Letter from Fr. Allen on the Leonine Prayers - September 27, 2018



Dear Friends,

In 1884, with turmoil in Italy leading to the loss of the Papal States (those portions of Italy over which the Pope had temporal/political sovereignty), Pope Leo XIII prescribed a set of prayers to be prayed after Mass by priest and people: three Hail Mary's; Hail, Holy Queen; and a collect (soon standardized as a prayer for "the liberty and exaltation of our Holy Mother, the Church"), to which was also soon added the prayer to St Michael the Archangel. These became known as the "Leonine Prayers." 

There was some adjustment over the years both in form and intention: Pope Pius X allowed for a three-fold invocation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Pope Pius XI asked that the prayers be particularly offered for the conversion of Russia and for the freedom of Catholics there to practice their faith. These prayers were said after every Mass until 1965, when they were suppressed in an instruction regarding the implementation of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Since the revelations of abuse this summer, many parishes and even some entire dioceses have returned to the use of these prayers. And beginning this Sunday, immediately after the dismissal at each Mass for both Corpus Christi and St Mary's, we will pray the Leonine prayers. Writing to the people of St. Mary's, Fr. West has said "We ask one another, 'What can we do?'  The first line of defense against sin and evil is prayer, our best sword and shield. All of us need to commit to praying frequently and fervently against the dark forces which seek the ruin of souls, families, marriages, schools, houses of worship, and any other noble pillar of human society."

And so we offer these prayers particularly for the protection of the Church and her ministers against the attacks of the enemy that have led to and exploit this time of grave scandal in the Church. While it is true that we must discern and enact those reforms necessary for the protection of our children and to promote the faithfulness of the Church's ministers, this is also and at root a spiritual battle which must be fought with spiritual weapons. The Leonine prayers are a strong and tested arrow in our quiver.

For just this reason, Pope St. John Paul II encouraged a more frequent use of these prayers, particularly the prayer to St Michael:

May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians, "Draw strength from the Lord and from his mighty power" (Eph 6.10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Rev. 12.7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St Michael throughout the Church. "St Michael the Archangel defend us in battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil." Although today this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it, and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world. [24 April 1994]

There will be a card in the pew racks for you to use, and they are included [here]. We will pray the Leonine prayers at least through Advent in place of the Last Gospel (the Hail Mary's and Hail, Holy Queen also serve to commemorate the Incarnation which is the devotional heart of the Last Gospel).

God bless you,
Fr Allen

Leonine Prayers



Beginning this Sunday and through Advent, at the conclusion of Mass, and in place of the Last Gospel, we will pray the Leonine Prayers for the protection of the Church in this time of scandal.

℣ Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. 
℟ Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. (3x)

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee to we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

 Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
 That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
O God, our refuge and our strength, look down with mercy upon the people who cry to Thee; and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of Saint Joseph her spouse, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, in Thy mercy and goodness hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of the Holy Mother the Church. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

 Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,  Have mercy on us. (3x)

Fr Jonathan Mitchican on being ordained in the midst of scandals

Photo credit: supplied to Aleteia.org

Photo credit: supplied to Aleteia.org

Newly ordained Ordinariate priest Fr Jonathan Mitchican shares his experience of being ordained to the priesthood in the midst of scandals in this article on Aleteia.org

I have had a devotion to St. Mary of Egypt for a long time. I see in her story a powerful narrative of grace that resonates with my own sense of gratitude for the way that Jesus has changed my life. She ran about as far away from God as she could and she wounded herself deeply in the process. Her transformation from sinner to saint was not instantaneous but took humility and a willingness to suffer over a long period of time. It is that kind of humility that we need in the Catholic Church today if we are going to heal from decades of dark secrets and broken promises. It is a patient, slow stripping away of our defenses that will be the only cure for what ails the willful and battered Bride of Christ.

As the news stories began to break during the week of my ordination, I wondered if I was really in the right place. Yet as a new priest, I remain hopeful—optimistic even—for the future of the Catholic Church in my lifetime.

Click to read the entire article.

Letter from Fr. Allen - September 20, 2018



Dear Friends,

Well, my vocabulary has increased by one neologism: "hurrication." Last week when we were confidently informed that Hurricane Florence would be making an unwelcome and extended visit to the Lowcountry, Fr West and I decided to cancel all activities through the weekend, and my family and I skedaddled to Atlanta. I'm grateful for the time we had with family and old friends there, but I am sorry to have missed being with all of you at the Lord's Altar. In any case, this Sunday we will together give thanks for having been spared the storm's rain and winds, and also pray for our neighbors (quite near) who have suffered so terribly. [Here] you will see information for donating to relief of those impacted by Florence, and I encourage you prayerfully to consider making a gift.

