Believing More in Caesar Than in Hell

Peter Isely, Milwaukee coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it was a shame Widera could not stand trial.

“This man unfortunately leaves behind him countless and countless lives destroyed and families ruined,” said Isely. “If he had been brought to justice, it would have shown these victims and families that there was some consequence.”

I find this quote chilling. A man with multiple mortal sins is dead by his own hand and all this person can do is say it was a shame he could not stand trial so there would be “consequences”. I understand perfectly well that victims need to see justice, don’t get me wrong. But there’s something here that bothers me. Apparently, the guy doesn’t believe there will be consequences for the priest’s sin and suicide. He doesn’t believe in the judgement of God, only the judgment of Caesar. And he seems to me to believe, finally, that the only really satisfactory “consequences” are the ones victims get to inflict on victimizers, not the consequences God inflicts. Worst of all, there’s no hint of the hope of mercy for this wretched sinner, just disappointment that he wasn’t made to suffer according to earthly specification alloyed with no fear at all of what terrors may have engulfed his soul at the instant of his death.

It is a fearful thing to have lost our belief in hell. It leaves us unable to pray that our worst enemies escape it. When purely secular justice is all that fills our field of vision, we can walk away from a tragedy like this, filled with disappointment that the quarry got away and we did not get our pound of flesh, not pleading with God that this miserable soul will, somehow, find salvation. May God have mercy on this priest and on all those most in need of His mercy.