Tag Archives: Cardinal McCarrick

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Blemished

My face is a mess. Overexposed for years in the California sun, it now looks like rugged desert terrain, baked red by heat. I am undergoing a harsh chemical treatment that surfaces precancerous blotches. Hidden no more, these sores must face the light, scab, and fall away with the advent of new skin.

Vanity aside, I am glad to be monstrous for a time. How else will I heal?

Our Church’s face has become monstrous too. I tremble at the deposing of now ex-Cardinal McCarrick whose charismatic persona charmed and seduced countless young men. Everyone loses here. A recent book on praying for priests begins with the author—a devout woman–gushing over McCarrick’s nearly perfect homily as he kicked off the Year for Priests in 2009. How devilish the divided heart; how deadening for the devout.

So we pray. For this convert, it means laying aside childish dreams of the Church; it means looking at her through adult eyes, seeing her blemishes while beholding her underlying beauty. That takes work. I am convinced that we can discern the truth of sin, artfully dodged by big guys that we should be able to trust, while not allowing that sin to destroy our vision of what she can be. The truth: she needs our prayers and discernment. If I forsake her, she will suffer. I suffer too. Sick with sin—McCarrick’s, mine, ours–I must spit up my waste and eat Jesus. Strange: at her ugliest, I need Jesus’ presence from her more than ever. We are one. Head and body cannot be split.

What do we pray? First for sheep partaken of by shepherds: may the abused be respected, heard, and restored. By a miracle of mercy, might the house of horrors become for the wounded a home that heals?

Secondly, discipline for those who abused. The main way we liberate healing for the abused is by verifying that in truth (s)he was abused, the abuser committed a criminal act, and both the Church and the state are holding him accountable for what he did. For once I agree with the NY Times editorial board: ‘Priests who are credibly shown to abuse children should be thrown out of the pulpit and identified to civil authorities; bishops who cover their actions should be laicized and exposed, and the order to do so must come from the pope.’

We in Kansas City have the backhanded honor of being the first diocese in world history to have its bishop investigated by a grand jury for mishandling a priest mucking around in kiddy porn (now in jail). Though good Bishop Finn wasn’t fired by the pope, he was compelled to resign in 2015. Our own diocese served as a testing ground for the state refining the Church. Let us pray that the Church will act before the court must! We can pray that the pope will unite the global Church to discipline abusive shepherds and their protective bishops. Anything less re-wounds abused sheep. No more chatter on the horrors of abuse. Action alone speaks now.

Yet we have a deeper problem that includes but is not limited to child endangerment: pastors who forsake vows of chastity and engage with consensual adults. What’s the big deal, you ask? They’re only human, eh? Does it really hurt anyone? Consider this spiritual incest–a father making a son or daughter his lover. Is it not obvious how this undermines our trust and moral fortitude?

Scripture and Church teaching hold us to holiness–a high standard for happiness in the sexual realm. Shepherds who sidestep their own vows mock this standard—chastity–and the Holy One. Sexually divided priests defile us all by rendering chastity an option when it is God’s call upon every human being.

So third, let us pray for the grace of repentance for our shepherds. Pray for safe opportunities for them to return to the One who can restore hearts and boundaries. Prayer frees us to act and to hope again. After all, we are conversing with the Lord of all! That action may well begin with our turning back to Him where we have grown dim and disillusioned, compromised in our own right.

And we can pray with discernment. Let’s look at the blemished face of Jesus’ bride and love her as ‘gently as doves, as wisely as serpents’ (Matt. 10:16).
As we do, we can be assured that God hears our prayers and will act. After all, He ‘gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by washing with water though the word, to present her to Himself as a radiant bride, without spot or wrinkle or any blemish, holy and blameless.’ (Eph. 5: 25b, 26)

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Little Monsters

The ongoing outing of men acting badly (Les Moonves of CBS, new evidence against Weinstein, Cardinal McCarrick and his cronies, hundreds of American priests who abused in the second half of the 20th century) may tempt us more to disgust than self-examination. I refer here to my brothers who may not be big players in the Catholic hierarchy or media but who are familiar with sexual disintegration—ways we have squandered our powers of life and love.

The cycle is all-too-familiar: high stress, low significance, mounting pain, decreasing words, sensational pleasure, greater shame, riskier business, escalating shame, huge-consequences-if-caught, SILENCE. Until exposed. Then the glare of public scorn burns off hope of restoration.