After a week's weather-imposed delay, things are very suddenly getting very busy for us:

  • This Friday, 9/21, is Ember Friday in September, a day of abstinence for Ordinariate members. I encourage you to join me for a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament in reparation for the sins of abuse in the Church and for the healing and wholeness of victims. The Holy Hour will be from 7 - 8.00PM.

  • Our Wednesday School program of family supper, class for adults, and catechesis of the Good Shepherd for children begins next week - Wednesday, 9/26; supper at 5.30PM; class at 6.00PM.

  • Next Sunday, 9/30, at 4.00PM will be our first Evensong & Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament of the fall.

Finally, we are in need of nursery workers for Wednesday nights. These are paid positions; if you or anyone you know of might be interested, please email me.

God bless you,
Fr Allen

USCCB: Turning to the Lord

September 19, 2018

WASHINGTON--The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Administrative Committee has issued the following statement today in response to the recent sex abuse scandals.  In the statement, the bishops say they pledge to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us."

Turning to the Lord

"When each of us was ordained as a bishop, we were told:

'Keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you to shepherd the Church of God.'

We, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, assembled last week in Washington at this time of shame and sorrow.  Some bishops, by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a whole.  They have used their authority and power to manipulate and sexually abuse others.  They have allowed the fear of scandal to replace genuine forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed.  Turning to the Lord for strength, we must and will do better.

The Administrative Committee took the following actions within its authority:

[Continue reading]


Passion to Evangelize Drives New Ordinariate Catholic Communities

NATION | SEP. 17, 2018

Passion to Evangelize Drives New Ordinariate Catholic Communities

Young Catholics, invigorated by the ordinariate's English-Catholic expressions of faith, are actively 'church-planting' and inviting people into their fledgling Catholic communities.

Peter Jesserer Smith

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- At 22 years old, Sarah Rodeo, a Catholic graduate student at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, is engaged in work more associated with evangelical Protestants than Catholics in the Northeast: building a new church community from the ground up.

Rodeo belongs to the Ordinariate Fellowship of Connecticut, one of the nascent groups that aspire to become an official community-in-formation for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a diocesan structure established by Benedict XVI that reunited the Anglican patrimony to the Catholic Church.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is one of three established dioceses under the Holy See that reintegrate the Anglican patrimony with the Catholic Church.  In North America, the ordinariate began with a wave of Anglican and Episcopal communities that entered into full communion with the bishop of Rome.  But the ordinariate is seeing its own communities grow, and new communities develop, through active evangelization built on common prayer, fellowship, hard work and perseverance.


[continue reading]


Letter from Fr. Allen - September 6, 2018



Dear Friends,

I'm very much looking forward to the beginning of our Fall Christian formation program - "Wednesday School" - and hope you will consider participating if you have not in the past. We have a simple supper in the parish hall beginning at 5.30PM, our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program for children and class for adults start at 6(-ish)PM, and we make sure everyone is on their way home by 7PM. Read here for more about our offerings.

Parents of children in Catechesis must register their children and also attend the Safe Environment workshop this coming Wednesday (9/12) at 5.30PM in the church. Please read more about the Safe Environment meeting here.

If you would like help by volunteering to provide one of our Wednesday evening meals or a portion thereof (let us not neglect dessert as is the habit of some!), please contact Judi.

We are also hoping to provide a nursery for children below Catechesis age. If you or someone you know would be interested in staffing the nursery, please let me know.

God bless you,
Fr Allen

Required Safe Environment Workshop

Christ Child as the Good Shepherd by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Christ Child as the Good Shepherd by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

UPDATE 16Sep2018: This workshop is rescheduled for Wednesday, 19 September, due to Hurricane Florence. Our regular schedule of 5.30PM family supper and 6.00PM classes for adults and children will resume on Wednesday, 26 September.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at Corpus Christi
Safe Environment Workshop

Wednesday, September 12, 5.30PM
at St. Mary's (Church)

Dear friends,

At Corpus Christi, we are excited to offer Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for the formation of our children, so that they may grow with their Good Shepherd "in stature and in wisdom and in favor with God and man" (Lk 2.52).

