A psychopath does not have a moral conscience. Christians regard immoral behavior as sin. However, the individual must also know it is evil and will to do it, in order to be held morally responsible by God for sin. Christians believe that every person is created with a free will and that the soul has the capacity to know what is evil and what is good. I do not want to imply that there are no pathological disorders that are genetically and biologically determined, but the presumptions of psychology pose many questions. How do we determine the difference between sin and pathology in a society that does not believe in sin? How does psychology verify that a pathological disease is genetic or biological? How do they determine if a person has no free will and moral conscience, or if their conscience has simply become dulled by habitual sinful behavior? How does a science that does not believe in evil spirits discern whether a person is controlled by evil spirits or by a pathological disorder? If a society is given control to determine what is “normal” behavior, and to redefine what is Natural Law, what is to prevent society from eventually determining that evil is normal, and therefore, Natural Law?

Another issue for today is that of distinguishing between those who are guilty of sexual molestation of minors and those who are pedophiles. It is against medical ethics to diagnose any person of pedophilia, or any other pathology, on the basis of one or even a few events. The present theory of pedophilia is that it is a pathological illness, which is incurable and progressive. This means that this behavior is outside the will and control of the subject. Pedophilia has to do with sexual molestation by an adult, of children under the age of 10, and would have to be habitual and increase in gravity for it to be pathological and uncontrollable. For Christians, this would mean that such behavior is not a personal sin because the person is not responsible—he has no power to alter his behavior and so, would not be culpable. True pedophiles are not called to Priesthood—this is an impediment—because they are not capable of celibacy or the ministry of Priesthood. They would need to be relieved of priestly duties as soon as they are discovered, face legal charges, and enter therapy. The problem is that they are not discovered to be pedophiles upon entering the Priesthood. Psychologists have stated that there is no instrument or test that can be given a man who is becoming a priest that will determine whether he is a pedophile. This can only be determined by a previous history of child molestation, which is very easy to hide. Even the studies of personality traits are not a valid instrument. Experts are still unable to verify that alcoholism is due to certain personality traits; let alone sexual disorders.

All sexual abuse—whether it be of small children, youth, or adults—is an abomination to the Lord and needs to be stopped. This is not easy because everyone has a different definition or opinion of what sexual abuse is, as well as who the victim is and who the perpetrator is. Civil law is no help because it changes, day by day, to meet the whims and beliefs of its people. Civil law is determined by the majority of the society. It is not just the hierarchy that is involved in all these issues facing the Church today, but also the laity. The Church often relies on the expertise of lay medical and psychological experts in their process of discernment of vocations. The Church also relies on many legal experts, who do not always represent Church Law, but society and the business world of society. In the secular world, it is common practice for lawyers and insurance companies to attempt to reach a settlement out of court—it is far less costly than going to court—even if one is innocent. Many lawyers advise their clients to sue for exorbitant amounts of money if they think they can make a case or intimidate the opponents. Unless a priest is tried in a court of law, he is still presumed innocent and treated accordingly. It is also scandalous that Christians can rationalize greed and theft and call it justice. Our society is full of people who are looking for an easy and quick way to get rich. Encouraged and supported by some lawyers, they look for any way they can to sue someone as payment for the smallest loss or inconvenience. Many people even deliberately bring on some kind of injury to themselves or fabricate lies to show they have been victimized, in order to sue for large sums of money. In the end, it comes out of the pockets of innocent people. Money should never be a means of reparation for sin and wrongdoing—except to pay for the legitimate expenses and trauma that have occurred from the injury.. This is simply theft, prompted by greed, in the guise of justice.

