Reflections on Sexual Abuse Scandals by the Clergy

Reflections on Sexual Abuse Scandals by the Clergy

Reflections on Sexual Abuse Scandals by the Clergy

There is nothing as vile as using an office, position or situation of influence to oppress or abuse a weaker person. This is particularly true in the case of sexual abuse. Still worse are those acts that not only violate the laws of justice and charity but those of nature. This is especially horrible when the office or situation of influence is of a religious nature.

Abuses That Fill One With Outrage and Deserve Utter Scorn

Thus, no words can adequately express our rejection of the sexual abuse scandals by members of the Catholic clergy. They betrayed their sacred vows and sullied the sacrament received in their priestly ordinations. Above all, they gravely offended God and His Church by their acts. So many do not consider that these acts are supreme offenses when dealing with the matter.

Repeated reports of sexual abuse by ecclesiastics understandably provoke legitimate and healthy outrage. However, this outrage must be expressed carefully and sensibly. We must take care not to use the occasion to denigrate the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the sacred vows, or the hierarchical structure of the Church. This is precisely what both the secular media and their liberal Catholic counterparts are doing.

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We should not forget that this crisis is just one aspect of a greater and most terrible crisis which, by Divine permission, the Church is undergoing, as She suffers from continual attacks from both Her internal and external enemies.

Complexity of the Problem

We must take the complexity of the problem into account. As Pope Leo XIII noted, the Church does not fear the truth, even when it comes to admitting weaknesses and scandals of Her human element. However, Our Lord told us to be as prudent as doves but also as clever as serpents.

Thus, we must be very cautious in dealing with the facts of clerical abuse by avoiding two simplifications. One simplification is to refuse to admit that such abuses occur, which would be naïve. The other is to react in such a way that would favor those who use such scandals to change the Church’s structures and doctrine.

Taking a Principled not a Personal Stand

As practicing Catholics, we are filled with compassion and pray for those who struggle against violent temptation to sin, be it toward homosexual sin or otherwise.

We are conscious of the enormous difference between these individuals who struggle with their weaknesses and strive to overcome them and others who transform their sin into a reason for pride, and try to impose their lifestyle on society as a whole, in flagrant opposition to traditional Christian morality and natural law. However, we pray for them too.

According to the expression attributed to Saint Augustine, we “hate the sin but love the sinner.” And to love the sinner, as the same Doctor of the Church explains, is to wish for him the best we can possibly desire for ourselves, namely, “that he may love God with a perfect affection.” (St. Augustine, Of the Morals of the Catholic Church, No. 49, www.newadvent.org/fathers/1401.htm)

How to Avoid Naiveté and Recklessness

To avoid both naiveté and recklessness, we should consider several factors in the crisis.

First, we can observe that such infamous cases also occur in so many other situations in a world that has lost its sense of morality, justice and charity. We must ask ourselves why the media generally only create an uproar when they are perpetrated by members of the Catholic clergy.

Secondly, we need to point out the contradictory attitude of secularists and Catholic liberals in these cases. They usually are tolerant of the practice of homosexual vice, but become intolerant and demand punishment when the facts lamentably involve Catholic clergy.

Eternal and Natural Law: The Foundation of Morals and Law

Another important observation is that in the ongoing media uproar about clerical scandals, the secularists and Catholic liberals usually blame the Church’s hierarchical structure as the cause of these abominations. In so doing, they affirm or imply that by changing this structure and thus ending inequality, abuses would cease or would not have existed. It is obviously not true since such abuses also occur in Protestant churches, which long ago abolished the hierarchical ecclesiastical structure and established equality between faithful and shepherds.

Hence, we perceive how careful we must be. We cannot manifest our legitimate outrage in a way that would favor an egalitarian mindset that deep down seeks to destroy the ecclesiastical order established by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do Not Fall Into the Trap

Thus, we must be alert to the risk of inadvertently joining those who are taking advantage of the moral decay of members of the hierarchy and clergy to destroy the sacred structures of Holy Mother Church.

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We are not proposing that we stop reporting the facts or, even less, cease our outrage over the scandals. However, we must be aware that we are in the midst of a religious “war,” that is part and parcel of the Culture War. As a result, we must adopt a strategy that does not favor the adversaries, which consists of the internal and external enemies of the Church.

The “Easy Formula”—Practice the Virtue of Prudence

It would seem there is no easy formula to resolve the crisis. However, practicing the virtue of prudence is the true and “easy formula,” because it allows us to analyze the complexity of the current crisis, and deal with the problems with wisdom.

In fact, the wise man always has his attention focused on the adversary’s maneuvers and hidden intentions. He knows how to avoid the risk of inadvertently cooperating with the enemy. He acts to prevent the adversary from executing his plans and secret designs.

May our indignation be guided by prudence. Then it will be truly virtuous. Part of the definition of prudence is “recta ratio agibilium,” the right criterion of action. By doing this, prudence then guides us in the practice of the other moral virtues.

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We must keep calm and confide, remembering that although Our Lord Jesus Christ seems to be asleep in the Bark of Peter without caring about the storm that appears ready to sink it, He is attentive and in due time will command the winds to cease and the sea to calm down (cf. Matt. 8:23-27).

Let us ask the Blessed Mother, Seat of Wisdom, to help us act properly in the present circumstances.

In the book I Have Weathered Other Storms – A Response to the Scandals and Democratic Reforms That Threaten the Catholic Church, the TFP Committee on American Issues already denounced in 2002, the strange comradery between the liberal media and Catholic dissidents who used the sexual abuse tragedy to try to transform the structure of the Church into something contrary to Her traditions and the designs of Her Founder, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflections on Sexual Abuse Scandals by the Clergy

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