Up front, there is no excuse for the individual person who chooses to take actions that willfully, intentionally harm another person – child or adult – while claiming it is under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church. Any person who held or holds, maintained or is currently in a position of responsibility and/or authority must be willing and capable of confronting, addressing, and resolving any issue. That responsibility includes being morally, ethically, and spiritually strong enough to call out any other person for actions taken that are at odds with the Teachings of Christ.
The Teachings of Christ
We, as individuals, must also understand each aspect that makes up the Holy Roman Catholic Church and the situation that we are currently addressing. This begins with the Teachings of Christ. Jesus Christ taught all who would hear very specific aspects in relation to our lives. Those Teachings were simple, elegant, and profound:
- The Beatitudes which lead to our ethics and morality,
- God’s Love for Mankind,
- The Kingdom of God,
- Loving the Triune God, and
- Loving (platonically) our neighbor as we love ourselves.
It is through these Teachings we learn Love and Mercy for others, but it is also how we arrive at our Faith in Christ Jesus.
Consider for a moment that, at no time through any of the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of Paul, Peter, John, Jude or even Revelation is there any mention, let alone a recommendation that people are to be controlled or manipulated for personal gain by another. At no time was violence to be used against another person. Abuse was not referenced in any form other than that it is wrong. Indeed, neither Christ nor any of the New Testament writers articulate any method of use or abuse of others under the guise of a position of authority or power as being acceptable. In fact, it is made clear each of us who are “People of the Way”, now understood to be the Holy Roman Catholic Church, are to love another person out of respect for our selves. It also delineates to which our Faith is to be professed. Bluntly, it is not the edifice of a building, the sculpture representing a person canonized, or another human being here on Earth. Rather, our Faith is to be clearly articulated to the Triune God of the Father, Son and Holy (Ghost) Spirit through whom we gain the sustenance for our souls.
The People of the Church
This is easily the deepest, most involved aspect of any religion. That is because is addresses each person individually. All too often discussions of any situation involving numerous people devolves into “groups”. That happens because it is easier to comment about amorphous things than to focus upon each person and the actions of that individual. In most instances, that concept of a “group” develops the Fallacy of Composition in the argument where an assumption is erroneously made that something which is true of part of a whole must also be true of the whole. For example, we are in the midst of a situation where people are looking at the actions of the several hundred priests in the grand jury report released by the Pennsylvania AG albeit illegally. In the case of the recent BuzzFeed News article, we are reminded of “Leonille Racicot [who] became Sister James Mary. Jeanne Campbell [who] became Sister Jane of the Rosary…”
All too quickly it has become a presumption BY OUTSIDERS – and by some nominal Catholics – that the “entire Roman Catholic Church” is like this. There is a presumption that groups or organizations – whether societies, religious communities, dioceses, or the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church – has exposed the larger society and civilization to “these people”. What is lost is that we are still talking about individuals. We are still talking about the actions of each person. We are talking about the ineffective person or people who led and lead those groups and organizations. We are seeing a reality that individuals who were either known to be psychologically unstable or mentally deranged were allowed into the public. Or, we are discovering that when these individuals were identified, they were “reassigned” or “moved”. But the fundamental aspect is that we are talking about individual people, not groups. Thus, “groups” are not the root cause. It is NOT the Roman Catholic Church. Rather, it is the individual person who makes the conscious decision to act in a harmful, abusive manner. It is the individual person who ascends to positions of leadership, but are ultimately weak and unwilling to execute the responsibility that comes with the position who are to blame. It is the individual who becomes a ruler, desiring to inflict power, control and punishment upon others who need to be held accountable. In each instance, we are coming face to face with our fallen human nature. But in no case is this an excuse to either justify or obviate what we must confront, address, and resolve.
Whether we want to admit this reality or not, there is no such reality as a “group”. Why? For the simple reason that no two people hold exactly the same ideas. How is this possible? Consider this reality: we both claim to be Roman Catholic. Do we both agree completely with every statement, edict, and rule imposed by the hierarchy – the individual people who make up the Church here on Earth? I would say no.
Yet, do we abide by the Teachings of Christ as described above? In those instances, I would say probably. Yet there is still a difference because we are each individuals.
