This Register Symposium is not a physical conference, but a written collection of shared reflections from independent contributors with specialized knowledge regarding the clergy sexual abuse crisis. The nine experts have been asked to reflect on the root causes of the problem, and the most effective path forward for the Church.
The root cause of this evil is disregard for the Sixth Commandment. Without chastity, piety and strict discipline, priestly life cannot succeed. Only he who lives according to the commandments of God can be a good shepherd and a model for the flock. When it comes to a path toward healing with respect to episcopal accountability, some bishops and their propagandists, particularly in Germany and the United States, do not want to admit at any price that the sin of unchastity is the root of the problem. They don’t want to know anything more about Christ who died because of our sins, only to arrive at the zeitgeist.
They feel as if they are the Church’s new founders. The “old Church” came from a man 2,000 years ago, but the “new Church” comes from them, in their image and likeness. They defend the group that they call “homosexuals,” and especially homosexual practice, because they believe it is legitimized through human relationships among these individuals. But their task should be to defend the many good priests, the sacramental priesthood and celibacy. They pretend that affections for a person of the same sex, and the opposite sex, include the right to sexual contact.
It has been said that if priests and bishops were allowed to practice homosexuality with persons over 18 years of age, boys and young men would be protected. Therefore, the prohibition, rooted in divine law, to keep practicing homosexual candidates away from the priesthood must be dropped. Those “enlightened” individuals place themselves above Revelation by wanting to free the word of God from prejudice against homosexual practice. They discriminate against those who are not homophile and mercilessly persecute them.
The facts and statistics are clear for all to see: 80% male victims, 20% female victims. No doubt there is forgiveness before God for criminals who repent of their sins. But these perpetrators must also take responsibility for their actions, apologize to the victims, repair the damage as far as possible and not apologize cheaply as victims of clericalism or Church structures. Those who use the vague term “clericalism” to absolve the perpetrators of personal guilt and give them the opportunity to pretend to be victims of the sacramental structure not only sin against the victims of these crimes, but make God the author of evil because God’s Son has given spiritual authority to the apostles and their successors.
My expectations for the meeting are that, finally, the secularization of the Church’s thinking and acting is recognized as the cause of the unprecedented decline of Christianity in the West.
Rather than adaptation to the mainstream of a world without God, the salvation of the world through the return to God in faith and obedience is the way to the New Evangelization and renewal of priests, and especially of bishops. It is not sophisticated managers who are needed, but shepherds who give their lives — and who also have theological formation and deep piety.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller is prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Translated from the original German by the Register’s Edward Pentin.