We may never have coerced another person sexually but our sins of omission and commission have doubtlessly wounded others. And fractured our dignity. We thank God that we are not felons yet we share in the wound of corruption common to men, disordered desire which results from mistaking random sexual release with power. Then the delusion: ‘it’s what I need’, or ‘(s)he likes it.’

This is especially tragic when paired with religion. Many of the abusive priests were orthodox in their understanding of purity. They just failed to become what they believed. Mastered by lust and shame, they learned to compartmentalize, to live elsewhere, to tune out the lament of a dying conscience and conjure an unreal world. Then religion becomes part of the defense against reality. I dreamt last night of a priest who wrapped himself tightly in scholarly and spiritual vestments; instead of guiding or cleansing him, these garments protected then mummified him, hastening a shameful death. ‘If religion does not make you better, it can make you a whole lot worse’, to quote C.S. Lewis.

What good purpose can these monstrous sins have? They can reveal our little monsters, men, and invite us to do urgently and persistently what Weinstein and Moonves and McCarrick never did: we can expose ourselves before the throne of grace and receive grace to help us’ (Heb. 4:16) so that our little monsters stay small and cease to govern us. Rather, we tame them, and learn to direct our sexual energies in alignment with the dignity afforded us by God and His friends.

We must be the first to confess our sins, to reveal our monsters before we are silenced by shame and dwell in darkness. Presumption and pride fall away, and the narrow way which leads to life becomes lit for our brothers. That is precisely what we as men accomplish together in Living Waters. We live in the light of mercy for 6 months of daily accountability; connection rather than shameful isolation begin to define our lives.

In the shaking, the exposure of monstrous things, we can fall on the Rock before it falls on us.

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Muddy Mercy

Things just got a whole lot messier for the Church. Archbishop Carlo Mario Vigano—the papal ambassador to the US from 2011-2016–alleges that he made Pope Francis aware of Cardinal McCarrick’s homosexual abuses in 2013; further, Vigano claims that the Pope failed to discipline McCarrick until five years later (he was forced to resign in June) in part due to their strong political alliance: McCarrick advocated for Francis’ election to the papacy and the pope relied upon him significantly to oversee the American Church. If these allegations are true, Pope Francis should step down immediately. This could be the defining moment for a Church that repents in action.

There’s much I love about Pope Francis, especially his action toward the poor and displaced. But his unclear pastoral directives toward persons facing same-sex attraction have always unsettled me. I perceive him as a man who has been evangelized by winsome practicing homosexuals and won over. His legacy to ‘not judge’ persons with same-sex attraction paired with his counsel ‘to accompany’ them on their journey appears to be to a road going nowhere. Mercy without truth ceases to be mercy at all; it merely confirms people in their fractured, fruitless lives. And it leads to tolerating absolutely vile and inexcusable behavior in leaders. Francis judged McCarrick way too late.

Vigano’s report broke the morning I preached to a beautiful congregation in the San Fernando Valley. Given how the Church of Los Angeles lives in the face of the LBGT+ dragon, I emphasized the Cross: Jesus’ self-giving which commands repentance of any sexual expression that raises itself above His Lordship. Mercy flowed as many came forward to weep before the Crucified, including Kim, a 13-year-old girl wrestling with same-sex attraction who wondered whether or not she was a ‘lesbian.’ We prayed for her as with all others, confident of Jesus’ capacity to reconcile her to His best for her.

That church is a clear and cohesive witness of how mercy and truth meet. In contrast, my Roman Catholic Church is a house divided, if Vigano’s letter has any merit. He points out how homosexuality figures large into the current scandal, as most cases of clerical abuse involve male teens, not tots. Vigano also describes how Pope Francis with McCarrick’s help appointed American bishops with a ‘gay-leaning’ sensibility.

All this in a Church that has at its center a robust, life-giving vision of human sexuality: St. John Paul ll’s ‘Theology of the Body’ and the extraordinary role that Pope played in the Catechism in which he defines chastity as integration—reconciliation to our bodies, our genders, and our freedom when surrendered to Christ to offer ourselves purely and well to one another.

Where chastity is mocked by divided churchmen who lead the sheep in darkness, we must reclaim this dynamic vision of human sexuality and seek to live it with all His strength. We can assume responsibility and act upon what our gracious God has taught us, in spite of dodgy shepherds.

