The sexual abuse crisis is one of the greatest scandals in the history of the Catholic Church. Wicked clerics have violated the trust of the laity to such a degree that it will take generations for this trust to be restored. What’s worse, bishops covered-up the abuse, thereby enabling abusers to continue their crimes for years.
The most infamous case by far is that of Theodore McCarrick who rose to be one of the most powerful churchmen in the United States, if not the world. In 2018, when McCarrick’s crimes became public, people began to realize the abuse crisis was not behind us.
Instead of dealing swiftly with the McCarrick scandal, the Vatican delayed his laicization for nearly 8 months. In the midst of this period, the Vatican interceeded in the USCCB’s plan to address the sexual abuse scandal in the United States. It then announced that there would be a worldwide sex abuse summit scheduled in February 2019.
Just prior to the abuse summit, the Vatican announced the laicization of McCarrick and promised to release the files which documented his history of abuse. But months later, these files have still not been released.
Little came from the 4 day abuse summit and what did has been slow to be implemented. Contrast this with the 3-week Synod on the Amazon Region held in October of 2019. The Vatican devoted 5 times the number of days to addressing Amazonian concerns than was allocated for the sexual abuse crisis.
In the end, the abuse crisis is simply a symptom of a much deeper problem; the lack of supernatural faith among a large number of Catholic clergy.
The Catholic Church teaches that the four last things in life are death, judgement, heaven and hell (CCC 1020-1050). At the moment of death, each human person is judged by God based on his conduct in this life, and goes immediately to his reward or punishment. Moreover, at the end of the world, Jesus Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. At that time, God’s whole plan for the world shall be revealed, and his mercy and justice demonstrated.
Some clerics today appear to be attempting to modify these eternal truths of the faith. Bishop Robert Barron is well-known for stating that we have “a reasonable hope” that all men are saved. In a 2018 interview with his longtime atheist friend, Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis claimed that Hell does not exist and that condemned souls just “disappear.”
The most charitable action a Catholic can take is to proclaim the truths of the faith regarding the reality of Heaven and Hell.
The tradition in the Western Church has been for priests and bishops to take vows of celibacy, a rule that has been firmly in place since the early Middle Ages. While there are exceptions made in some cases such as a Uniate Eastern Rite priests and married Anglican priest converting to Catholicism, no celebrate priest is allowed to marry. Priestly celibacy is not a dogma but a disciplinary rule. Priests voluntarily opt for celibacy as “a sign of new life” (CCC 1579).
The synod fathers clearly and forcefully expressed their thought on this matter in an important proposal which deserves to be quoted here in full: “While in no way interfering with the discipline of the Oriental churches, the synod, in the conviction that perfect chastity in priestly celibacy is a charism, reminds priests that celibacy is a priceless gift of God for the Church and has a prophetic value for the world today. This synod strongly reaffirms what the Latin Church and some Oriental rites require, that is that the priesthood be conferred only on those men who have received from God the gift of the vocation to celibate chastity (without prejudice to the tradition of some Oriental churches and particular cases of married clergy who convert to Catholicism, which are admitted as exceptions in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on priestly celibacy, no. 42). The synod does not wish to leave any doubts in the mind of anyone regarding the Church’s firm will to maintain the law that demands perpetual and freely chosen celibacy for present and future candidates for priestly ordination in the Latin rite.
He added that the “unchanging” essence of ordination “configures the priest to Jesus Christ the Head and Spouse of the Church.” Thus, he said, “The Church, as the Spouse of Jesus Christ, wishes to be loved by the priest in the total and exclusive manner in which Jesus Christ her Head and Spouse loved her.”
The Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our Catholic faith. In no other sacrament do we receive the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.
In John’s gospel, Jesus summarized the reasons for receiving Holy Communion when he said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:53–58).
The Church encourages Catholics to receive frequent Communion and mandates reception of the Eucharist at least once a year during the Easter season. Before going to Communion, however, there are several things one needs to know:
Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Communion.
The Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI – as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts under them – all firmly opposed proposals to admit to eucharistic communion the divorced-and-remarried who do not observe continence. The 2016 Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, has been widely criticized for it vagueness regarding offering communion to the divorced and remarried. Indeed, the document has been interpreted by several bishops conferences to mean that those in the mortal sin of adultery by having been divorced and remarried can somehow received the Holy Eucharist. This is a grave error which leads persons to adding to their mortal sins instead of being reconciled to the Church.