We are also completely committed to the safety of our children. To that end, we ask that at least one parent of each child participating in Catechesis attend our Safe Environment Workshop next Wednesday evening. The meeting will be brief, about 30 minutes. Scarlett Crawford, out Director of Religious Education, will present important information about our Safe Environment program, both for you and your child. As required by our certification process, you will be asked to sign a form stating that you have received the information. To participate in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, it is essential that you attend the workshop, receive the information, and sign the form.

There will be a short and fun Bible lesson for children during the workshop. We do not offer the "Teaching Touching Safely" program for children. Instead, we provide you the parents with age appropriate information for your children - you know your children best and how best to communicate that information to them.

Again, the workshop will be brief, and following the Safe Environment presentation, I will be available to respond to questions and discuss with you the current issues surrounding abuse in the Church.

Our first classes for children and adults will be on Wednesday, September 19, in the parish hall: Family supper at 5.30PM; class at 6.00PM.

Thank you for your interest in Catechesis! I look forward to seeing you next Wednesday - in the meantime, if you have any questions, please do let me know (email; 843.261.4188).

Faithfully in Christ,
Fr. Allen

P.S. If you haven't yet registered your child for Catechesis, please do so now!

Ordinariate Community in the News

image by Jeff Witherow for  Catholic Courier

image by Jeff Witherow for Catholic Courier

Bishop Lopes recently visited the Fellowship of St Alban, an Ordinariate community in the Rochester, NY, area. The Catholic Courier covered the visit:

Among the distinct liturgical elements in the Aug. 26 Mass were Bishop Lopes facing ad orientem(liturgical east) rather than toward the congregation for most of the prayers; a large portion of the Mass being sung; worshipers kneeling in the first row of pews to receive Holy Communion; and prayers featuring the words “thee,” and “thy” in place of “you” and “your.” For instance, “The Lord be with you” was followed by the response “And with thy spirit.”

Father Simington said the Fellowship of St. Alban comprises approximately 10 families, and that an average of 30 people attend the fellowship’s weekly 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Cecilia. However, he said many lifelong Roman Catholics “who have sort of found an attraction to what we do” also have become connected with the fellowship. The Aug. 26 Mass attracted more than 100 people, and the Meet the Ordinariate event drew about 80.

Read the full article here.


Benedict, Viganò, Francis, and McCarrick: Where things stand on nuncio’s allegations

J.D. Flynn, Catholic News Agency

In a testimony released Aug. 25, Archbishop Carlo Viganò wrote that in 2006, he sent a memo to his Vatican superiors, which said that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had a history of sexual misconduct with seminarians and priests and that an example should be made of him for the good of the Church.

Viganò claimed that his memo was ignored, and so he sent a second one in 2008. That one, he said, had its desired effect. His testimony said he was told that Pope Benedict XVI imposed “canonical sanctions” on McCarrick in 2009 or 2010, forbidding him from living in a seminary, celebrating sacraments publicly, and from making other kinds of public appearances.

Finally, Viganò alleged that Pope Francis knowingly ignored Benedict’s sanctions on McCarrick, and made the cardinal one of his closest advisors. For that, Viganò said, Pope Francis should resign.

The story is simple, but the the fallout from the Viganò testimony has become quite complex... (keep reading)


Letter from Fr. Allen announcing Day of Penance, Wednesday School



Dear Friends,

I had a wonderful weekend away with my son Henry at Alpine Camp, scene of many happy childhood memories for me. I missed being with you on Sunday, but you may appreciate knowing that I offered Mass at 4.45 in the morning because I forgot I was in the Central time zone!

Please give your attention to two items:

Wednesday School
The school year is back under way, and it is time for us to begin again with our Wednesday School programs. These will begin with our Safe Environment meeting for parents on Wednesday, September 12, at 5.30PM in the church. There will also be a program for children that night while parents have an opportunity to review the safe environment materials and talk briefly with me about the issues concerning the safety of our children in the Church. The children's program will not be a safe environment/"Teaching Touching Safety" program, but rather a quick and fun Catechesis of the Good Shepherd introduction with our director, Scarlett Crawford. Parents will be given the safe environment children's materials - when and how and in what terms to communicate this information to children is left to the discretion of parents who, after all, know their own children best. Having said that, the parents' meeting is mandatory in order to enroll children in our Catechesis program; if you are unable to attend on Wednesday, September 12, and would like your child(ren) to participate in Catechesis, please let me know so that we may arrange a make-up date. Our first classes, for children and adults, will be the following Wednesday, September 19th, with family supper at 5.30PM and class beginning at 6PM. Everyone goes home by 7PM. See more - including a link for registration - [here]!

