“Know that the greatest service that man can offer to God is to help convert souls.”
St. Rose of Lima
Before I begin this post I wanted to say unequivocally that I am under the guidance and direction of the Chair of Peter and I will never leave it. No one should. Whether the man at the helm denies Jesus like Peter did 3 times, goes the way of Caiaphas the High Priest, Judas the betrayer, or the path of Christ Himself, it is Christ Himself who is the ultimate authority over the person in the Chair, and in Him I trust to guide the church and the chair towards resurrection and life, no matter how messy that path. Jesus I trust in you. The Pope is my shepherd. He cannot compel me to sin, but he can and does lead the church that I love and so I abide by the direction we go, wherever that may be, because the promise of Christ is TRUE, that the gates of hell will not prevail, even if the path we are on seems to contradict this. Jesus I trust in you.
My word for the year this year was SPEAK, so though I do owe my obedience to the Pope, I do not have to remain silent in the face of error. I must speak when my conscience compels me to. I am not a sedevacantist, nor do I believe in assuming the interior of a person, including the Pope. It is not my job to judge his soul. I can, however, assess statements that have been made. And it is actually precisely because I love this Pope that I feel compelled to speak now.
Recently I read an article, that if true, is troubling.
Here are the quotes I find most troubling;
“One dimension of clericalism is the exclusive moral fixation on the sixth commandment,”
“We focus on sex and then we do not give weight to social injustice, slander, gossip and lies. The Church today needs a profound conversion in this area.”
“Once a Jesuit, a great Jesuit, told me to be careful in giving absolution, because the most serious sins are those that are more angelical: pride, arrogance, dominion… And the least serious are those that are less angelical, such as greed and lust,”
“Clericalism has a direct consequence in rigidity. Have you never seen young priests all stiff in black cassocks and hats in the shape of the planet Saturn on their heads? Behind all the rigid clericalism there are serious problems.”
To start, let’s focus on the statement that lust and greed are less serious sins. Although many theologians have ordered the sins putting lust and greed at the bottom, they are still considered deadly sins and in certain conditions, they are mortal.
To be clear, this is not a competition between sins or people. To do this is to partake in the very sin that is claimed to condemn as the worst, namely pride. But when we start generalizing and concluding that one deadly sin is worse than another… What a statement of pride! Only God can know the hearts and minds of every sinner. Only He stands to judge each one of us in His perfect justice. We are not worthy to make those judgements so we must avoid it at all costs.
But let me make one thing clear, acceptance of any deadly sin as less than deadly swings a door wide open for Satan to enter. Once we allow Satan to convince us that one deadly sin is “not as bad as another”, he’s got us in his grasp and can do a lot of damage thereafter.
I would further argue that viewing the world this way, that acknowledging lust and sexual sins as deadly will make us blind to other sins like slander and gossip, misses the mark on why lust is so bad for the soul and it underestimates God’s grace in lifting us out of sin. When we view people through a lustful lens, lust begins to harden our hearts and violates the dignity of another human person. Lust is particularly perverse because of how it dishonors the dignity of the human person in both body and soul and gives rise to the sexual sins of adultery, pedophilia, molestation, rape, pornography and the like. It is here that pride takes root because by justifying the violation of the body and soul of either yourself or of another person it is a direct attack on all parts of our humanity that God made dignified. In other words, this sin is personal and relational and opens the doorway to souls being used as sexual commodities. Then assuredly, the sins of pride, power, and greed will end up intertwining themselves into this distorted view of the dignity of humanity. Just look at Jeffery Epstein and Cardinal McCarrick.
The sexual sins of the pedophile, ephebophile and homosexual Priests and Bishops were lustful, alongside being prideful and power filled. Clericalism is not what made these men do these horrific things, giving into temptation (looking lustfully) and choosing to sin is what did. Acting upon the sin of lust is what opened the door to becoming prideful. It is the personal sin that hardens our hearts and eventually leads us to societal chaos. A position as a cleric is just a position, it only becomes sinful when it is an abuse of power. In the case of these priests and bishops, they committed sin in their hearts first, then they used their power to carry out and perpetuate the sinful acts. Then they and many others who knew or found out about what they did, all used their power to cover it up afterwards. Had the cleric not given into the temptation of lust, the temptation to wield power over others would not be an issue. Sin begets sin.
There was a reason why Jesus spoke so firmly on marriage, which is the only appropriate place for sexual union to take place. If marriage breaks down, so does society. Breakdown of the family CAUSES POVERTY. The poverty we so want to stop. If we teach and build up sexual morality and marriage, poverty is way less likely to happen.
I want to go back to something I touched on earlier, which is the claim that focusing on sexual sin means we do not give weight to social justice issues. Seeing where we are as a culture right now and the heavy focus our culture has on sexual identity, it seems only fitting that we focus in on this very thing. If we are to win this battle against Satan, and it is a battle that we are in whether we know it or not, we must focus in on how Satan has convinced us to identify ourselves through the scope of a sinful behavior, instead of identifying as our true identity, which is sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. This statement that we are too focused on sexual sin is one of division that pits those doing social justice work against those doing work to improve sexual morality.
It is not an either/or situation… It’s a both/and situation! It is actually an insult to the Mystical Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints to say that one is more important than the other. Some are called to feed the poor, others to teach on sexual morality, still others are called to a multitude of other areas. All of these things are meant to compliment one another in the Kingdom of God and build it up, not to be in competition with one another. To think otherwise is to think like a demi-god. Half-god. One who knows better than the teachings of God Himself.