If we are to continue understanding this situation we must resolve, it requires us to understand ALL the people who are involved as the individuals they are. Understanding the person requires us to go beyond “just” the position in which that person is vested or placed. It requires us to understand the established responsibilities that connect with their position. It also requires us to recognize the fact that no one is put on a pedestal or suddenly granted a standing “just because”. Rather, that respect is to be earned, it is to be cultivated by each individual. Hence, each person – whether identified for convenience sake as a priest, religious, ordained, or laity – also have a responsibility in relation to the sundry aspects of our standing in society, culture, and the religion in which we profess to believe. That responsibility begins with each person abiding by the Teachings of Christ in our daily lives through our actions and involvement with others. It continues with how each of us apply our Faith to the responsibilities we are accorded in each part of our lives.
Consider for a moment, priests. We know that priests are “in persona Christi” – in the person of Christ – as they celebrate the Mass and consecrate the host and wine which we receive in Communion during the Mass. BUT, we must also understand that their actions in the larger world are those of an individual person as well. We, as Catholics, believe their ordination as a priest is to sanctify the person so when they pronounce the words within the sacramental rites of Baptism, Penance, The Eucharist, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, and Last Rites those words carry with them the Grace and Blessing of Jesus Christ. Yet within the everyday life of that individual, they still remain an individual who maintains the responsibility of abiding by the Faith they have professed.
So why did numbers of priests act in the manner defined, abusing children and adults alike? Why were these individual priests transferred or moved by the Cardinals or archbishops, or bishops? This begins with the reality that each person has failed in their position. For that, there needs to be a resolution. That resolution begins by confronting the actions taken by the person. It requires from them an accounting of what they did and why they would take such an action or actions in direct opposition to the Teachings of Christ, and the morals and ethics established within civilized society. Ultimately, the resolution is attained by applying judgement upon the individual who took the action AND a form of restitution to the aggrieved FROM THE INDIVIDUAL WHO INFLICTED THE SUFFERING. Whether we want to admit this or not, attempting to gain payment from any group for so-called “damages” by an individual person only inflicts harm upon those who did not harm – either directly or indirectly – the abused. In effect, all that is happening is further individuals are being harmed.
Consider now, the Religious. The Religious – nuns, sisters, brothers, friars, etc. – and seminarians and deacons also carry with them the added responsibility of abiding by the expectations placed upon them by the promises and vows each takes to live his or her life within the framework of Christianity within the society and culture of the civilization in which each one lives. Once more, it is the individual and his or her actions toward the outside world that must be seen and understood. The one who pursues the vows with respect for the others with whom they come into contact in the world follows through on the morality and ethics taught by Christ. It is when the person actively pursues the desire to gain standing or a position of power that they embrace the fallen human nature of which I wrote earlier.
While I always consider the period of time in which the actions took place, there is also a clear point at which corporal punishment will clearly cross into abuse to the point of torture. There is also a definitive reality in which each individual in a leadership position has the obligation to remove the individual religious immediately. The failure to do so speaks to the fact that each person involved was unfit to serve in the first place.
Although I have left us, the laity, for last, we are actually the most critical part of the Roman Catholic Church. That is because were it not for us, there would be no purpose for each of the priests who articulate Christ’s Teachings for us to understand in advancing to our life with Christ. Nor would their be any purpose for the religious to reach forth and present the morals and ethics that flow from Christ’s Teachings. We have been led to believe that, somehow, the individual person of the priest and religious in our lives is to be held in such esteem and near fealty that we are unable to express the clear short-comings to outright wrong we find in their actions. There is definitely an established respect for each person and what they have attained through the actions they have taken during his or her life. But we, as logical, rational, learned individuals also have the responsibility to apply Christ’s Teachings to what we see and experience with other individuals. Those individuals include the priests of the Church and the religious who are to represent Christ here on Earth through their statements and their actions.
