I once tried to explain the problems faced by faithful Catholics to my good friend Eric Metaxas. “Imagine you felt your salvation depended on staying inside a Church with apostolic doctrines, which is run by liberal Protestants.”
We Catholics have faced some version of that for most of my lifetime. In theory, the bishop is meant as the heir of the apostles to be the main teacher of doctrine. And a model of holiness.
The Cardinal Who Molested the Boy He’d Baptized
Now we learn that more and more of them were either implicated in sex abuse, or helped to cover it up. The former archbishop of our nation’s capital, Theodore McCarrick, was groping seminarians, and even molesting children.
The mainstream news source Catholic News Agency notes that several prominent churchmen were in a position to know about his actions. The Church settled legal claims against him in 2005 and 2007, yet he remained in office, even attending the Conclave that elected Pope Francis. McCarrick played a key role in the 2002 “Charter” meant to end sexual abuse, and may have influenced its decision to exempt bishops from consequences for sex abuse cases.
The worst accusation against McCarrick? That he molested a young man whom as a child he’d personally baptized.
How many of McCarrick’s glad-handing colleagues knew, and when did they know it?
Pope Francis’ closest advisor, Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, vouched and covered up for years for his right hand man, Juan José Pineda Fasquelle. Fasquelle just resigned, when his own sex abuse of seminarians could no longer be waved away.
No wonder the bishops who covered for one of their colleagues aren’t willing to face down today’s fashionable evils. To confront the LGBT attack on Christianity itself. Who wants to risk a revolt on that kind of scale, when you have parishes to run? Nor are we talking mostly about pedophiles, who are no more common among the priesthood than in any other profession. The vast majority of sex abuse cases that occurred in the Church were of post-pubescent boys by gay men, not pedophiles.
Each week or month write your pastor a personal check. Make it out to him, not the parish.
No surprise that bishops find allies in pro-choice labor unions. And in money-sluicing Democrats who promise to keep the Church’s “charities” on life-support as government contractors. Remember when one brave bishop, Thomas Paprocki, ordered his local Catholic U.S. senator, Dick Durbin, to stop receiving Communion? That was after Durbin voted to keep on killing pain-capable, almost viable unborn babies. The very next week, the cardinal in Chicago, Blaise Cupich, did a Skype call thanking Durbin for his help on immigration. Just to make sure that Durbin suffered no political damage. And to slap Paprocki publicly in the face.
Imagine you felt your salvation depended on staying inside a Church with apostolic doctrines, which is run by liberal Protestants.
Cut Off the Supply of Canon Fodder
The only reason these Mainline liberal Protestants serving as Catholic bishops aren’t facing empty churches like their Episcopalian colleagues? That would be immigration. Some 40% of native born Catholics leave the Church. But Catholic numbers stay flat, instead of declining, thanks to Latin American immigration. One in four Catholic adults in the U.S. was born in another country. When many bishops tell us that immigration is the “future of the church,” they never say why. It’s because they’ve given up on the rest of us — the people who grew up here in their churches. Whose ancestors built the parishes they wreckovate. Who are still paying their bills with our donations.
Many of those bishops have virtually ceased to preach, teach, or evangelize the faith. They’ve decided to simply import people, who (wouldn’t you know!) just happen to join up en masse as liberal Democrats. So the Democrats are the allies. Nasty, “harsh” Republicans (so what if they’re pro-life and pro-marriage?) want to shut down the blood transfusion. Then everyone would see just how ghastly sick the patient really is.
Don’t Wait for a Pope to Fix Things
Lay Catholics have very little power to influence our pastors. Or our bishops. We used to wait for the papacy to fix things. To send letters to Rome, in the hope that the Vatican would rein in local abuses. We imagined that faithful orders and solid dioceses would simply outproduce the dying liberal religious orders and lavender seminaries.
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But the orthodox popes who reigned from 1978 through 2013 only managed to slow down the slide.
It’s likely that they were naïve about a fundamental fact: if you’re willing to be a heretic, you’re probably game to lie. Hence ambitious ex-believers who wanted to rise in the ranks, to become say, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., were perfectly happy to mouth orthodox slogans while John Paul or Benedict was pope. They consolidated power, and when they saw their chance they struck by electing Pope Francis in 2013. (McCarrick was one of Francis’s longtime boosters, along with pedophile enabler extraordinaire, the far-left Cardinal Godfried Danneels.)
The Power of the Purse
One leverage, other than prayer, which faithful laymen have is financial. As much as they draw from the taxpayer, the bishops’ main source of income is Sunday collections. (They get 8%, every week, from every parish.)
How much will these bishops get? That is in our hands. Quite literally, in the checkbooks we hold. And there are things we can do. On a grand scale, I’d like to see faithful Catholics of means set up formal escrow accounts. (For the national initiative, we could lightheartedly take the name “St. Escrow’s.”) Those accounts will receive the monies those Catholics would otherwise have given to their bishops. Annually, a board of faithful laymen will review each bishops’ decisions, and pay him what he deserves.
For ordinary Catholics? Well, a very faithful priest in an appallingly liberal diocese once offered this suggestion. If you have a good pastor and parish, but don’t want to fund your bishops’ open-borders or big government activism — or his gay-dominated seminary — do this: Each week or month write your pastor a personal check. Make it out to him, not the parish. He can do it with it what he wills, and you’ll trust him to spend it wisely. The bishop’s not entitled by any law, canon or civil, to one red cent.
Time for a General Council, Like Nicaea?
On the macro scale, of course, I don’t know how to fix things. That’s in God’s hands. Based on my long study of Church history, I’d say that we’re in a crisis on the order of the fourth-century Arian heresy. That wasn’t solved by electing hardline popes and expecting them to pursue successful purges. It was addressed by repeated universal Councils of Church bishops. Those used to gather bishops, orthodox and heretical alike, and force them to hash out fundamental differences of doctrine. When they taught dogmatically, they trusted the Holy Spirit to guard their conclusions from error. Councils like that affirmed the divinity of Christ, for instance.
Such councils proved long, protracted, painful and divisive. But they gave us the clear tenets of the orthodox faith shared by faithful Christians. Christ told us that He would guard the Church from error in such instances. It’s time to take Him at His word.