There have been a lot of child abuse cases and sex scandals within the church among high ranking bishops/cardinals – how can this be if these bishops and cardinals are supposed to be the people closest to god, who are supposed to be gods representatives and chosen by God. I’ve heard so many people leaving the church because of this problem. What should we, as a Catholic say when facing this question?
Fr. Francis' answer:
The reality of so many cases of clerical abuse, even among bishops and cardinals, is a constant source of grief, and a counter-example of the Gospel. That this grave scandal has caused so many to lose heart and leave the Church, some even abandon their faith, points to the urgent necessity today for reform in the Church. Those who perpetrated these abuses, and those who supported or protected them by act or by cover-up should be brought to justice, and the loop-holes for how such repeated offenders could be admitted to the priesthood or elevated to higher office must be exposed and eradicated. At this point, not enough has been done yet and so we must continue to pray and advocate for renewal.
Part of the main difficulty with this issue is that both the Church and the world refuse to clearly say what it is: the crime is not Primarily pedaphilia, as the media would have us believe. If it were pedaphilia, we would have seen comparable number of cases of heterosexual abuses, but no, the main problem is homosexuality. The overwhelming majority of the cases are homosexual predatory offences. But the media would not say that and many bishops are afraid to openly acknowledge that because it is so politically incorrect. But that is exactly how deep the problem is: it is not just in the Church, but embedded deep in our culture. The offenders did not become homosexual predators after becoming priests. They have been encouraged in the culture even before they entered the seminary, because the world condone homosexuality as normal and good, and there are people in the Church who remained silent about it, and worse even teaching the same falsehood.
I am not saying that homosexuality will lead to homosexual predatory behaviour. No, not at all. But the clergy lives in a world of men. When someone with deep-seeded homosexual desire lives exclusively in a men-only environment, and this desire is not being treated but rather encouraged and condoned as a right, and this person is then ordained as a symbol of holiness and is given power and authority over a trusting flock, one can see where this is going. Put it another way, we don’t put a heterosexual man struggling with chastity to live with a whole house of women. And if you constantly tell him that it is his right to act out his sexual desires and on top of it give him power and authority over the women, it should not be a surprise that he would take advantage of them.
Persons with deep-seeded homosexual desires need to be barred from the seminaries, and clergy need to receive therapy and removed from ministry. The so-called homosexual networks within the clergy need to be taken down and demolished. The false sympathy that leads to the liberality today of condoning homosexual relationship should have no place either in the schools and seminaries, nor at the pulpit and the confessional. Such falsehood is not compassion nor true. It is harmful and evil to Christ’s flock in our midst, and it jeopardizes their eternal salvation.
That so many of the bishops and cardinals were involved in these abuses, reminds us that the ordained are not different than the lay faithful, in that we are all in the same battle. Priests are not ordained because they are holier, nor bishops consecrated because they are holier. They are chosen simply because they are chosen to take up that particular task in the Body of Christ. On the plane of grace and in the battle for salvation, clergy and laity are on equal footage, both sinners and both graced as we choose to receive. Both are equally weak and both are equally entitled to the infinite graces available for growing in holiness.
Yet, because much has been given to them, much more will be expected from the clergy. The downfall of a leader brings on the downfall of the many he leads. Satan is having a field day taking down our bishops and cardinals. They are facing a fierce spiritual warfare, where their every weakness is constantly being exploited and attacked by the enemy. We must therefore pray for our clergy, especially our bishops, cardinals and our Pope, that they will stay faithful and not give any provision to their weaknesses.
While the sins of our leaders give scandal to the dignity and credibility of the Church, we in maturity must also learn not to take scandal. Our faith is not on human beings. Our faith is on God. Judas was chosen by Jesus too, yet our faith is not built on either Judas nor Peter, but only on Christ Crucified. We have faith in the Church leaders not because they are holy, but insofar as they speak the Word of God faithfully to us.
On the other hand, it is far too easy to lose heart when we focus on these scandals, many and flagrant they are. We must not forget that there are in our midst, down the centuries, an unbroken line of saints in our midst: those who were well-known and canonized, but Many more who lived a simple life, testifying to the gospel in the hidden mundane life around us. What we have seen in these scandals are evil and wrong. But if we were to judge the Church, let us judge her by her best examples, the saints among us, and not by the small percentage of judases, whose own salvation we must also pray for.