A perfect storm

Originally Appeared in : 9818-8/30/18

The resignation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals after revelations of a quarter of a century of accusations against him and settlements paid to his victims by dioceses in which he served as priest and bishop, combined with the Pennsylvania Grand Jury’s Report on priestly misconduct create a perfect storm that now buffets the Catholic Church in this country and around the world.


Father Daniel F. Firmin, Vicar General of the Diocese of Savannah, is “angry, sad, nauseous, and frustrated” because the acts revealed and reported were “evil and despicable, sinful and satanic.” His righteous indignation is justified. “Both the priests and bishops committing these crimes and those who stood by watching and facilitating must face civil and canonical justice. These predatory pedophile priests, and priests and bishops living and participating in active homosexual lifestyles, have no place amongst the Apostles and the priests of Jesus Christ. As Jesus threw the money changers out of the Temple, we cannot abide this treachery and evil.”




A close friend wrote, “Silence allows a system to go on working as it has always worked. The clerical system seems nefarious, despicable, and downright evil—in spite of the righteous, holy priests who are trying their best to work from within. It is time for every Catholic, including every priest and bishop, to say, “No more! I will speak out against this. I will not be involved in keeping silent in the face of evil. I will never, ever, let this happen on my watch.” He added, “We must stand with God against evil. We are called to protect others against evil.”




And another close friend penned these lines, “The church hierarchy has known about [these problems] for decades and has done nothing—or not enough—to eradicate them. This is where the anger comes in. The lay faithful who are the Body of Christ feel betrayed.” She added that our bishops need to promise “that they will fully support whatever measures are necessary to rid the church of this evil and that they will devote themselves to ensuring the spiritual well-being, safety, and growth of the flock entrusted to their care.” And they need to keep that promise to the letter.




Savannah Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer has written that the bishops “need the help of the laity to correct the horrific behavior of the clergy of the past. The Dallas Charter of 2002 has been effective in creating safer parishes and schools for our children. Please support your parish priest and me as we together strive to cease this sinful and criminal activity occurring within our church. We now need to create a Charter to review the behavior of Bishops.”




And Pope Francis agrees. In a strong Letter to the People of God, issued on Aug. 20, the Holy Father wrote: “It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives.


This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that ‘not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people.’ Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.”




I would beg my readers, including members of the clergy, “If you observe something suspicious in your parish, say something.” Report your suspicions to the ecclesiastical and civil authorities. Do not turn a blind eye. And I would ask them to join me in praying to Saint Michael as we seek to recover from this “perfect storm."


Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.


Father Douglas K. Clark STL is pastor of Saint Matthew Church, Statesboro.

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