“One cannot live a double morality: one for the People of God and another in his own home,” Pope Francis said. “No, the witness is only one. The testimony of Jesus always belongs to him. And for his love, [the priest] undertakes a daily battle against his vices and against all alienating worldliness.” The Pope told the assembled clergy that they are men of God 24 hours a day, not only when wearing vestments, and that the liturgy is life for them, not just a ritual.
The Holy Father’s remarks warning against duplicity and worldliness could easily be extended to the wide-ranging scandal in the Church today surrounding: disgraced Archbishop Theodore McCarrick; the sexual abuse of minors and adults by clergy and their cover-up by Church leadership in the United States, Latin America and elsewhere; and the befouling of the sacrament of holy orders by those same men and those complicit.
The Church needs its leaders to stay true to their vocational promises, always keeping in mind the many victims of this scourge.
On Sept 19, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a four-point course of action in order to address this scandal. The conference leadership indicated that this is “only a beginning.” This is a hopeful development, because this is the first concrete action we have seen since the news broke in June.
In addition, some of our shepherds have indicated their willingness to examine their role in this and act accordingly to repair any damage they’ve caused, either directly or indirectly. Some have met with their priests and deacons to begin honest discussions about renewing their vocations and taking swift and decisive action if any men are leading a double life. These are the right steps, and I hope such actions continue and become widespread. Deep renewal is necessary; and although a cleansing of the Church may result in a smaller Church, it will be a healthier Church.
In one of the first interviews after his election, Pope Francis called the Church “a field hospital.” In the five years since that pronouncement, we have seen the field hospital become nearly overwhelmed with patients. And, in many cases, these patients are the victims of today’s clergy scandal — a scandal rooted in unfaithfulness to vows, sexual predation, active homosexual relationships, secrecy in the name of collegiality, and careerism.
When confronted with an epidemic, medical doctors identify the virus, isolate it and work to eradicate it by using the proper antidote.
Christ gave his Church the means to eradicate the deadly poison released by the current clergy scandal. We have the sacraments and have the timeless teachings of Scripture and Tradition at our disposal. We have a conscience to know right from wrong. We must have the will to bring about change. Let’s step up and use these tremendous gifts God has given us — wisely, charitably and justly — and work together for the renewal of hearts and minds and the salvation of souls.