A Day of Penance
Last week, we heard from Bishop Lopes regarding these latest terrible revelations of the scandal of abuse in the Church (scandal which has intensified even in the last week). Bishop Lopes invited us to offer the fall Ember Friday (September 21) as a day of penance for the renewal of the Church and healing of victims of abuse. To that end, I invite you to join me in a Holy Hour of prayer and penance in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament on that day, from 7 - 8PM.  (For understanding the Ember Days in general, see here.)

I have been asked why we ought to do penance for the sins of others - a good and fair question. Briefly:

  • Because the Church is, as St Paul teaches us, one Body, though it has many members. We are not all, of course, personally guilty of these crimes, but we all are, in a sense, implicated. St Francis began in just this way; he never intended to found a religious order, but rather to be a penitent, offering his own self-chosen poverty, with all of its hunger, want, and suffering, in reparation for the sins of all against God's love. So also we are doing penance for the sins of those deacons, priests, bishops, and others in the Church against children and the vulnerable.

  • Because penance intensifies our prayer. This is why fasting and prayer are so closely associated. By fasting we are, as it were, "putting our money where our mouth is" and demonstrating (and so also fostering) the urgency of our desire and the depth of our sorrow - going without, or voluntarily bearing some cross, in order to gain some good thing or end. As we hear from the prophet Joel at the beginning each Lent: "Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God; and cry to the Lord."

  • Finally, because it is what Jesus did for us, and "we are," as again St. Paul teaches, "ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." By this penance, we seek to make reparation not only for our own sins, but for the sins of others in the Church.

This Ember Friday falls on the Feast of St. Matthew, and so is not a day of mandatory abstinence, but I invite you to join me in fasting and abstaining from meat that day, and then join me in prayer before our Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament, that God may forgive our sins, heal his Church, and comfort and restore those who have been prayed upon.

God bless you,
Fr Allen

Register Children for Wednesday School 2018-2019

Christian Formation for all ages.

+ + +
Wednesday Evenings beginning September 19th, 2018
Family Supper at 5.30PM; Class at 6.00PM

Wednesday, 12 September

5.30PM "Safe Environment" workshops for parents; Introduction to Catechesis for children.

Wednesday, 19 September

5.30PM Family supper

6.00PM  First day of children's Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and class for adults

Children: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

For children ages 4 and up, Corpus Christi’s approach to religious formation is based upon the “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd” model. What is that? Here is one description:

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was founded in the 1950's by two Italian laywomen, one a scriptural scholar and one an expert in Montessori education. Together they conceived of a simple, attractive method for sharing the richness of the Faith with children, who are uniquely capable of accepting the beauty of God's love.  The program is presented in three levels, and includes time in the "Atrium," which is a quiet environment where children learn through tactile play.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd emphasizes quiet contemplation and -- imagine this -- "the enjoyment of God." The children hear Bible stories and watch them acted out with simple materials; they learn songs and prayers, and are encouraged to play quietly with simple and meaningful objects.  One mother explained that CGS "cracked the code" of the Mass for her son, as he learned to become alert to the details of the liturgy: the significance of color, the names and purposes of the various vessels and tools on the altar.

Adults' Class: The Church, That Wonderful and Sacred Mystery

Fr Allen (with a little help from from his friends) will lead a study and discussion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church's teaching on the Church, her nature and form. What does it mean to call the Church "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic?" How is the Church Christ's Body? Or his Bride? Can we affirm with St. Cyprian, extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the Church there is no salvation)?

O GOD of unchangeable power and eternal light, look favourably on thy whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; and by the tranquil operation of thy perpetual providence carry out the work of man's salvation, and let the whole world feel and see that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and all things are returning to perfection through him from whom they took their origin, even Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 - Collect at the Easter Vigil, from Divine Worship: The Missal

Bishop Lopes Addresses Scandal

Dear Faithful of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter,
This has been a difficult few weeks for the Catholic Church in North America.  We have seen reports of episcopal negligence and malfeasance in the face of clerical sexual abuse, coupled with some reports of bishops themselves guilty of sexual predation.  The report of the Grand Jury in Pennsylvania has reopened old wounds and inflicted new ones on victims, their families, the Catholic faithful at large, and indeed, the larger society. 

