The daily revelations regarding the activities of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick continues to unfold as his sexual predatory actions continue to ensnare other members of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in the United States. Allegations set forth indicate that McCarrick’s activities were well known to the Roman Curia and that Pope Benedict XVI required McCarrick to live a life of penance and out of the public view during Benedict’s pontificate. Seemingly, the election of Pope Francis was the opportunity for McCarrick to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the newly elected pope and McCarrick emerged from Benedict’s imposed restrictions and McCarrick set himself up as a trusted advisor to Pope Francis.

The McCarrick saga is one that presents an unfortunate portrait of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in the United States not just because it focuses on the transgressions of the former member of the College of Cardinals, but it diverts attention from seeking solutions to the entire clergy sex abuse scandal that continues to plague the universal Church. McCarrick’s illicit actions as a priest, bishop and cardinal are symptomatic of the ever-growing realization that the Catholic Church is losing credibility and transparency on the part of the episcopate worldwide. Many issues continue to attack the credulity of the Church’s priestly and episcopal ministers for one simple reason, there is a vacuum of strong leadership among the American hierarchy as each prelate seeks to safeguard their own position while the allegations continue to emerge as collateral damage to the McCarrick scandal.

Clergy abuse of minors is only part of the problem, it is unrelated to the large purported presence of homosexual males present in the Catholic priesthood. Each component of the clergy sex abuse scandal deserves equal examination to come to solutions that will not only end the current crisis but stop the crisis from occurring in the future. Compounding all the concerns and issues is the revelation that Pope Francis knew of the complicity of Cardinals McCarrick, Wuerl and others in the matters concerning McCarrick’s sexual escapades with young seminarians and priests throughout his priestly career. One needs to understand that these actions were non-consensual homosexual acts between adults, often coerced and almost always concealed from the Catholic faithful. McCarrick’s canonical trial anticipated in Rome will deal with these issues and most likely will result in the laicization of McCarrick or the requirement he live out his days in an atmosphere of prayer and penance.

The tragedies of clergy sex abuse of minors continue to plague the Church in the United States and by all accounts appears as a global phenomenon as indicated during the Holy Father’s recent visit to the Republic of Ireland. Sexual deviance among the clergy is at the base root is ontologically immoral and the Church needs to eradicate the problem immediately. If that means the resignations of scores of Catholic archbishops, bishops and priest, so be it. The only effective means of extricating this malignancy from the Body of Christ is to eradicate it through all legal and judicial efficacy and then make appropriate restitution to the People of God and indeed all the victims of these heinous crimes against the youth of the Church.

If this occurs the Church in the Unites States needs a strong leader to clearly emerge as the proponent of radical transformation of the Catholic Church in the United States that will effect changes in clerical life and educational formation, the role of the laity in the Church’s mission and the complete transformation of the Church’s role as a moral touchpoint in a world marred with moral indignities and countless transgressions committed over decades by Catholic clergy. This is a large position of responsibility perhaps one man or a group of competent American bishops need to assume. Most importantly, the unknown prophetic actions of yet unknow Church leaders cannot function without adequate supervision from civil authorities and members of the Catholic laity. The American Catholic hierarchy have conspired to conceal these sexual travesties from the Catholic faithful for generations. Their previous collusion and concealment illustrate that the American bishops need assistance from qualified laity and professional individuals whose expertise is competent in areas of psychology, civil and canon law and many other disciplines related to the proper transformation of a Church that needs an intervention, so the pastoral future of the Catholic Church is ensured.

While the notion of trustees is a sensitive one given the historical difficulties the Catholic Church in the United States has experienced with the participation of laity as trustees of Catholic material goods, the events of the clergy sex scandal illustrates the need for more oversights of the activities of the Catholic Church. Part of the transformation of the Catholic Church in the 21st century should include the greater participation of the laity in Church affairs and that should also include the everyday management of the secular affairs of the Church. The current model of leadership entrusts monarchial style leadership in the local bishops, usually unchecked and prohibits financial transparency to the faithful of a parish or diocese. In the same manner, the secrecy surrounding the financial payouts for clergy sex abuse scandals is usually undetected as well. The lack of financial transparency breeds institutional contempt on the part of the bishops and this contempt is unfortunately directed to the generous benefactors of the Church who are unknowingly funding the illicit use of church monies by the bishops. Perhaps the revocation of the tax-exempt status from dioceses and archdioceses that conspire to collude and conceal clergy sex abuse within their borders is an appropriate step towards universal compliance on the part of the Catholic Church.  Summarily, operational procedures of the Catholic Church need to change, qualified professions need to assert their competence in church activities and the American bishops need to submit to objective examination of all finances, procedures and all personnel. Otherwise, no progress will be made towards ending this scandal that has rages unchecked for generations.

To also solidify the reputation of the Church once again on solid moral ground, the issues surrounding homosexuality among the clergy needs a pastoral and professional solution. If indeed the precepts of the Church’s long held moral beliefs are to be upheld, they need to be applied to the clergy as well. Moral theologians have held for centuries that homosexual acts are sinful. While the sinfulness of these actions seems to be part of a larger issue within the confines of the Church, the objective realities based on Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the Church is clear. Homosexuality is sinful. The Catholic Catechism clearly define the Church’s teachings on the matter and it should be followed as the norm of substantive action to define the obligations of those that seek Holy Orders in the Church. The Church’s ministers need to follow the same moral and ethical principles they seek to apply to the faithful. Clergy are not exempt from moral certitudes of Church teachings. They by Holy Orders have a higher aspiration to adhere to the Church’s moral teachings if they are effectively expected to lead God’s people along the way to religious perfection as exemplified by Christ, the Blessed Mother & the communion of Saints. Catholic clergy are the manifestations of Christ. Accordingly, their moral lives and actions should reflect the transcendence of their vocational calling namely to provide themselves as an alter Christus, to the People of God.

The proper determination of solving the clergy sex abuse scandal needs to rely on external professions to stage an intervention to salvage and clean up the chaotic mess created by the American Catholic bishops and their attempts to conceal the many examples of abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy on the youth of the Church. If indeed mass resignations of Catholic bishops and priest facilitates the expedient solution to this tragic chapter in the life of the Catholic Church, then so be it. What is paramount to ending the clergy sex scandal is the resolution that all offenders will be expunged from active priestly ministry and the victims will receive adequate temporal and spiritual recompense for their painful experiences at the hands of those whom they trusted.

The Church in the United States is experiencing not only a leadership void, it is also experiencing a lack of theological determination regarding the role and mission it should play in the modern world. In order to facilitate a return to understanding the role and mission, the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church needs to return to the theological basics namely, the Eucharist and the other Sacraments as the tangible signs and symbols of Catholic life and sustenance. A return to a pastoral understanding of the basics will permit the Church to reflect on the ontological realities of the theological mission it was entrusted to them by Christ Himself, namely, to bring all things in Christ to the eternal Father.

We need to start by prayerfully and pragmatically purging the Church of all those things that contaminates the theological and pastoral ministry that is incumbent to a religious organization. If we start with returning our bishops to their pastoral roles, restore an appreciation for the Sacraments, most importantly a love of the Holy Eucharist and a firm commitment that morality applies to both clergy and the faithful, we are at the start of a modern transformation of faith that will restore the Church’s credulity to the world.

 

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