Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Roman Catholic Church–Sins in Leadership

As someone born and raised Catholic, I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t open my musing with some catchy Latin phrase and so I present this little number that resonates strongly with me this morning:

Exercitus sine duce corpus est sine spiritu.

In English, it is translated as:

An army without a leader is a body without a spirit.

Any organization, whether it be focused on business, government, education, or religion, lives and dies based on the strength of its leadership.

And while Catholics seem worried that they need to seek a new leader for their faith, I think they should be more concerned that the leadership within the Church continues to reek of decay at all levels.

I was a young boy in Newfoundland when the Mount Cashel abuse scandal broke.  As the scandal spread to include many priests, including my own parish priest, Father Anthony Bennett (who was eventually murdered) and years later a family friend, Father Lorne Whelan (who was abused by these priests and eventually died by his own hand after years of mental torment), many of us who asked how this was tolerated were told that we were not allowed to ask questions of the Holy Church.

After a big outcry and demands for justice, a number of inquiries were held, including the Hughes Inquiry, and the Church promised to ferret out the taint that permeated their holy walls.

As the years went by and scandals broke in Boston, Ireland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and other places, it appeared that the Church was in fact not interested in restoring its holy nature as it claimed.

In fairness, it’s easy for some to claim that many of the abuse cases that occurred in these areas took place at the same time and so it would naturally take a while to purge the Church of all of its evil.

However, the comments that recently appeared in the press from Archbishop Jose Gomez in Los  Angeles demonstrates that the Church really doesn’t care about the evil within its walls.

It only cares about how we perceive it.

Archbishop Gomez succeeded Archbishop Roger Mahony who was ordered to step down when his role in the aiding and abetting of priests abusing children in Los Angeles was revealed.

Apparently, unless prevented from doing so, Archbishop Mahony has been welcomed as a participant of the College of Cardinals to select a new Pope.  It was this quote from Archbishop Gomez that caught my attention:

Gomez also stressed that while Mahony -- who has been under fire for oversight of priests accused of molesting children -- no longer has administrative duties with the diocese, he remains a bishop in "good standing

I am confident that Cardinal Mahony's accomplishments and experience in the areas of immigration, social justice, sacred liturgy and the role of the laity in the church will serve the College of Cardinals well as it works to discern the will of the Holy Spirit in these deliberations that will lead to the election of our new pope," Gomez wrote.

So a man who aids and abets child abusers is considered well-positioned and experienced to discern the will of the Holy Spirit in selecting a new leader?

Heaven help us … literally.

Now in fairness, perhaps, just perhaps, Archbishop Mahony has been reformed since his evil days.

Let’s take a look at a recent statement from Archbishop Mahony himself.  On his own blog entry from February 13, 2013, “Called to Humiliation”,  he makes this observation:

In the past several days, I have experienced many examples of being humiliated.  In recent days, I have been confronted in various places by very unhappy people.  I could understand the depth of their anger and outrage--at me, at the Church, at about injustices that swirl around us.

Thanks to God's special grace, I simply stood there, asking God to bless and forgive them.

So as he faces the anger and indignation of the many whom he hurt either directly or indirectly, he has the “courage” to FORGIVE THE VICTIMS for affronting HIM?

The fact that the College of Cardinals would even consider allowing this man to help “discern the will of the Holy Spirit” is a sign that the leadership in the Catholic Church is still filled with rot and that heinous acts (when caught) are more of an inconvenience than something that needs to be cleansed from the Church.

Meanwhile closer to home ….

I sat in on a meeting a couple of weeks ago while a single mother with three kids was told by a priest that she was a sinner because she had had her children out of wedlock.  I would think such a “sin” pales in comparison to the sins within the organization that no one seems as focused on solving.

Unfortunately it’s easier to pick on a single mom and bring the weight of a powerful organization against her than it is to look within, isn’t it?

Circling back to my home province of Newfoundland, I was told by a member of Opus Dei that they had the names of priests in the province, either practicing or retired, who are known by Opus Dei to be pedophiles.  However, they are not known to the police or to the communities in which they serve and live and since no one has come forward to point the finger, their secret remains safe.

For now.

They are ticking time bombs.  And when they go off, we will act surprised as we always do.

When I attempted to determine who these priests are so that I could report them to police, my efforts were met with comments like “I will pray for you in your moment of angst”.  The comment was made by someone who knows who the priests are.

Instead of helping me seek justice, they prefer to hold on to the names for now while attempting to make me feel like I am the one that needs help or guidance.

So the Church’s claims of transparency, courage and honesty around restoring holiness to its walls are a sham.

But there is in fact a larger sham taking place.

It is in the billion-plus people who turn a blind eye to the never-ending stories that continue to emanate from an organization that claims to offer a conduit to living a holy, fulfilling Life in preparation for a better Life after this one. 

Maybe instead of worrying about living a better Life after this one, we should worry more about helping people live better lives here on Earth right now, which includes not only doing good things but preventing bad things to the best of our ability.

As Simon Wiesenthal said:

For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.

Unfortunately, bringing the Church to this level of accountability and responsibility will take much stronger leadership than the Catholic Church appears to have right now (or has had for some time).

