On Faith and Morals

I read something in the June 30, 2002 edition of the San Antonio Express-News that broke my heart. I had been working on a post having to do with the way the Albany, New York diocese had managed to pay a large sum of money to an alleged victim of priestly sexual abuse without having to secure the approval from any diocesan agency when I read the local story.

The story, written by a freelance writer Barbara Renaud-Gonzalez, appeared on the first page of the Op-Ed section of the newspaper. Renaud wrote the article after she was contacted by the elderly sister of a now-deceased man whom she claimed had been raped by the priest he had gone to for help and counsel when he was 12-years-old. As a consequence of the rape, the boy's life changed. That same year, he became a heroin addict. The sister commented concerning the priest's rape of her brother; "It is like being betrayed by God himself."

I abandoned the Albany project and started thinking about the many priests who have been able to gain sexual access to children and adolescents.

Since the sinful behavior of some Catholic priests in America drew the attention of the news media earlier this year, there has been a steady flow of new revelations on the subject. The news media may be having a field day reporting on the allegations of sexual impropriety within the community of Catholic priests and religious, but it is old news.

Some years ago, when I started my campaign to expose the dirty linen of the Roman Catholic Church online, many agitated Catholic laymen, and not a few priests and religious, swarmed to defend the Catholic Church. Though I documented my findings, often from Catholic sources, no Catholic apologist that I encountered seemed willing to accept the clear truth that Mother Church's skirts are soiled by the corruption and immorality of members of her priestly class. Granted, a small number of those who stood up for the RCC had reluctantly conceded that a very few priests and religious may have been guilty of moral lapses, but they were quick to stipulate that these represented a miniscule percentage of the total Catholic religious community.

Catholic outrage surged with every posting that pointed to the corruption and immorality that has been endemic within the priestly and religious classes of the Catholic Church almost since power-hungry bishops of the Christian church at Rome first began their strivings to establish Roman hegemony over all the church. They would claim that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ; that her first pope was the Apostle Peter; and that every pope has been a link in an unbroken chain they call apostolic succession going all the way back to Peter.

862. Just as the office which the Lord confided to Peter alone, as first of the apostles, destined to be transmitted to his successors, is a permanent one, so also endures the office, which the apostles received, of shepherding the Church, a charge destined to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops.'[LG 20 # 2.] Hence the Church teaches that 'the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ.'[LG 20 # 2.] — Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

Did you get that? “whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ.” That is a power statement if ever I read one. The message I get is that, whenever the pope or any other Catholic bishop speaks, it is Christ speaking through them. Now, I don't think Cardinal Ratzinger and the others on the Intercasterial Commission for the Catechism of the Catholic Church intended Catholic faithful to understand that EVERY word uttered by a Catholic bishop was to be considered to have come from Christ. Think about it. Should a Catholic bishop turn to a companion and say, "I think I'll have another beer," surely no one is going to receive those words as though they came from Christ. Or, just maybe, some might.

Surely, the teaching in paragraph 862 refers to utterances concerning faith and morals.

As most who read here likely know, the Catholic Church likes to put its brand on folks at an early age, often within just days or weeks of birth. Parents and godparents begin the process of inculcating Catholicism into the minds of children wearing Rome's brand as soon as they are able to understand. This training will continue when the child is in school. For the Catholic child who attends public schools, most of the training in the early years will still come from his parents and godparents, with Church-run classes later on. Whatever training he gets will be supplemented and re-enforced every time he attends Mass and listens to a priest's homily.

The child who attends Catholic schools will be taught, again and again, things that are intended to bind him to the Catholic Church with chains forged from fear. He likely won't be taught much about the Bible and its contents. What theology he is exposed to most likely will be designed to raise up the priesthood and strengthen its hold on Catholic faithful, whose hopes for eternity are largely dependent upon the 'sacramental' ministrations of priests. He will be taught that priests operate with the very authority of Christ Himself.

1548. In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:[Cf. LG 10; 28; SC 33; CD 11; PO 2; 6.]

It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).[Pius XII, encyclical, Mediator Dei: AAS, 39 (1947) 548.]

Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ.[St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 22, 4c.] —Ibid.

And if his priest acts in the person and authority of Christ, how much more power and authority must his bishop possess? Why he must be as God Himself. Mother Church appears to agree.

1549. Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers.[Cf. LG 21.] In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father.[St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3, 1: SCh 10, 96; cf. Ad Magn. 6, 1: SCh 10, 82-84.] — Ibid.

The Catholic pope being, as he is, above all other bishops, is the supreme authority within the Catholic Church.

882. The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, 'is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.'[LG 23.] 'For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.'[LG 22; cf. CD 2,9.]" — Ibid.

Makes for an interesting chain of command, don't you agree? Catholic priests act in the person of Christ and their bishops are like the living images of God the Father. Priests and bishops are subordinate to the chief bishop, the pope, who also acts in the place of Christ, as His vicar. In the United States alone, there are some 49,000 Catholic priests empowered to act in the person of Christ and a few hundred bishops who are like images of God the Father. Add to these numbers all the Alter Christi and apparent images of God the Father scattered around the globe and it is a simple matter to see how Catholicism has diluted the authority and dignity of the Godhead by the creation of tens of thousands of cheap imitations, a number of whom have been shown to behave in anything but godly ways.