One of the problems within the Church, especially in the past, is that the laity tend to put priests on pedestals and make of them, demigods, who are incapable of sin. This causes Christians to be unduly scandalized when they see priests and religious commit the same sins as the laity. This pressure to live up to the ideals and expectations of the people has widened the gap between priests and religious, and the laity—and also has led many of them to become more secretive—hiding their humanity behind their roles—and even to cover over serious sins. An excessive fear of causing scandal is a “carry-over” from the past, affecting not only priests and religious, but also parents and all those with any kind of authority over others. Fear causes people to deny sin, and keeps them from seeking the help they need. Certainly, this is no excuse for the vices and sins of priests and religious—it is merely one of the reasons that lead them to be tempted. Priests and religious will be judged by God much more severely than the rest of the people because they are entrusted with a mission for the Church, which is very precious to God. There probably isn’t any Christian, today, that would disagree that sexual molestation of a minor is a criminal offense and that it would be wrong and destructive for the Church to cover up or hide priests from the law. (However, this does not oblige the Church to reveal what is protected by the Seal of Confession or Church law). Today, everyone is in favor of encouraging victims to seek civil justice and to do everything possible to heal the victims of sexual abuse. Everyone believes that the Priesthood is not the place for those diagnosed as pedophiles, or even those who would harm children in any way. Twenty or thirty years ago, this was not the case. Victims were not encouraged to seek civil justice because the Church was in denial that these accusations were really valid, and the risks to find out the truth were seemingly too great. Another factor was the lack of knowledge about the effects of abuse on children. Even physical punishment, acceptable in the past, is a crime today. The Church always emphasized mercy and forgiveness over justice. No sin was unforgivable—except unforgiveness—or unconquerable. Members of the clergy were well aware of their own human condition—frailty, weakness, sinfulness, and vulnerability to evil—even if the laity were blind to it. The clergy were also very aware of the sins of the people—68% of all pedophiles are married persons abusing their own children. Many of these parents received absolution in the Sacrament of Confession and were guaranteed secrecy. It is not surprising that priests who could forgive these parents—the laity—would not also be quick to forgive their brothers.

Priests and religious should be expected to be men and women of integrity, high morals, virtue and holiness. They are called to be examples and models for the rest of the Church. However, instead of looking to them to be examples and models to follow, we have developed two separate codes of morality—one for the priests and religious, and one for the rest of the people. This is an imbalance that sets them apart from human nature and turns them into idols, while the people fail to grow in holiness, and instead, regress. Our human nature always has a tendency to idolize those we reverence. We make idols out of all our heroes. But, we are called to become spiritually mature—it is acceptable for children to see their parents as God, but they eventually have to let go of this illusion and embrace the true God. Nevertheless, today our problem is a lack of reverence, which is a greater evil than idolatry.

We cannot ignore evil and sin, or make idols of our priests, but certainly, we are called to reverence priests and religious because of their calling and what they represent. We are called to reverence the “office,” not the individual. Priests are anointed of God by virtue of their ordination. King David recognized the significance of this in his treatment of King Saul, “God’s anointed,” even though Saul was corrupt and David’s enemy. Even Judas was not replaced until after his death. Religious Brothers and Sisters also demand our reverence because they are consecrated to God for the people, as the prophets were. They have a prophetic office in the Church. God has called priests and religious to be “set apart”—not from the people, but for mission. They are called to be leaders—to proclaim and teach the Gospel and to model Jesus for the people. The people are called to “walk with” them—to accept and embrace their teaching, and to imitate them—but, only if they teach the Gospel and truly model Jesus.

Sin is a category completely different from pathology. For the sinner, there is always the hope of repentance, conversion, and change. With priests who have sinned, repented and changed their lives, the main objective for the Church is to keep the sin from scandalizing the faithful. For the most part, with some exceptions, the reason that the Church hides or covers-over the sins of priests, moving them to another place, is to protect the faithful, not just the priests. It is a common practice to periodically move priests to other parishes, and even to other dioceses—for many reasons. This is especially true when a priest becomes the subject of dissention or scandal in a parish—even if he is innocent. When an offense by a priest is made public, it affects all of the faithful—the consequences of the sins are magnified. The Church has a responsibility to guard against this. Public exposure of the sins of priests and religious not only diminishes the faith and trust of the people, but it gives bad example to the people. Recently, a program on Oprah Winfrey revealed that very young adolescents are engaging in group oral sex parties. They say, “If it is good enough for the President, it is good enough for us . . . We are not doing anything wrong, we are just having fun.” They claim that they are not indulging in sex—they do not regard any form of genital contact that is pleasurable, other than intercourse, as sex. Why should they? Society has taught them that masturbation is normal and healthy—and not the same as having sex. This kind of thinking has invaded the minds of many priests and lay people—intercourse is sex, but everything else is not sex—merely healthy fun and games. What kind of adults will these children grow into? What kind of parents? What kind of priests and religious?