This is actually one of the strategies of Satan, to get Christians to turn inward, to focus on our differences of opinion, to attack one another. When we are busy doing this, we actually cease fighting Satan.
God of course wants us to help the poor, but He also wants us to be interiorly free from sin. It is only when we interiorly work on our own sinfulness are we able to truly become servants of God by serving others. If we have not healed and grounded ourselves in the truth, we are at risk of being devoured by the wolves of the world, instead of being able to serve those in need. It is a cooperation in our own redemption and it is the duty of the Christian to help others see this too, but never by way of force. God Himself respects free will, and we should also. But we also don’t abdicate to the position that it’s just too hard and stay wallowing in sin and sit back and do nothing while others wallow in sin as well. That is not what we are called to do! Correction of a person is actually one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. We are called to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is the universal or Catholic call. It is the one that brings freedom and saves. And it ministers to the whole person and the whole truth. It seeks total conversion.
You know who takes half a truth into the world and twists it to be the full truth? Satan. The self-made demi-god who begets non-servium. If you want service from the heart, full truth must be embraced in prayer and reverence.
Lastly, I must comment on the very hurtful words that no doubt insulted those who adhere to full truth and respond lovingly in every way possible, even in the details of how they dress (which, by the way, was put in place to keep clerics from wearing richly styled clothing, thus stressing poverty as well as modesty). These very words are filled with judgement and division, let alone their being completely unprofessional.
Most of the young Priests in black cassocks that I know love God with their whole heart, mind and soul. They are prayerfully serving. They actually pray their Divine Office and mean it. To insinuate otherwise is calumny. No one but God knows their interior. These men that bring us the Eucharist do not need to be subverted by the very authority they serve. It does absolutely nothing to foster unity, truth and love. They are facing accusations and name calling from society, while getting called out for not changing basic teachings, not compromising the truth from within. All the while, those committing actual crimes get very little or even no penalty at all.
My friend Shawn Sulak put it this way, she said, “In our broken society my heart craves the truth, which has always been clear. In an effort to be “inclusive” we have lost beautiful traditions and the fruit of this seems to be that for every 6.5 Catholics that leave only 1 convert. Additionally, most Catholics believe the Eucharist is only a symbol. Why do most Catholics believe the Eucharist is only a symbol? Why aren’t Catholics attending Mass? If the hierarchy could just embrace what the church already is; beautiful, perfectly designed, and instituted by Christ Himself, the Holy Spirit could work. It doesn’t need to be watered down. That is the problem, it is losing all of it’s luster – which is the supernatural beauty and awe that compels you towards heaven. If only people truly understood what is happening at Mass and if only our leaders would cultivate this. People are not craving a mediocre experience where you can go and ‘hangout’ and follow a portion of what you feel like, and then go about the rest of your lackluster week. People thirst for and NEED Christ. The Catholic Church is the only place that can fill this – yet so many in leadership want to water it down. It is heartbreaking and sad.” Shawn went further and stated, “if people truly experience the Mass, the Eucharist, the Liturgy – the way it was written and intended, if they would go to Confession and experience God’s mercy and Grace, then the Holy Spirit could get to work and things would turn around. But if we continue down the path of ‘this sin isn’t as bad as that sin’ and saying Priests are ‘too rigid’, ignore the rubric of the Mass, and don’t teach the truth about the Mass and the Eucharist, Mass becomes like a sporting event. I want something RADICAL. I want radical Priests to rise up and say enough! Radical Love is what Christ was about and the beauty of our traditions embody this.”
While there are those who are truly “rigid” and need prayer, the converse is true that there are those who are morally loose, especially those in the ranks who commit sexual crimes and have destroyed the trust of a faithful flock. They are harming the Kingdom of God and need to be held accountable by our leadership. Why is this not happening? Their moral laxity has led to moral laxity in teaching the lay faithful and now we can see how depraved our society has become as a result. The church is supposed to be a beacon of truth. It draws you in because it is truth. It is Jesus. Now with watered down teaching it just looks like the rest of the world. The Holy Spirit is the advocate of the church and it is the Holy Spirit who convicts hearts and leads souls to full conversion. But we’ve seemed to lose hope in the Holy Spirit. We’ve stopped praying for our families and laity who are the sheep of the flock. We’ve turned to our own thinking and our own ability to try to reach out to the flock instead of calling on the Holy Spirit, the advocate, to do the work of conversion. It’s the Holy Spirit who keeps people from leaving the Church. It’s prayer that opens us up to the Spirit. The church should be calling all the faithful to prayer so that each catholic may encounter the living God in their very hearts.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” John 14:15. He didn’t quantify that and say to only keep some of them. This is because they are unified and belong together, to separate them out and pit them against one another is dangerous. Satan is the divider, God is the ultimate uniter, and God wants nothing more than for us to be ONE and for us to work as ONE body. It is our duty to build of the Kingdom of God. Don’t accept an ideology of halves. Be all in for the Kingdom of God. I believe Pope Francis truly wants the best for people, that he wants Priests to not get so stuck in the rules that they don’t love people. All of that is good. But the faithful also must not be offended by the truth. The Priests must not be afraid to teach it and should most definitely not be admonished for teaching it. The bar does not need to be lowered, the path should be clear – because it is a path to heaven. To downplay this just brings more destruction on the Body of Christ.
Pray for the Pope.
Fiat voluntas tua.