I was praying the decade of the rosary I try to say everyday for clergy and I had to stop. I was internally yelling and externally crying, and that emotion had to find another outlet. So, I’m writing.
I’m glad to have the Eucharistic company of Jesus, consecrated by one of the priests at the church where I’m sitting. These priests and all priests are deeply in my heart and intercession.
But I am among many who are shocked and angry about the news of a recently demoted American Cardinal and of the findings of a Pennsylvania grand jury concerning the criminal activity of at least 300 priests. All of these investigations involve sexual abuse of minors and adults. The stories point to long-standing silence or cover ups.
Over the course of days, many bishops have responded to the reports with letters to their faithful. But I have to say, many of the letters I have read didn’t accomplish what I hoped.
I am grateful that Pope Francis did address it: We have sinned against God first and we need to run to Him with all our might. In one of the days immediately following the breaking news, the Morning Prayer included Psalm 51, King David’s prayer for God’s mercy after the sin of murdering Uriah and forced adultery with Bathsheba. I thought, this kind of deep prayer for mercy is exactly where the Church needs to go. We need to be a Church on our knees.
“Against you alone have I sinned.” -Psalm 51:6
There are so many people the Church has harmed by these scandals: the direct recipients of horrific abuse, those abused in non-clerical situations reliving their pain because of the graphic reports, good and honorable clergy who want to be faithful to God and His people, the laity who are angry and shocked and not sure how to respond, and those members of the public at large. Even non-Catholics and enemies of Catholics expect better of Catholics.
But the sins outlined in the news stories are against God first. Clergy vow before God to serve Him first. They are commanded to be the image of Christ for Christ and through Christ. They have sinned against God.
The priests in these stories made a vow to be celibate and obedient. To whom did they make this promise? They made it to God. The very hands that consecrated Christ in the Eucharist went on to commit the most unimaginable sins. The very mouths that proclaimed Christ in the Word went on to commit the most unimaginable sins. Firstly, the sins are against God. This is where my heart is the most broken. The clergy betrayed Christ in the same way as Judas – giving a kiss in outward love while helping the ruthless mob who would execute Him.
This is a spiritual crisis. The clergy have sinned. And it made me think of all the other ways the Church has sinned. Are clergy alone in the sins against God in His Church? There are non-criminal sins that take place every day. The laity in leadership, in the pews and those who have stopped filling the pews sin too. We have turned our hearts against God just as the people broke covenants with God in the scriptures.
“Deliver us from the evil one.” – Matthew 6:13
We cannot fight sin on our own. We can’t fight evil on our own. To offer human vows to do better or to never let this happen again or to implement better procedures is to do nothing. Adam did just as well when he stood next to Eve and said nothing to the snake.
No. We can’t fight this. This is exactly why Jesus had to come down. This is why He had to die on the Cross. Only God can deliver us from evil.
Mary said in her Magnificat, “He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones, but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty (Luke 1:52-53).” I pray for our Church to no longer be enthroned or rich in our prideful opinion. I pray for our Church to be lowly, begging for mercy. I pray for our Church to be hungry for the healing and deliverance that only God can give. I pray our bishops will allocate Masses for healing and reparation, holy hours before the Eucharist to consecrate us back to God, continued prayers in the Prayers of the Faithful and days of fasting. Jesus said some demons had to be cast out with prayer and fasting.
“To whom shall we go?” -John 6:68
In the same chapter that Jesus gives His teaching on the Eucharist, He proclaims one of the 12 a devil (John 6:70). Are there still devils in the Church? It seems so. However, I do not despair. I sit before the Eucharistic Jesus, consecrated by priests I dearly love in a Church I dearly love. Jesus promised He would be with us always and I know that He is in every sacrament, regardless of the holiness or unholiness of the clergy. The Holy Spirit inspired Saint Paul to say, “All things work for the good (Romans 8:28),” and I believe healing can come from this that would bring us closer to God than ever before. The Lord said through Saint Paul again, “Where evil abounded, grace abounded all the more (Romans 5:20).” I believe darkness is not dark for the Lord (Psalms 139:12).
In scripture, we were told repeatedly there would be false prophets and wolves among the sheep. But we were told to pray for our enemies and trust that Jesus has conquered the world. I look at how Jesus ascended into Heaven, leaving the Church in the hands of 12 men who were not shown in the Gospels to be very competent. But all that changed when the Holy Spirit descended upon them.
Let us spend this time in prayer with Mary, just as those awaiting Pentecost. Let us beg the Lord for Holy Fire, healing every wound, igniting every heart, and making this the glorious Church that God intends to clothe in white and present as a bride for her Heavenly Bridegroom (Revelation 19:7-8). God bless the Holy Catholic Church, upon which the gates of Hell will never prevail (Matthew 16:18), no matter how hard Hell tries.