Sin is always demoralizing and affects all people. It separates people from faith, hope, and love—it separates people from God and from one another. Some of the victims of sexual abuse have stated that it was not the abuse, itself, that was so damaging to them, but the betrayal of someone they trusted and believed in. Yet, we believe that by publicly exposing all the sins of our priests to the whole people of God, even if they have repented, that we will be serving the common good. This seems ludicrous—it may purge the Church to the extent that there is no one left in it—for, the judgment we pass on our priests will inevitably have to be passed on the rest of Christians. Without mercy and forgiveness, who can stand? If priests cannot be forgiven, how can they extend forgiveness to the rest of the people in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

The experts tell us that most of those who sexually abuse children were sexually abused when they were children. This is no defense for those priests who are being charged, today. But, what does that say about the victims who are making the charges? How many of them are guilty of the same sin that they are charging others for? We will not heal our children through revenge, condemnation, unforgiveness, and hatred of their perpetrators. This will only serve to increase the fear, shame, guilt, and despair of our abused children. The message we give them is that these perpetrators cannot change and are condemned, without forgiveness. This is the same judgment we place on these children that have been molested. Sexual sins are not the only sin that destroys the body of Christ. Priests have heard every possible sin there is, and extended the Lord’s forgiveness and absolution to the people of God—“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Many of these cases involve repentant priests, and happened over thirty years ago. Unfortunately, many children at that time would have been very afraid and ashamed to reveal this abuse to anyone, and even parents who were aware of it might have feared saying anything due to a false loyalty to the Church. Those who did speak out at that time, and who received compensation have no reason to come forth now. A priest is presumed innocent of any charges against him unless he is has had the right of a trial, or unless he confesses. If he makes his confession under the seal of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, nothing he says can be revealed or held against him—it is as good as forgotten. This is true for all penitents—a record of past sins does not travel with any Christian from parish to parish. Too much time has elapsed in order to judge most of these cases, today, with justice—perception, memory, imagination, and feelings can bring many distortions, especially over time. Even civil courts have a statute of limitations and wouldn’t accept these cases. One good that has come from this crisis is that, hopefully, victims of abuse in the future won’t be afraid to seek the justice and healing that is due them. We need to remember, however, that God’s justice is not the same as man’s justice. Society does not look at the heart, but the pocketbook. We can’t remain blind to the double standard in our society. In the world, only the poor really suffer judgment by society. We live in a culture where our Presidents can abuse women and yet not be held accountable by law—because of their Office—and they don’t have to repent or change. This is true, not only of the Presidents, but of all those who have power, position, and money. In the end, it will be the people—the poor—who suffer the most. The rich and powerful seem to be above the “Law.”

Psychology and Human Sexuality are required courses in most colleges today. The morality and ethics that are taught in these courses are not Christian morality and ethics. There are vast differences. Many of our priests and religious, today, were exposed to these courses before they even entered the seminary. Even priests long ordained were expected to “update” and take these secular courses in the 70’s and 80’s. The result is that Catholics have become “double-minded”—no longer possessing the “mind of Christ.” We opened ourselves to the philosophy of humanism without even stopping to discern the differences and the consequences. We assumed that the “experts” were right and knew what they were talking about. Now, we are suffering the consequences. Some Human Sexuality courses use what can only be described as pornography, as teaching aides—videos showing the stages and physiological affects of masturbation, as well as the sexual practices of single and married couples, and elderly couples. These videos are a violation of the human dignity of the persons viewed, but were acceptable because they were dubbed as “research” and “academics.” Secular humanism does not teach people how to abstain from sexual gratification because they do not believe this is normal or healthy—it is repression. Instead, they teach people techniques and practices—even advocating the use of pornography—for “legitimate sexual gratification”—between partners with mutual consent or through masturbation. They also cover such issues as contraception, abortion, and homosexuality, feminism, and social justice—from a humanistic and atheistic perspective.