As for the shepherds, may Jesus Himself raise His sword over all priests, bishops, cardinals and popes who desecrate God’s children through abuse, its cover-up, and the promotion of pagan LGBT+ liberties that enslave little ones. I am praying for many to submit to Christ and to resign in the wake of this recent shakedown, including Cardinal Wuerl who allegedly knew of McCarrick’s wickedness for years and did nothing.

Unfaithful shepherds have brought us low. They must go. For too long shepherds have waved the rainbow flag over the sheep rather than teaching them to raise the Cross—Christ Crucified and lifted high–as the only means through which we can be reconciled to God’s good will for our sexuality.

Kim deserves better. I shudder to think of her in the hands of a McCarrick or even the confusing counsel of Pope Francis. She needs pure mercy, free from the muddy waters flowing from the Vatican. So do all the Catholic faithful whose trust has been undermined by secrets and LGBT+ lies.

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Betrayal

For the last month, I have been sickened by reports of ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s long history of sexual abusing male teens and adults; more deadening still is his denial of the allegations (how so when a diocese settled a couple of these cases years earlier?). Most crucifying are reports that some leaders around him knew of his atrocities and turned a blind eye.

Each Christian bears the shame of this. Those aware of the devastating impact of sexual and spiritual abuse bear more. How could a religious system betray her most vulnerable over and over again? The Church’s structure lends itself to cohesion (for which I am grateful) and cover-up (for which we must become stubbornly intolerant).

Scripture guides me here. As the McCarrick allegations unfolded, I completed a Bible study on the Gospel of St. Mark with my children, using a commentary written by Dr. Mary Healy, a Catholic biblical scholar whom I esteem as one of the greatest gifts to the Church today. St. Mark is the leanest of the Gospels and thus fails to soften much of anything. His account of the events leading up to the crucifixion broke me; I shuddered as demonized men abused Jesus rapid fire, relentlessly. He suffered betrayal on every side, as if dark forces had captivated all men and made them violently stupid. On the cross, Jesus’ only words conveyed forsakenness (‘Where are You, Father?’), ending in a death cry.

Thank God for the cross, the Father’s inner logic that boomerangs wickedness into divine power and wisdom! Yet in St. Mark, even Christ Resurrected is hidden from witnesses who are either too dull or too afraid to believe the Risen Jesus at all. Mary Magdalene ‘gets’ Him but her report to the disciples falls on deaf ears and blind eyes. And this from the Gospel I most associate with spiritual power: St. Mark’s blazing witness of the Word confirmed by signs and wonders.

St. Mark reveals the cross as God’s strength, glory just waiting to shatter the husk of clueless men. If God truly works through human impotence, then we the Church have given Him a lot to work with—the ex-cardinal whose dazzling gifts obscured a predatory double life, dutiful men who doubted their guts and settled on hiding gangrene rather than amputating it. To quote Pope Benedict: ‘In the Church, Jesus entrusts Himself to those who betray Him again and again.’

Eloquent and true. Yet humanly-speaking, how are we to trust the Church now? We must grieve for persons abused by clerics who cannot help but gag at pics of McCarrick gazing effusively at Pope Francis. And what about the innocent clerics who fight for chastity and who urge us to integrate our own, priests now complicit in the eyes of the public who see ‘cover up’ in every Roman vestment? We must cry out for the abused who need justice, and for clergy who should not be maligned because of a cowardly few. And for the unbelieving world who needs to know that the Church is not a secret, self-protective refuge for perverse men who enjoy the theater of religion. Rather, she is a beautiful Mother, served by amazing Fathers.

Power in impotence—the cross, the gist of the Gospel, St. Mark’s especially. And that is what we are beholding as Pope Francis, with the help of friends, acts decisively and strongly to no longer tolerate clerical abuse. He is wielding the surgical knife, as evinced by the resignation of 34 Chilean bishops last month who participated in an extensive cover-up of ongoing abuse, and the conviction of an Australian Archbishop on similar grounds. Most resoundingly, Pope Francis stripped McCarrick of his cardinal status and removed him from public ministry. That is huge, a first, and needs to become standard practice for shepherds who eat sheep or look the other way while others do.

A trustworthy Church? Yes, when she verifies the truth of abuse, disciplines abusers, while making every effort to heal the abused and ensure the sexual integrity of her leaders. Strength at work in weakness: our faith is founded on nothing less. We’ve miles to go. Still, when lived in her members, the cross on which God was betrayed overcomes the sting and stink of this most intimate human betrayal.

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