The Catholic Church teaches that heresy is “the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same.” (CCC 2089). Heresy differs from apostasy in that apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith. The Catholic Church has had to deal with heretical teachings since Her very inception. Some of the major heresies in the Church’s history include Gnosticism, Arianism, Pelagianism , Nestorianism and Jansenism.
In today’s Church, we are seeing a resurgence in confusion and false teachings. Examples include Modernism, communion for the divorced and remarried, women clergy, the existence of Hell, the divinity of Jesus Christ and that God willed a plurality of religions. Several of these heresies have become evident in discussions surrounding the Amazon Synod.
The Catholic Church teaches that “the moral law is the work of divine Wisdom. Its biblical meaning can be defined as fatherly instruction, God’s pedagogy. It prescribes for man the ways, the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude; it proscribes the ways of evil which turn him away from God and his love. It is at once firm in its precepts and, in its promises, worthy of love.” (CCC 1950). The moral law stands in stark contrast to today’s popular belief in “moral relativism.” Moral relativism states that truth is always relative to the person and their situation.
Many within the Catholic Church have fallen prey to the seductive call of relativism. This has led to a serious crisis among certain moral theologians who have embraced the separation between will and act, resulting in a morality essentially free of the reality of sin, shot through with “sincerity” and coated in talk of “complexity.” In turn, some Catholics have concluded that “freedom” involves choosing for oneself what is true or false. Pope John Paul II addressed this misreading of truth and morality in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”), where he stated:
This view of freedom leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. . . . In this way, any reference to common values and to a truth absolutely binding on everyone is lost, and social life ventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism. At that point, everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining: even the first of the fundamental rights, the right to life. (par 20)
Christ’s Good News was, and still is, that salvation is possible for us all — however, those who wish salvation must repent of their sins. One cannot be repentant unless a real, objective moral law exists. Moral relativism makes repentance and forgiveness―both human and divine―not only impossible but useless. It follows that all moral relativists imperil their salvation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible (CCC 1577-1580).
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.
This infallible teaching has not stopped some from continuing to advocate for women’s ordination.
Confession is the means by which God forgives sins after baptism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion (CCC 1422).”
After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to his ministers, telling them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21–23).
Most Protestants and even some Catholics object to the sacrament of confession, asking the question, “why do I have to go to a priest for confession instead of going straight to God?” Jesus wants us to come to him when we fall into sin. He wants to bring us forgiveness so much that he gave the apostles the power to forgive sins. This power given to the apostles and their successors does not come from within them but from God.
The sacrament of penance is the most private of spaces; the penitent confesses sins to a priest who is acting in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). The seal of the confessional is absolute and guaranteed by the succession of multiple interlocking padlocks and tightly worded turnstiles within the Church’s own laws.
Our Lord Jesus Christ warned us that before His Second Coming, there would be a falling away from the Faith enabled by a great deception, a deception so convincing that even the elect themselves would fall for it if they were not specially prevented by God (see Matthew 24:3-25).
In 1973, Our Lady of Akita stated:
“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness.”
In 1977, Pope Paul VI stated:
“The tail of the devil is functioning in the disintegration of the Catholic world. The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, loss of faith, is spreading throughout the world and into its highest levels in the Church.”
Are we in the times of the Great Apostasy that has been foretold by saints, popes and our Mother Mary? While no one can be certain, there are certainly warning signs all around us.
Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Brandmüller have both described the Amazonian Synod working document as an Apostasy. A panel of lay leaders from around the globe conducte a 3-hour round table discussion just prior to the Synod in which they identified specific problems with the Synod working document.
Since the sins of apostasy and heresy are a grave matter, they are mortal sins and endanger a person’s salvation. Further, the person engaged in these sins may also incur automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication. Canon law says: “An apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” (CIC 1364)
Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told the apostles:
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
Beginning on Pentecost, the apostles did just that, and the work of evangelization continues to this day. It is a calling that has not changed over the years, as Pope Paul VI affirmed in his letter on “Evangelization in the Modern World.”
We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.
Evangelization is not an optional add-on. It is at the very heart of what it means to be Catholic followers of the Lord. Yet, in spite of this clear mandate, we may still be tempted to respond to this call to evangelization by saying that “Catholics evangelize with how they live their lives, not by our words.” We may even quote the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times; use words if necessary.” But this doesn’t mean that we can choose between proclaiming and witnessing the gospel, as if they both accomplish the same thing. Paul VI went on to explain in “Evangelization in the Modern World” the important interplay between word and witness in this way:
The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.