After my 24 year marriage ended in divorce, I began a search for the reasons why it failed. I had been an active Catholic all my life—grounded in the teachings of the Church, Scripture, and the writings of the Saints—more so, than the average Catholic. I had a natural attraction to the Humanities—Psychology, Philosophy, and World Religions, so I enrolled in college. I went with an open mind and trust in research and the authority of academics. I wasn’t prepared for what I received, but I excelled in all my studies. Unknowingly, I put off the “mind of Christ” and put on the mind of secular humanism. I ended my studies with a “double-mind”—no longer sure of what was good or evil, what was truth and what was a lie. It took years of courting sin, prayer, and re-formation as a Christian before I was able to let go of the false teaching I had embraced and put on the “mind of Christ” once again. Education should be a primary concern of all Christian families. We need to know what is being taught to our children and young adults, and how to combat it with Church teaching.

I hope it is not too late, but if we do not stand up for the morality and ethics of Jesus Christ, the next generation will advocate sin, depravity, and sexual abuse as normal—based on society’s definition of Natural Law—and Christianity will become illegal. The children on Oprah Winfrey are just a small sample of what we can expect.

What is the answer to the crisis in the Church, today? What can and should the Church do? Clearly, we need to take a stand against false teaching and false teachers, and proclaim the authentic teachings of Jesus and the Church. We need to return to God, through prayer and fasting or sacrifice. We need to acknowledge our sin—personally and collectively—and repent. We need to believe in the forgiveness of sins and in the mercy of God. We need to forgive those who have hurt us. We need to experience conversion and live out the creed that we profess. We need to pray for a “New Pentecost” and to proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Final Word:

What is the Lord doing in the Church today? What word is he speaking through the Bishops? God is purifying his Church and calling us to be holy. He is saying that he will not tolerate the evil that is going on among us. His tolerance is “zero” right now. He is beginning with the greatest evil—the harm we do to our children, including the unborn. He is saying that we must recognize and acknowledge that sexual molestation of children is a grievous sin—a great evil—regardless of culpability. It must be rooted out and stopped—no “buts.” He is saying that his priests must be beyond reproach. He wants a holy priesthood who are able to know good from evil and hold fast to his word. He is saying that we must remember this so that if the rest of the world accepts and condones sexual molestation of children tomorrow, we are not to follow them. He is saying more—this is only the beginning. He is saying that sexual molestation by a priest of anyone—man, woman, youth, child—regardless of whether they consent or not—is evil, sin, and must be rooted out. He is saying that all sexual behavior outside of marriage is sin and evil—sexual molestation—with or without consent, for priests and laity. All sex outside of the sanctity of marriage is sexual abuse and must be stopped. He is saying—“get busy—decide what you can do to stop it. Get rid of your false teachers and prophets—rely on the word of God, not the experts.” If we fail to listen to him we will be consumed by the purifying fire that is rising up, instead of purified. Fire either destroys or purifies and a fire is blazing across the earth. This is only the beginning. This is only the first of many sins that we need to be purged from. We must not only heal our children of the affects of sexual molestation but we must heal their minds, hearts, and souls from sexual abuse in all its forms. We must teach them the purpose and value of chastity. They will not recognize sexual abuse unless they come to accept that all sexual contact outside of marriage is sexual abuse—not only of their bodies, but also of sex, itself.

What is the Lord saying to the Bishops? He is saying—“Repent and reform your lives so that you will have the integrity to call the people to repent. Trust in God, not in man. Get rid of your false prophets and teachers among you—turn back to the Gospel you are called to proclaim—turn back to the authentic teaching of the Church that you are called to defend. Be united as brothers—be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. (Phil.2:2). Be true fathers of your priests and good models for them to follow. Do not support those who would destroy the Church and corrupt the message of the Gospels in the name of reform. Be on your guard.”

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