There have been many statements and commentary about all of this, and I do not wish just to add to the multiplicity of words.  I would simply echo the words of the great Saint John Paul II: there is no room in the priesthood for a man who abuses a child.  In our particular context of the Ordinariate with both celibate and married clergy, I would add that there is no room in the priesthood for a man who commits an act of violence—physical, psychological, or sexual—against his own wife or children.  And there is no room among those who call themselves Shepherds and Pastors for a man who would cover-up an instance of abuse. 

I am confident in the policies and procedures in place ensuring that our Ordinariate is a safe environment for all of our children.  All of these are publicly available on our website and they will be followed and enforced at every level.  But policies do not bring about holiness, and isn’t that what we all so deeply desire?  A Church that lives the faith once delivered to the Saints in integrity and in good conscience?  Holiness is something that ultimately comes from God, so it is something for which we should pray and labor:

  • Pray for the victims of sexual abuse by clergy, so that the peace of God beyond all understanding may heal their hearts and minds in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. 
  • Pray for priests, that they may live their lives in integrity of heart, faithful to the vows of their ordination.  Pray the Prayer of St. Michael daily, especially for priests! The Devil is never happier then when he corrupts a servant of God. 
  • Join with me in setting aside 30 minutes of prayer before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to pray in reparation for the sins committed by clergy and faithful alike, sins which have disfigured the Body of Christ and caused many to turn away. 
  • Find some way to express Christian charity to your neighbor.  Sin repels, but authentic love attracts and transforms. 

September 21 is Ember Friday after Holy Cross Day.  As your Bishop, I will offer that day in particular penance for the sins of bishops.  I invite you to pray with me and offer some act of penance that day for the renewal of the Church.

The sins we have read about in these weeks have filled us with shame and with righteous anger.  But one thing we should not feel is afraid.  The Evil One thrives in darkness, so the bright light of truth, through painful in this moment, is purifying.  

Our Ordinariate exists because men and women of great faith placed everything on the line for the adventure of truth and Catholic communion.  Even in the midst of these trials, I see that the joy of fidelity still draws people to Christ.  I continue to receive letters from Anglican clergy seeking to join us.  I have heard from three new communities this summer trying to form Ordinariate parishes. We have admitted 3 new seminarians, young men of faith and integrity who desire to leave all to follow in the way of the Lord.  May our fidelity then be our most eloquent response to the current crisis in the Church.  For the one in whom we trust is the Lord!  And he is risen from the dead! 

Your servant in Christ,

+Steven J. Lopes

Homily: Scandal

Fr. Allen's homily on Sunday, 19 August, concerning the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church:

I want to speak to you this morning about the latest abuse scandals in the church, emanating especially from the release last week of the grand jury report in Pennsylvania, but also from the revelations about Cardinal - now former Cardinal - Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, D.C. I know it’s not pleasant to hear these things, and one aspect of the harm done, though certainly not the worst, is that rather than pondering the words of our Lord - Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you - we are talking about these sordid, vile, and criminal betrayals instead. But we must.

And the first thing I want to say is, I am sorry. I am sorry for what has happened at the hands of my fellow priests. I have begun doing penance for reparation of these sins, and my private Masses, for at least the rest of this year, are offered for the victims of priestly abuse.

As to these latest revelations, you should understand that, in the main, the Pennsylvania grand jury report confirmed what we already knew, both good and bad. First the good, and this really is important. The Catholic Church in the United States, our parishes and our schools, today are very safe places for children. Since the rounds of scandals that began to emerge in the 1990’s and especially the Boston-area scandals of 2002, incidents of abuse are very low, particularly as compared to other institutions both religious and secular, and when they do occur and are reported, they are handled immediately and properly - that is, transparently and with the immediate and appropriate involvement of the civil authorities. Here at Corpus Christi and St Mary’s we very carefully and intentionally adhere to all the safe environment protocols put in to place since the Dallas Charter was adopted in 2002. Your children are safe here, and I say that as one who is a father of young children. They are safe at our local Catholic Schools. That doesn’t mean that continued and careful vigilance isn’t needed; it is. And you must hold your priests and principals and teachers and other leader’s feet to the fire.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report covers abuse reported to diocesan chanceries going back 70 years. The overwhelming majority of that abuse occurred in ‘60s and ‘70s by priests born in the ‘30s and ‘40s. This is just what we learned in 2002. What is new in the Pennsylvania report, and what has, very appropriately, I think, aroused so much anger, is that it gives a deeper, more clear, more horrifically detailed picture of the nature of the abuse that occurred, and also of, in some cases, the utterly inept, and in many other cases actually malfeasant, covering-up, protect-themselves-and-their-institutions-first response of the bishops in question, some of whom are still active. And making things worse is that as these revelations came out, so many bishops and cardinals came out mumbling PR firm-provided talking points about the need for new policies and procedures rather than lamenting their own sin and promising penance, amendment of life, and reparation. Some of them failed in their duty to protect the sheep, but have avoided accountability under a subterfuge of management-speak and corporate expressions of sorrow rather than taking personal responsibility. I don’t think they will be able to escape that responsibility any longer, but we will see.

