When something divinely instituted, like the Catholic priesthood, is tarnished, you know the onslaught from the evil one is formidable.
As the sex-abuse scandal of 2002 regains a fresh head of toxic steam — with the revelations that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick abused minors and adult men, and with more men coming forward alleging harassment by homosexual superiors in seminary and in the presbyterate — some Church leaders are stepping forward with action and proposals for change.
A few bishops have spoken up about the need to address the underlying problem in many of these cases: the tolerance of sexual immorality among clergy, including unabashed homosexual relations. All the while, those who seek to live their vocations in celibacy and speak out against this culture are marginalized.
Recent history bears this out. A 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, “The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002,” revealed that the vast majority of sex-abuse cases were of a homosexual nature. The focus on this inconvenient and uncomfortable reality was sidelined — a decision that is coming back to haunt the Church.
Even so, back in 2002, after meeting with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican regarding the burgeoning clergy sex-abuse scandal, Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, did acknowledge the problem of homosexuality at U.S. seminaries.
“It is an ongoing struggle,” he said, according to CNN. “It is most importantly a struggle to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men. Not only that it not be dominated by homosexual men, but to make sure that candidates that we receive are healthy in every possible way — psychologically, emotionally, spiritually.” As Church leaders in the U.S. respond to the reality of the current scandal, we must face the root causes of the challenges at hand. We must aggressively pursue the establishment of clear procedures for handling adult sexual abuse, harassment and misconduct. But for the priesthood to be what Christ intended it to be, the problem of sexual immorality must be addressed and a chaste, holy clergy built up.
Let us also do our part by fasting, praying for and encouraging our bishops, priests and deacons to prayerfully live out their vocation, to speak out against injustice, and to perform reparation whenever it is called for. There is a lot of righteous anger. Let it not become the deadly sin of wrath and unforgiveness.
May the Holy Spirit and St. John Vianney, the patron of priests, guide the restoration of the priesthood in the United States and around the world. God bless you!