Defrock Them All

Any cleric or monk who seduces young men or boys, or who is apprehended in kissing or in any shameful situation, shall be publicly flogged and shall lose his clerical tonsure. Thus shorn, he shall be disgraced by spitting in his face, bound in iron chains, wasted by six months of close confinement, and for three days each week put on barley bread given him toward evening. Following this period, he shall spend a further six months living in a small segregated courtyard in custody of a spiritual elder, kept busy with manual labor and prayer, subjected to vigils and prayers, forced to walk at all times in the company of two spiritual brothers, never again allowed to associate with young men.  
~St. Basil the Great

The latest news to break after the revelations surrounding the evil Theodore McCarrick (he is no longer a cardinal): 300 predator priests have been identified by an independent organization in Pennsylvania alone. These allegations go back a few years, which is little comfort to the likely thousands of victims who were abused by these men.

I thought this was over. Before the McCarrick news, the biggest story of clerical abuse regarded Australian Vatican official George Cardinal Pell, the accusations against whom are not entirely credible. Certainly, an investigation should have happened (and was happening), but it was nothing like how it was in the early 2000’s. Now, the laity are thrust back into the fray as credible allegations rain down about one of the highest ranking men in the hierarchy, with more coming out almost every day.

I am positively incensed. I am tired of the institutional church’s complete incompetence. I pray that it is merely incompetence, and not something more sinister. I weep for the victims, and rage at the perpetrators. But my most fervent ire might be directed toward the men who concealed the crimes of their fellow priests and bishops.

When the McCarrick story broke, it was suddenly revealed that “everyone knew.” Priests as prominent as Father James Martin openly admitted that they had heard rumors regarding McCarrick; Martin’s defense for not coming forward was that the rumors were not credible.

Really, Father? When you heard a rumor that a high-ranking Church official had been sleeping naked with seminarians, that didn’t set off any alarm bells? What about when you heard that he invited them to a private house to spend some time with him? And I’m sure you never caught wind of the news of him molesting underage boys, right? Give me a break.

The fact that a priest with as much influence as Father Martin did not feel the need to come forward speaks volumes about the rest of the cowards who have been given the charge to shepherd the flock. I know that is an unfair generalization, but right now, I don’t really care. The charitable reading of this is that most priests don’t feel comfortable coming forward because of retaliation; others might have tried but been shut down by the corrupt hierarchy surrounding them. But the fact remains that men like McCarrick have been aided and abetted by too many clerics for too many years. Something has to give.

A full, outside investigation must be launched. It must be launched as soon as possible, preferably by the FBI. I almost agree with Michael Brendan Dougherty that a ban on ordinations should be put in place until the Holy See cleans house, and cleans it well. And in my anger, I am ready to call for Pope Francis to demote each and every member of the ineffective, cowardly, impotent, embarrassment of an organization that calls itself the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Clearly, the pathetic Dallas Charter has changed nothing. The bishops are just as complacent and just as complicit now as they were 20, 30, or 40 years ago.

It’s time for a seismic shift in the Roman Catholic Church. It’s going to be ugly. Our faith might be shaken. Surely, many will leave for good. But the light must be shone upon the rot within. The evil must be exposed and cut out, no matter how bloody it gets.

If it means removing the clearly-undeserved appendation “the Great” from Pope St. John Paul II’s name, so be it. If it means shutting down some historic parish, or breaking up a long-revered diocese, so be it. If Pope Francis has to personally defrock every single priest who knew an iota about any abuse, it must be done.

Excuses, blame-shifting, and claims of ignorance are no longer satisfactory. Without epic changes in Church policy regarding abusive priests and bishops, dealing with victims, and screening processes for ordinations, the problem will continue. Abuse is an epidemic within the Church; we must take drastic measures to kill it before it consumes us.

Listen, you do-nothing superiors of clerics and priests. Listen, and even though you feel sure of yourselves, tremble at the thought that you are partners in the guilt of others; those, I mean, who wink at the sins of their subjects that need correction and who by ill-considered silence allow them license to sin. Listen, I say, and be shrewd enough to understand that all of you alike are deserving of death, that is, not only those who do such things, but also they who approve those who practice them. ~St. Peter Damian

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