Bird's Eye View of the News, May 5, 2002
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On April 23, Pope John Paul II received the American Cardinals at the Vatican to deal with the pedophilia crisis that is rocking the Catholic Church in United States. At the opening meeting he pronounced these words: “Because of the great harm done by some priests and religious, the Church herself is viewed with distrust, and many are offended at the way in which Church’s leaders are perceived to have acted in this matter. The abuse which has cause this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God” (n. 1b). John Paul II further affirmed: “People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young” (n. 3b) (The Tidings, April 26, 2002).|
The statement that pedophilia is an “appalling sin” is not enough. It is very weak. It does not reflect the indignation of Catholic teaching against this moral depravation. The Pope’s generic affirmation that there is no place for pedophiles in the priesthood does not touch on concrete situations, and most probably it will not correct the problem very much.
The weak words of JPII on pedophile abusers did not meet the expectations of Catholics - Inside the Vatican, February 2003
In the immense majority of its occurrences, pedophilia in the clergy is a variety of homosexuality. But it is even more serious, because the man who induces a boy to sin commits: first, an act of profanation by destroying the innocence of a child; second, an act of cruelty since the victim is violated in his will and body; third, an act of cowardice because the boy does not have a proportional physical defense against a man; and fourth, it is an act of homosexuality, a sin against nature that cries out to heaven for vengeance. Therefore, all the condemnations the Church has made against homosexuality apply to the pedophile priests.
I am not even considering here the profanation of the sacred priestly condition that also and foremost occurs in the cases of Catholic priests who commit the crime of pedophilia. I am also not considering the profanation of the religious edifices where mostly these infamous acts take place.
St. Peter Damian (1007-1092) is considered one of those who placed in motion the Gregorian Reform in the Church, which dealt with moral transgressions that were taking place at the time among the clergy. Even if the primary problems were simony, the sale of religious privileges or positions, and nicolaism, priests or religious who lived with women as concubines, there were some rare occurrences of homosexuality. This was why he wrote the Book of Gomorrha against this vice and offered it to Pope St. Leo IX, who praised it. It is considered the main work on the topic in Catholic teaching. You can find the letter of that Pope and more details in the Appendix on Homosexuality of my In the Murky Waters of Vatican II. In its conclusion I quoted several texts of St. Peter Damian. I transcribe here some of his words as an example of a different language spoke by a great saint employed to exterminate the same problem, although in smaller proportions, that we are facing. St. Peter Damian stated:
“This vice strives to destroy the walls of one’s heavenly motherland and rebuild those of devastated Sodom. Indeed, it violates temperance, kills purity, stifles chastity and annihilates virginity ... with the sword of a most infamous union. It infects, stains and pollutes everything; it leaves nothing pure, there is nothing but filth ... This vice expels one from the choir of the ecclesiastical host and obliges one to join the energumens and those who work in league with the devil; it separates the soul from God and links it with the demons. This most pestiferous queen of the Sodomites [which is homosexuality] makes those who obey her tyrannical laws repugnant to men and hateful to God ... It humiliates at church, condemns at court, defiles in secret, dishonors in public, gnaws at the person’s conscience like a worm and burns his flesh like fire...
If some liberal wants to say that St. Peter Damian did not consider the possibility that the homosexual could convert, I can assure him that he did. Other parts of his book are clear about that.
“The miserable flesh burns with the fire of lust, the cold intelligence trembles under the rancor of suspicion, and the unfortunate man’s heart is possessed by hellish chaos, and his pains of conscience are as great as the tortures in punishment he will suffer ... Indeed, this scourge destroys the foundations of faith, weakens the force of hope, dissipates the bonds of charity, annihilates justice, undermines fortitude, ... and dulls the edge of prudence.
“What else shall I say? It expels all the forces of virtue from the temple of the human heart and, pulling the door from its hinges, introduces into it all the barbarity of vice ... In effect, the one whom ... this atrocious beast [of homosexuality] has swallowed down its bloody throat is prevented, by the weight of his chains, from practicing all good works and is precipitated into the very abysses of its uttermost wickedness. Thus, as soon as someone has fallen into this chasm of extreme perdition, he is exiled from the heavenly motherland, separated from the Body of Christ, confounded by the authority of the whole Church, condemned by the judgment of all the Holy Fathers, despised by men on earth, and reproved by the society of heavenly citizens. He creates for himself an earth of iron and a sky of bronze ... He cannot be happy while he lives nor have hope when he dies, because in life he is obliged to suffer the ignominy of men’s derision and later, the torment of eternal condemnation” (Liber Gomorrhianus, in PL 145, col. 159-178).
Someone might also object: “It is too strong! ” I would respond: This was the language of a saint that was officially approved by a Pope who was also a saint. It was by means of men like St. Peter Damian, St. Leo IX and St Gregory VII that the Church extinguished the moral vices that were contaminating the clergy in the past. Therefore, one can see that this sacred intolerance worked quite well to purify the clergy. One could even say that it was because of this intolerance that the virtue of purity was upheld in consecrated souls for so long.
Nowadays, do we also want to purify the clergy? Or do we want to make a theater or stage a tragedy just to eliminate some of the bolder excesses? If we are aiming for the former, let us imitate the saints of the past. If the latter, nothing will be corrected. We will have to wait for a chastisement that will come from Heaven.
It will not be with the weak norms of the present day Vatican or the disputable policy of “zero tolerance” of Cardinal Mahony and other American Bishops that the Catholic Church will purify herself of this pedophilic and homosexual clergy.
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