In the face of more horrendous revelations of clerical scandals, here are a few things that need to be kept in mind.
The State as the “Scourge of God.” In the past, when Christians were derelict in their duties towards Him, God punished them by various persecutions from outside, e.g., Attila the Hun (the original “Scourge of God”), the Vandals, the Barbarians, the Moslems, Genghis Kahn, etc. Such men and the invasions, persecutions, and devastations they wrought were recognized by Catholic bishops as God’s punishment on His sinful people. It is important to note in the present case that the “Scourge of God” — whichever one of the above we consider — did not distinguish between good and the bad Christians. While in God’s providence, they were a punishment for the guilty, in their own free-willed actions, they had different ends in mind and their violence was indiscriminate.
How does this last point apply to the current scandals?
Some are calling for District Attorneys and Attorneys General (hereinafter, DA’s and AG’s) all over the country to invade the “secret archives” that every diocese has in order to dig up all the clerical dirt and put the perverts to justice.
There are a couple of problems with this.
Every Diocese is canonically bound to have secret archives. A Google search reveals this short treatment of the subject with some helpful details. “Secret Archives” can be made to sound sinister, especially if a bad use is put to such things by evil or negligent men, but there are good reasons for them, as outlined in that article. Their purpose is not for protecting perverts. They are like ultra sensitive personnel files, only they include much more, like,
“…internal forum matrimonial dispensations (c. 1082), secret marriages (c. 1133), dispensations from impediments to orders (cc. 1047-1048), decrees of dismissal from religious life (c. 700) and documents relating to the loss of the clerical state by dismissal, invalidity of orders or dispensation (cc. 290-293). Also the records of canonical penal trials involving matters of morals are to be kept in the secret archive.
While some of these matters may be of interest to officials of the State (meaning federal, state, and local law enforcement), most would not be. Calling on these secret archives to be raided could have some bad results as well as the possible good results of criminal prosecution for genuine malefactors.
What would be the bad result?
Let’s consider two priests: Father X and Father Y. In this hypothetical, Father X is a homosexual predator and child molester who has committed numerous criminal acts (“criminal” in the civil as well as the ecclesiastical sense). Father Y is a good priest who has made enemies, owing to his irksome habit of telling the truth, no matter what, about Catholic Faith and Morals. Some of these enemies have written scurrilous letters against him, slandering him with false accusations of terrible crimes, because they know priests can be easy targets of such attacks.
As I understand it, all these letters could be (should be) in the secret archives. If they are all made public, without due process for the accused to clear their names, then many innocent priests could conceivably have their reputations tarnished. That is not justice.
Let us not forget that the modern State (in the form of the Nanny State) is not the Church’s friend.
Public School Teachers Have a far Worse Record. Life Site informs us that,
But according to Charol Shakeshaft, the researcher of a little-remembered 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”
Why do I bring this up? No, not to deflect attention from the Church to the public school system. I bring it up to show how selective DA’s and AG’s are in protecting innocent children. If they are going to raid the chanceries as a matter of principle, lets have them raid the public school personnel records, too, and those of the Boy Scouts of America, the healthcare industry, and all other institutions that care for the young in any way.
While we’re at it, why not have due process for the accused rather than just floating their names out in public?
The Problem is Homosexual, Mostly. Not all of the offenders are homosexual, but a super majority of them are: eighty percent, which only confirms the Church’s traditional wisdom of not admitting homosexuals into the priesthood or religious life. Even if not all the clerical predators are homosexual, homosexual bishops or chancery officials, being unnatural deviants themselves, are going to establish an atmosphere of sexual license where any perversion goes — a fortiori, “normal” fornication. Bishop Morlino gets it.
There Are Deeper, Spiritual Causes at Work Here. I treated this in a recent Ad Rem, Lessons to Learn from Clerical Scandals. The scorched earth policies of AG’s and DA’s dumping the names of numerous accused persons into the airwaves will doubtless have some good effects along with the bad (as other “scourges of God” did), but the problem will not be fixed until those deeper problems are addressed by the world’s episcopate.
The Diabolical is at Work. Among the spiritual causes I did not address in Lessons to Learn from Clerical Scandals is the diabolical. If it is true, as alleged by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, that sacred objects, including crucifixes, holy water and the Holy Eucharist Itself, were desecrated in the committing of some of these crimes against children and teens, then the sacrilege is compounded and we probably have the diabolical at work. Exorcisms of places where such crimes took place are advisable, just as are penitential acts of public reparation.
The Church Will Get Over This. As a supernatural organism, the Church will survive this. She will come through the crisis better and holier than she was before it. The tragedy is that many people have lost their faith, their innocence, their trust, and much more in the process. “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). Perhaps a large millstone should be erected, shrine like, in the courtyard of every seminary, and a required monthly meditation be made on that verse in its presence.
There is a Hell. Enough said about that.
Ultimately, pervert priests should fear God’s justice more than the Church’s own penal system, and Church’s own penal system more than they fear the State. That such is not the case is an enormous plague on our house.