The child raised in the Catholic Church, and in particular the child who is educated in Church-operated schools, lives in a world populated by figures of awesome power and authority. In addition to his parents, there may be nuns and or brothers, often dressed in a manner that declares their membership in the community of the RCC. When I was a kid, nuns all wore black gowns of medieval design that covered them from head to foot. What few monks or brothers I encountered wore floor-length robes of some coarse brown material, cinched by a white rope, knotted at the waist. For a small child, these teachers in churchly dress inspired respect born of awe. Or was it fear.

A nun could compel obedience with a flick of a thimble-armored finger to the temple or a sharp blow to the knuckles with the flat of her metal ruler. Being a man, although wearing strange garments, the brother usually could exercise control over a single child or a classroom without having recourse to paddle or sentences to isolation in the cloakroom.

When I was a kid growing up in the bosom of the Catholic Church, I knew that nuns and monks were special people, having consecrated their lives to holy living. I recognized their authority in the classroom and on the playground because they were teachers, not because I believed them to have been imbued with some special anointing that elevated them above the common herd.

The authority of the priest was different. The priest controlled religious life in the parish. He was the human link between Catholic faithful and our God. During the Mass, which in days before the Novus Ordo was rich in ceremony and mystery, the priest assumed a mantle of such great authority that he could bring the risen Christ down from Heaven to be present in church with us. The priest used his god-like powers to change a thin wheaten wafer and a cup of water and wine into the very body and blood of crucified Jesus. And then he broke Christ's body into pieces and offered Him up in a repetition of His immolation on Calvary, after which the priest consumed the broken body of my Savior and washed it down with the cup of His blood. No mere man, no matter how exalted his station, enjoyed such awesome power.

The priest, in his sacramental robes would then meet us at the communion rail. We of the Catholic laity who had made sacramental confession of our sins to this same priest and had received absolution and forgiveness from his hand waited in humility for him to place a consecrated host – again, the very flesh and blood of Jesus – on our outstretched tongues.

This priest, who could order the Son of God to come down from heaven; who could dispense forgiveness for our sins or relegate us to eternal damnation by withholding absolution, was a figure of incredible authority in our midst. I doubt that our parents or other adults held the parish priest in such awe as did we kids. They likely understood that he was but a man, albeit possessed of special authority that set him apart from other men.

That is what I was taught and believed as a child. Now that I am older and, I believe, in a saved relationship with our Lord, I know that what I was taught about the Catholic Church and her hierarchy were lies and misinformation.

When I was in elementary school, I shared with my friends what amounted to fear of our parish priest. He never struck me, though several of my friends could not make such a boast. He never attempted anything sexual with me nor, as far as I know, with any of my friends. I never heard even a hint of scandal concerning Father Greg; not from my friends nor in the presence of any adults of the parish. He was a harsh man who required children unaccompanied by their parents to sit in the front pews, and who would temporarily suspend the happenings at the altar to admonish someone in the congregation who might be out of order.

In the context of the Catholic Church, Father Greg probably was a 'good' man. Unfortunately, as has been made quite clear in the media, not every parish priest was like Father Greg. In some, perhaps many, parishes the priest who acted in the person and authority of Jesus Christ would use his position to convince an altar boy to permit sexual contact. I cannot imagine what arguments or enticements the priest might use to work his filthy will with such a child, but whatever they were, they would have been enhanced by the perceived involvement of Jesus Christ Himself. How could a child resist?

Do all priests represent a real danger to the safety of Catholic children? Of course not. I do not doubt that, within the ranks of the Catholic priesthood, there are many men honestly striving to live lives that are pleasing to God as they believe Him to be.

So, how is it that the priesthood has come to be infected with pedophiles, pederasts and others of aberrant sexual preferences? Is this something that has come about recently? Not at all. Throughout its long history, the Catholic priesthood has been infected with corruption and immorality that the Church seems to have been unable to conceal. Particularly notable are some of the acts of that supposed unbroken apostolic succession that can be traced, if you are a Catholic theologian, all the way back to Peter.

Pope Sergius III (904-911), obtained to his position as Vicar of Christ, not through the more usual process of being selected after prayerful consideration by other apostolic successors. Sergius opted for a more direct means. He brought about the murder of his predecessor, Pope Leo V, and that pope's chief rival, Cardinal Christopher. He was not the only murder to sit on Peter's Throne. Other popes kept mistresses, or enjoyed incestuous relationships. Pope John XII maintained a Harem in the Lateran Palace.

A perusal of church history will soon reveal that, in ancient and medieval times, popes, some bishops and priests acquired lands and palaces, amassed fortunes and lived lives marked by libertinism, all the while humbly serving the gods of Catholicism. What we see revealed in the news media today is but a continuation of a well-established pattern of aberrant behavior and official cover-up. In the words of the Preacher:

"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after." --Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

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