A Great Correction is upon the Church

In the 1950’s, the province of Alberta in Canada razed many buildings that were infested with rats.  It was the easiest way to remove a widespread, hazardous threat that could not be removed by attempting to address individual threats “here and there”.

The Roman Catholic Church appears headed for a similar type of cleansing.

Whether it comes as a result of the inspired guidance of their leadership (highly unlikely), at the hands of the devout (also highly unlikely) or it just collapses from within remains to be seen.

Perhaps when those who have the taint of abuse on their hands meet to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in selecting a new Pope, they can add this question to their list – how do we heal ourselves?

Maybe they already did and in the spirit of transparency (or not) they have chosen to bury this knowledge also.

As the Church likes to tell its followers:

Stipendium peccati mors est. Mors certa, hora incerta.

The reward of sin is death.  Death is certain, its hour is uncertain.

And while the Church’s leaders like to tell us this from the pulpit, they should realize that it applies equally well and probably more so when the finger is pointed within.

Many of the devout say that prayer alone will easily solve this.  However, I defer to James 2:17 (NIV) when presented with such a rationalization for a spirit of apathy, indifference, lack of action and lack of courage:

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

A desire to make the world a better place is demonstrated through action.

How are your efforts to make the world a better place coming along?

How do you know?

Pax vobiscum.


Addendum – February 19, 2013:

On June 29, 1972, Pope Paul VI made this observation:

“Riferendosi alla situazione della Chiesa di oggi, il Santo Padre afferma di avere la sensazione che «da qualche fessura sia entrato il fumo di Satana nel tempio di Dio». C’è il dubbio, l’incertezza, la problematica, l’inquietudine, l’insoddisfazione, il confronto.”

Translation: “Referring to the situation of the Church today, the Holy Father says he has the feeling that "from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God." There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, anxiety, dissatisfaction, confrontation.”

According to Bishop-Accountability.org, it is estimated that 10% of the US Catholic clergy are pedophiles (20 times the estimated average amongst citizens-at-large). In Ireland, the average occurrence in the priesthood is 30 times the estimated average amongst citizens-at-large and in Australia, it is 200 times the estimated average amongst citizens-at-large.

Imagine the outcry that would result if an equivalent percentage of teachers were considered to be pedophiles and it were discovered that school superintendents, trustees and the like had worked hard to conceal that fact. 

It doesn’t sound like the Church has made much progress since Pope Paul VI’s public admission over 40 years ago, does it? 

Then again, maybe it’s not meant to make positive progress.  Perhaps its fate has already been decided.  If so, maybe at some point in the future the Church will have a chance to be reborn as the real conduit for God’s grace and love that it claims to be today.

Meanwhile it appears that most or all of the prosecution of Archbishop Mahony will fall by the wayside, the process being a victim of various statutes of limitation.  It seems a curious paradox that we can continue to prosecute Nazis for their heinous acts of 65+ years ago while the atrocities of men from 25 years ago, men whose victims still live with the torment of their experiences, will mostly go unpunished.

Where is the justice?

More importantly, where is the love as expressed by an institution that claims to be sharing God’s love and inviting others to experience it also?  If the institution’s leadership can’t demonstrate it, perhaps they need to learn by our example … if we have the courage to set that example.

Addendum – February 22, 2012

The Church continues to be rocked by scandal, including this report this morning alleging blackmail of gay priests within the Vatican hierarchy.  Allegedly, Pope Benedict resigned immediately after reading the report he commissioned after the Vatileaks scandal last year and the commissioned report was immediately locked in the papal safe to be seen only by the next Pope.  Transparency within the Church is the only path to healing and a brighter future for the Church.  That being said, correction comes – whether wilfully at one’s own hand or by someone else’s.


  1. Mr Tucker,

    The greatest threat facing the Mother Church is not the acts of priests as you say.

    The greatest threat facing the Mother Church are people like you who seek to undermine the will of God and His right arm the Church.

    These children represent immoral parents. If they had not led the priests on these priests would not have fallen. They are only human after all. Archbishop Mahony is a hero, attempting to hide priests from the immoral actions of these children and a law enforcement that would side with these manipulators because they are children.

    The children are the tools of Satan. We must do what we can to pray for our priests so that they can resist the charms of Satan as he seeks to destroy the Mother Church.

    I will pray for you also that you learn that your evil words against the Mother Church will not be acceptable to those who know the beauty of the Mother Church. Satan works his deeds through people like you.


    Agnes D.

    1. Agnes,

      I remember back in the early 90's when I was discussing the Mount Cashel orphanage debacle and our secretary at the time in NYC, a Miss Carol R., had a similar position to yours.

      When I discussed the need for the Church to be on top of this, Carol, a VERY devout Catholic, told me that it was obviously the fault of the children. She explained that if they hadn't kept the crimes secret for so long, it would have been discovered much sooner and therefore the scope of the issue was clearly entirely the fault of the children.

      My disagreement with her theory was met with her prompt announcement that it was people like me who represented the Anti-Christ and that the Church must work harder to silence people like me.

      When I hear from people like her and you, I see why the Church has been allowed to say one thing and do another .... it is because of supporters like you who support ignorance and criminal behavior blindly and unconditionally.

      Don't bother praying for me. Pray for yourself ... you appear to need it more than I do.

      Take care,