A couple more observations:

  • This is not a uniquely Catholic problem. Again, other religious and secular institutions are having the exact same issues. That itself is not an excuse and shouldn’t make us feel better; we ought to be better. We are the Catholic Church, the Church founded by Jesus Christ, and the Church ought to be a beacon of light, sanity, charity, and rightly-ordered life in the midst of our confused and darkened culture.

  • This horror is not a product of priestly celibacy. Our celibate priests are less likely to be abusers than the population at large, or, for that matter, the married clergy of other denominations. We know that the great majority of abuse is perpetrated by adults against their own children. And it strikes me as passing strange - I say this as a Catholic priest who actually is married and has children - to suggest that what would help these predators is to have a wife and children.

  • Having said that, there is something no one has wanted to talk about but which has been dragged into the light by the McCarrick scandal, which has to do with abuse and harassment of seminarians and young priests. There is a crisis of chastity within the priesthood, which is related to the abuse scandals (which are overwhelmingly same-sex in nature) and that crisis is related to the sexuality of some of our priests. It’s difficult to talk about in this setting, both plainly and with the nuance required, and to take grateful of account of the great majority of priests who live good and holy lives in the face of all sorts of challenges and temptations, but it will have to be dealt with.

Now, where do we go from here. I’ll offer just two thoughts, one on the institutional level and one on the more personal, spiritual level.

First of all, on the institutional level, there should be a forensic audit of every diocese related to abuse claims with the results made public. Every diocese will need to have its Pennsylvania moment. We will find, no doubt, many more examples of bishops and their chancery staffs having failed to properly handle abuse claims and having facilitated abusers by moving them around from parish to parish. We will find that some beloved bishops, bishops who have otherwise done good and beautiful service to the church have badly failed in this regard. But it all needs to come out, every last sordid bit of it. Truth, reconciliation, healing - these things are inextricably linked. We cannot heal without truth. Our bishops have now asked for an Apostolic Visitation - that means a Vatican investigation. Good. But let me say, as many have said, that for that investigation to have any credibility it must have significant, competent, and independent lay leadership. I think that’s what we’re going to get, but if not, we must be prepared to demand it by whatever licit tools of protest are at our disposal.

And second, and on the more personal and spiritual level, there is a place for anger. Not the deadly sin of anger, the anger that burns out of control and destroys and generates hate and resentment, but the anger of our Lord before the money changers in the Temple, the anger of our Lord as he stood before the grave of Lazarus, the anger of the psalms that long for justice and wholeness and will not be satisfied with less, the anger that serves charity.

But what is that place? How can anger be channelled to charity? I read an interview yesterday with Leah Libresco, a young writer and convert several years ago from atheism. She was asked how she remains joyfully Catholic in the midst of these scandals. She notes that she knew enough biblical and church history before her conversion to be aware of the reality of sin and hypocrisy within the Church. But then she said,

But I think one thing to hold onto is that when we recognize these abuses as horrific, the strength of our response also invites us to recognize the holiness of what has been profaned. A priest’s abuse of seminarians carries an additional evil, in addition to the grave evil of sexual abuse and the profanation of authority (that would also apply when any boss or supervisor used his power to entrap his [employees]). The priest also sins as a husband to the Church, dishonoring his vows of chastity. He sins as a father, who wounds his children when he was ordained specifically to heal them through the Eucharist and in the confessional. Hold on to your horror, and remember you are angry because holy things are profaned (the child of God treated as a plaything, the sacraments, etc.). Then run to adore those holy things, as well as to admonish those who profaned them.

And that is what I invite you to do now, this morning. Remember why you are angry - holy things, the gifts and sacramental mysteries of God grace, and God’s own beloved children, have been profaned. Hold on to that horror, but then let us adore those holy things even as we demand change so that these things never happen again.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

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