Doubtless, you have read any number of the articles circulating concerning the sexual abuse scandal that has visited our Church. It is hard for me to handle the emotions that I am experiencing over the detailed report that was released on August 14 for six dioceses of Pennsylvania. While many of the stories are horrific, and the suffering of these victims unquestionably intense, it is the fact that the abusers were allowed to continue their work for many years that has most shocked me.
However, this article is not written to discuss the horrors, because I believe there are quite a few of those already in print. My thoughts, rather, are directed to the leaders of the Church that I am a part of. My thoughts go to the priests and religious brothers, some of whom I am friends with and know well. My words are meant for the bishops of our Church, some of whom I have worked for in the past and some of whom I would say are holy men of God.
Your Church, and mine, is under attack. You, the men given the character of ordination, are the ones who are called to defend her. You must. You must fight for her with your very lives. You must lay down your pride, your esteem, your power, your prestige. You, and you alone, are the shepherds of this time, and your sheep are scattering. Your sheep are broken, wounded and lost. Your sheep have been betrayed. Some of you have been unaware, it is true, that there were wolves masquerading as shepherds. Some of you truly did not know that there were sheep being offered up on the altars of sensual idolatry and lust. Some of you did.
What has taken place is not what we read from the time of Christ, when he sees the lost flock of Israel and says that “they are like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). Rather, the Church is currently full of sheep who do have shepherds. Shepherds who need to do some shepherding. First and foremost, they need to get rid of the wolves!
I have been a member of the Catholic Church since I was a few months old. I have loved her all of my life. I have studied her teachings, worked in her missions, served in her churches, and I am now striving to raise my children to love her too. However, I also know the pain of abuse. I have seen friends walk away from the Church, and from faith in God, because of the abuse of clergy. I have seen families broken by this evil. I have heard their question ring in my ears, “If God is really love, how could he allow this to happen? How could he allow him to be a priest?”
The priests, brothers, deacons, and bishops who are still shepherds and not wolves find a Church full of sheep who are limping, bleeding, and badly in need of protection. It is now or never. You must defend her! You must root out the evil of these wolves and eradicate it from the Body of Christ. You must speak boldly to your people about this evil. You must assure them that you are determined to protect them. Where are the defenders of the faith in this generation? It is time to stand up! It is time to challenge the hierarchy of the Church to put on the sackcloth and ashes. It is time for a Year of Penance. It is time for serious fasting, for real humility, for Chaplets of Divine Mercy and rosaries. It might even be time for hair shirts and sleeping on stone floors.
I write this on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and the first reading recounts the vision of St. John, with the woman giving birth while the great Dragon waits to devour the child. We know that Christ is not devoured, and has already been triumphant. However, the full triumph has not yet come to earth, and the Devil is busy doing his best to see the Church broken and destroyed. We need another Saint George, one to take up the banner and sword against this evil serpent. Except, we need many St. Georges, and the banner and sword are penitence and boldness.
Shepherds, tuam memento mori, remember your death. You have been charged with great responsibility – the care of these souls who belong to the Church Christ established over 2,000 years ago. Your obligation is great. You must give an answer for what you have done for Christ’s Bride. Satan has never rested. His work to corrupt this Church is evident. Who will offer him resistance? It must begin with you. Slay the Dragon!