The Actions of Us All
With this in mind, it is imperative we come to a clear understanding of the actions, the words, and the encouragement we provide to each other. Most critically, we as a people of Faith and Belief in God must also understand just who, as much as what, the Roman Catholic Church is in the world today. To do that, we need to recognize the Teachings of Christ as being distinctive from the people who administer and, in some ways, abuse the followers of Christ. I would argue that each person who has used their positions within the Church for corrupt, exploitative personal desires are not Catholics in any form. Rather, they have chosen to actively desecrate the Teachings of Christ for their own personal advancement, their own psychologically and emotionally perverse states of mind. Certainly, it is frustrating, angering, and emotionally draining to see just how many people – priests, religious, ordained, and laity – have betrayed the Teachings of Christ for their own purpose. But are we then to walk away from the Teachings of Christ because of the actions of someone other than Christ Himself?
This may be a stumbling block for many. Yet that distinction I made earlier needs to be restated: “The Church” is the Body of Christ here on Earth made up of individuals who have agreed to follow the Teachings of Christ. Our “following” of “The Church”, though, is not that of the people in the administration of “The Church”. Rather, it is our individual responsibility, first, to follow Christ’s Teachings in our daily lives. We, as the current generation who are “People of The Way” – now known as Roman Catholics – need to delineate our view of daily life. Are we going to look at so-called “groups” which can never be defined completely? Or are we going to more logically, rationally evaluate each person based upon their own actions who took those actions for their own purpose instead of supporting and advancing the Teachings of Christ within the lives of each Roman Catholic?
As a frame of reference, what we are experiencing today, now, is not new. It can be found in both the secular world and the Catholic world in different periods of time. Christ saw it happening among the pharisees and leaders of the Temple in Jerusalem. St. Peter Damian, a Doctor of the Church in the 1000’s, wrote about this very same topic in the book “The Book of Gomorrah.” None of these previous periods of time justify what we are currently having to confront. Yet, were we to take time and study these instances, we would also re-learn and be able to address these situations with as much skill, if not more, were we to apply our combined knowledge and, ultimately address and resolve these serious matters.
To this end, I would encourage each person to read and comprehend the contents of Paul A. Rahe’s article, “Prelates and Pederasts” found in Ricochet. This provides a historical reality of what we, as the laity, need to understand and act against. It reinforces the point made early that we need to address the actions of individuals, not a faceless “group”. Though group names are assigned to the actions taken such as “Lavender Mafia” (which is well-known), it is up to us to uncover our eyes and identify the individuals who have infiltrated the Roman Catholic Church, expose them for who they are and what they do, and purge them from the ranks of the Body of Christ.
Remaining Faithful to Christ Means Remaining Faithful to the Body of Christ Here on Earth
As much as we need to see and understand the actions of each individual as separate and distinctive, we must also see and understand how each one of us comes together to build the Body of Christ here on Earth. We are not, cannot, live as hermits with finite knowledge about Christ’s Teachings. Nor can we, as made in the image and likeness of God, claim not to need the wealth of Spiritual Feast we receive from within the healthy Roman Catholic Church. Yet that spiritual wealth and health is found from within each person who is Faithful to God in three parts living as one.
At one time or another, doubt will enter the mind of a person as to the value of belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. It is inevitable. We may state outwardly that it is from a sudden personal tragedy. Or we will use situations such as what is being discussed here as justification for leaving the Church. We may claim it is because we “no longer believe in what is being taught”. Sometimes the excuse is that we are tiring of being part of the Church, the Body of Christ. What we are doing, however, is covering up for the real reason affecting our self and our spirit: coercion away from Christ by the Devil.
As discouraged or despondent we may be at any given time, what we cannot do is to lose Faith in Christ. We cannot allow the emotions that are so loud in today’s world overwhelm the whisper of Christ to “come follow Me”. In fact, it is that faint, persistent whisper that encourages us to become even more closely aligned with the Roman Catholic Church to propagate the Teachings of Christ to the world. It is that whisper to “come follow Me” that urges us, encourages us to be what strengthens the Church, the Body of Christ in the world.
Ultimately, remaining Faithful to Christ means remaining Faithful to the Holy Roman Catholic Church – the Body of Christ – here on Earth.
In closing, by no means is this commentary perfect; I do not intend it to be. But I do mean to present a delineation to begin understanding the difference between the Teachings of Christ and what each person who has been called out for doing in abusing their position of leadership over these past several weeks and in this article.
Perhaps all of this can best be encapsulated in what a friend of mine posted:
When asked how he can remain a Catholic after all that has been exposed, he replied, “One does not abandon Jesus because of Judas.”