I once made a solemn promise not to publicly criticize a fellow priest or member of the hierarchy. This is not because I have no criticism, but because I value loyalty and believe there are enough stones being thrown by the enemy that our side needs all the help it can get.
However, how can one stand on one side and not express the dismay and disgust of leaders like Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles? This article and others current at this time shows the conscious, pre meditated and planned cover up of criminal priests. We know this has gone on before, but we’ve tried to excuse it as naivety, being too kind or forgiving, not being worldly wise enough and every other possible excuse, but here is Mahoney not only covering up, but covering his own backside with a battalion of lawyers.
I don’t often groan out loud when reading reports on this stuff. Usually a sad shake of the head, but reading about Mahoney’s misdeed made me groan out loud, and what makes me even sadder and madder is that no one is really talking about the root cause of the problem.
Everyone points out that the prelates didn’t want to lose money. They didn’t want to lose face. They didn’t want to lose their jobs. They didn’t want to scandalize the faithful, they wanted to help and rehabilitate the guilty priests, but what no one seems to be picking up is that all of this is symptomatic of a deeper and more disturbing trend within the church, and this is the tendency to be soft on sin–first on ourselves and then on others. Modernist Catholics are so big on forgiveness–by which they mean letting the person off the hook–and so short on proper judgement.
In the rosy technicolor world of the modernist Catholic church everything has a kind of Disneyland artificiality about it. Everybody is supposed to go around smiling and clapping like some horrendous puppets singing It’s a Small World After All. It’s all about comfort and ease and being nice to everyone because everyone really is a nice person deep down after all aren’t they?
Sin? Now we talk about, “Let’s think for a few moments about those times when we may have done some things that we are rather ashamed of.” or “I know all of us have sometimes done less than our best. Let’s think about those times and resolve to do better.” This is what I call AmChurch Catholicism: a softly carpeted, slightly carbonated religion that is sweet and bubbly and cheap. Then when somebody does something bad we all scurry to cover it up because bad things aren’t supposed to happen at Sunnyside!
Why is this? Chesterton said every argument is a theological argument, and so it is. The reason for this modernist softness for sin is universalism and semi-universalism. The universalist doesn’t believe anyone will go to hell. The semi-universalist is a universalist who is too cowardly to be a universalist. The idea that God is so very loving that no one will ever be punished and no one will ever be disciplined and certainly no one will ever go to hell produces a false religion in which criminals are never wicked. They’ve just “made a mistake and need therapy. They are victims themselves. They’re not responsible for their decisions…”
Universalism and semi-universalism creates a soft and spineless form of Christianity with no theological content. It doesn’t cause the sin and corruption. Sin of all kinds will be present in the church always, but modernism produces a sweetly, sentimental religion of naive do-gooders–who end up excusing crime, hiding criminals and covering up the worst kind of wickedness.
It makes me sick.
So have I kept my solemn promise to myself not to criticize a fellow priest, bishop or prelate? Yes. I’m not criticizing Cardinal Mahoney. I’m criticizing his grinning facade of being all lovey dovey and as kind as Jeezus. I’m criticizing the soft and nauseating modernism that lies beneath the facade and the disastrous results of this kind of false form of Christianity for our Catholic Church.