In the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on sex abuse allegations against Catholic clergy, Pope Francis has addressed a letter to “the people of God” in which he says:

I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. …

Given its details, the Grand Jury report contributes to the body of evidence that suggests a pervasive crisis among the Catholic clergy. The evidence the report contains buttresses the view that, at its core, the focal point of the crisis appears to be a culture of male homosexuality among the clergy, even at the highest levels. Like some invasive plants, it spreads rapidly, using rootlike subterranean stems. Rooted in willful self-idolization, its devotees encourage people to identify themselves with self-gratifying practices, practices that contradict their God-endowed identity as human persons. This self-involved idolatry inevitably clashes with the vocation of the Catholic clergy, who are supposed to be bound and determined to place God’s will above their own, as Christ did. Humbly standing aside, they are to say with St. Paul, “Now I live not I, but Christ lives in me.”

To commemorate Christ’s self-sacrifice (in the Mass and in their daily lives), they profess to be vicars of Christ. Their avowed vocation is to succeed Christ’s first Apostles in their all-consuming and exclusive determination to live sacrificially (i.e., even unto death) in service to Christ’s ongoing ministry. They must strive, therefore, to be living testaments to His Gospel of salvation so that, through His living body which is the Church, he may offer that salvation now, as when he walked the earth, to humanity and all of God’s creation.

How is this commitment to self-effacing evangelization consistent with the indulgence of sexual passions that not only eschew the command of God for human procreation (issued before the humanity’s fall from grace), but the information of God through which He informs our nature for that, and every other good essential to human existence? How is it consistent with the words of Christ when he said: “… there are those who have renounced marriage (literally – in the Greek – “made themselves eunuchs”) for the sake of the kingdom”?

Though one embraces the act of procreation, and the other eschews it, marriage and celibacy are not, in Christ’s view, inconsistent. Depending on God’s call upon an individual’s life, both may involve the fulfillment of His will for the wholesome good of all humanity. According to God’s command in the beginning, it is good to “Be fruitful and multiply.” But as St. Paul affirms (1 Corinthians 7:1), according to God’s purpose of salvation, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” This latter reflects the truth that “whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one in spirit with him.” This spiritual communion, wholly informed by the example of Christ, best follows that example by walking the spirit of Christ’s sacrifice, which surrenders, to pass life to all, the bodily union that passes life to a new generation.

Both Christ and his Apostle Paul make it clear the exclusively spiritual vocation is not right for everyone. But they also make it clear that simply forsaking the wholesome perspective of God is right for anyone. For Christ is the Word of Creation, made flesh for the sake of our salvation. But as Christ says to the devil (Matthew 4:4), “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” The information of God that prepares the body for procreation comes into our nature by way of

the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. (John 1:1-3)

The Scripture observes that this same “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. …” (John 1:14) Those called to exclusive union with Christ must strive to conform to the Word of Creation. They are, in Spirit and in Truth, bound to live according to the wholesome perspective that brings his Good News, which is true life renewed, to all creation (Mark 16:15). In being determined by this Word, all creatures, include all who bear the title of humanity are, as it were, begotten by God’s will, and called therefore to be children of God, for the Word by which they come to be is with God and is God, even now.

Is this why we call those avowed to live exclusively in union with Christ, “Father”? Is this why they are called to minister to all creatures, including all humanity, as to their family, even risking and giving their lives, as Christ did? But where in any moment of His life did Christ identify himself with any will or pleasure except what pleased His Father God? With all His heart, soul, mind and strength He lived to fulfill God’s intention for the good of humanity and all creation. According to God’s will, Christ let others abuse His body with violence, for God’s sake. But not once did He turn His body from God’s prescribed usage and intent to pursue some narrowly self-gratifying purpose. Never did He conflate such self-gratification with His identity according to God.

With this in mind, nothing about the practice of homosexuality conforms to Christ’s self-sacrificial example of love for God and His creation. Nothing at all that turns the body, mind or spirit of our humanity away from the wholesome intention of God for His creation conforms to it. Tragically, the promotion of idolatrous sexuality (i.e., abuses of sexuality that idolize human will, pleasure, and self-satisfaction) has been the order of the day in every sphere of human activity in many countries – particularly those that formally subscribe to what many of their elites call the “democratic” ethos.

Until recently, however, the Catholic Church stood against that idolatry. Now it seems clear that it has infected the clerical body, even at the highest levels. Decrying what he calls “clericalism,” Pope Francis suggests the need for a “personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does.”

But that conversion requires, first of all, that we have the eyes, mind, heart and goodwill to do so. Members of the clergy are especially called to provide them. But their words, to include some statements and writings of Pope Francis himself, and a cascade of revelations about their actions, have obscured, rather than clarified, our vision. The recent changes Pope Francis authorized in the Catholic Catechism’s treatment of capital punishment, but also some statements and actions about homosexuality from the Pope himself or people he reportedly favors, appear plainly to contradict the Scripture, in respect of some of the most ancient magisterial teachings of the Church. One Cardinal whom Francis very recently elevated to that rank has, with barely camouflaged threats, already contradicted the Pope’s expression of compassion toward victims of sexual abuse in the “Letter to God’s People.”

Is this the way to encourage lay people of good will, prayerfully seeking the counsel of God, to persevere? “Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath give,” as Shakespeare put it.

Perhaps the first thing the Catholic laity needs to do is turn up the heat.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.