Note: We’re two weeks into our end-of-year fund drive now, and doing well. And many thanks to you who have brought us this far, and rather quickly. But we have a ways to go yet and I cannot say enough how urgent it is that we meet our targets for TCT to be able to carry out its mission, and even better than in the past. The various crises and problems and opportunities of this year and still facing us in 2019. If you want to be part of the work, we need you to do your part. And there’s no time like today. – Robert Royal
Knowing that the Catholic Church has had many ups and downs in the course of its long history, I am confident – well, fairly confident – that it will eventually emerge from its present slump. But this recovery won’t happen anytime soon. And so I, being an old man, won’t live to see it. That saddens me.
Have we hit bottom yet? If we have, I may live to see at least the beginning of the recovery. That would please me. But I fear we haven’t hit bottom. There may be worse to come.
But what can possibly be worse than what has already happened? Many things, among them a refusal to deal frankly with the issue of homosexuality in the priesthood and the episcopacy. I’m not speaking only of the horrendous problem of priests who are active homosexuals; I’m speaking also of clergy who, while not themselves homosexual, have an undue sympathy for homosexuality.
I’m thinking of the fairly widespread tendency found among Church leaders to speak as though our problem is sexual “abuse,” not homosexuality. Certainly, the sexual exploitation or abuse of minors is a problem, a gigantic problem, an unspeakable horror. But clerical homosexuality is a more fundamental problem than abuse of minors. If we had no homosexual priests, we’d have very little in the way of abuse of minors.
The way some bishops talk, it’s as if, when they speak of cleaning up the Church, they mean that they’ll put an end to priestly sex with minors; when priests limit themselves to consensual sex with adults, either adult men or adult women, then we’ll have solved our problem. The scandal will be over.
But that’s absurd. Priests and bishops have taken a solemn vow to abstain from sexual intercourse. Maybe some of them were foolish to do so. But men of honor keep their promises. And everybody knows what a priest should do if he finds it is practically impossible to live a life of priestly chastity: he should resign from the priesthood.
Many have done precisely that. Good for them. But many others, it seems, have said to themselves, “I am unable to be chaste the way a priest should be chaste, but apart from that I love being a priest.” That’s something like saying, “I love being a surgeon, but I hate cutting into human flesh.”
If a Catholic priest finds that he no longer believes in the articles of the Nicene Creed, it goes without saying that he should resign his office; for to present yourself to the public as a Catholic priest is to say, among other things, “I am a man who believes in the Nicene Creed.” Likewise, to present yourself to the public as a Catholic priest is to say, “I am a man who is living a life of priestly chastity.”
Does that mean that a priest who has a lapse or two should immediately resign the priesthood? No. A man who is basically chaste may have moments of unchastity, just as a recovering alcoholic may have a slip now and then. But if it becomes something like a habit, that’s another story.
*Image: The Kiss of Judas by James Tissot, c, 1890 [Brooklyn Museum]. From the catalog: “Here, standing on tiptoes, Judas reaches up to kiss [Jesus], an intimate gesture that . . . underscores the bitterness of the betrayal.”