Church is Holy; Scandals are of Man – UPDATED

Pat McNamara, whose column “In Ages Past” runs every Tuesday here at Patheos, has an interesting piece up today on Scandals and the Church; a question and answer from 1929:

“Will you not admit that many of the leaders of your Church— her Popes, Bishops and priests— have been wicked men? How can you call such a Church holy?”

The Church remains holy, no matter how many of her leaders prove faithless to the Gospel they preach, for these men are cut off from the Church’s life by their sins, which can never be traced to her teachings or laws. Would you call an apple tree bad, because you discovered some rotten apples lying on the ground beneath it? No, you judge the tree by the ripening or ripe apples on its boughs. Wicked churchmen will one day have to render a strict account to Almighty God for their stewardship, for as Christ said: “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him much will be required” (Luke xii. 16).

Read the rest here

Striking a similar note, Deacon Greg Kandra looks at how Padre Pio responded to an untrue accusation made about him:

After Vespers, Padre Raffaele summoned Pio to the friary parlor and read the decree received on June 11, 1931, without comment:

“Padre Pio is to be stripped of all faculties of his priestly ministry except the faculty to celebrate the Holy Mass, which he may continue to do provided it is done in private, within the walls of the friary, in the inner chapel, and not publicy in church”.

To that, Ruffin explains St. Pio’s initial reaction:

“God’s will be done,”…then he covered his eyes with his hands, lowered his head, and murmured, “The will of the authorities is the will of God.”

While this caused immense suffering for Pio, which was confided privately to his friend and former teacher, Padre Agostino, he did not complain or make objections, especially in a public way. Padre Agostino asked him how he spent his time and Pio replied, “I pray and I study as much as I can, and then I annoy my Brothers.” Pio went on to elaborate that he jokes with his brothers. With regards to study, he spent much time in Sacred Scripture, and he especially studied the Fathers of the Church.

Kandra borrowed that from Diane at the Te Deum Blog, who found the Pio story while covering the suppression of the Intercessors of the Lamb, another recent “scandal.”

The church will always have scandals and accusations brewing, and investigations being undertaken. Where there is great holiness, evil is always nearby. The church itself is holy, but the people within it are all-too-susceptible to their brokenness, which is why we keep our eyes on Christ, first, and understand that even as Jesus hung on the cross, he had a thief on either side – one who repented and joined him in paradise, and one who did not, and was not.

T’was ever thus! What we see in the stories of St. Pio, and the Nadine are stories where accusations were made, investigations were launched, and the parties involved dealt with according to what was found to be true or false. Has the church always acted as promptly and correctly on delicate matters? Sadly — greviously — no. But in these cases, she did.

The thing is — as Pat McNamara’s piece argues — no matter how many whispers are hissed or accusations are made, the number of “bad” priests or religious in the face of 2000 years of consecrated and vowed service of men and women has been very small. But of course, every exception helps to create a perception about the whole.

Speaking of which, today in my emailbox – an offer for a review copy of this:

“As a Roman Catholic priest, I was forced to decide between a supernatural love—in a ministry serving the Lord—and natural love—in a forbidden relationship with a woman. Both were blessings given to me by the same God, the source of all love. This was my dilemma.”—Father Albert Cutie

I think what always bothered me about the Cutie story was not that he fell in love — these things happen — but that he only admitted it after being “caught” by a photographer. He was willing to go on presenting himself as a priest, celebrating the sacraments, wearing priestly garb, etc, and in effect lying to his followers, his bishop – everyone; he was content to continue to receive the love, the confidences of people who believed in him, until his hand was forced. I find that hard to look past. It’s one thing to find you can’t live your vows; it’s another to engage in deception once you’ve figured that out.

The publisher’s notes make it clear this is going to be a condemnation of the mean Catholic church for “forcing” Cutie to choose. That’s nonsense. There was no forcing of choice. The choices were always his to make, and the vows were his to keep or break. When he broke them, the choice was his to come clean about it or not.

Not sure if I will take up the free book offer.

Fr. Longenecker
asks a question I’ve wondered about, too: Do Beautiful Churches help Produce Vocations? Perhaps they help to illustrate the whole concept of “something greater than oneself.”

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Rebecca_Barrido

    The church will remain Holy even what!The words of Jesus must be heard by all in Matthew16:16-19 when the key to heaven was given to Peter to bind and loosen souls AND THE GATE OF HEAVEN SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT.It had been sneered,humiliated ,dismantled for centuries but it stands strong never to wobble for Jesus left the church to the ,agisterium to forgive sins and to administer the Holy Sacraments.Jesus knew that the followers will commit sons so he left Matthew16:16-19.This he said to Peter and the apostles”Behold I am with you all days until the consummation of the world”Matthew 28:20.” behold I will ask the Father and he sahll give you another Paraclete that he may abide with you foreigner”John 14:16 “He that entereth not by Yhe door into Yhe sheepfold but climbeth up another way is the same as a thief or the robber”John 10:1. The church will still be there for Yhe dogma Holy Sacramengs Eucjarist decorous to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”He that receivith whom I send receivith me”John 14:20,St.Padre PIO was obedient to the church to the end and he became a saint.THE CHURCH IS HOLY although the men who work under it have brokeness.Jesus knew about what to come so he left Maythew16:16-19.No person with power possession prestige learnings and intelligence can forgive sins.From Peter to the present pope Benedicy XVI Cardinal bishops and priests can for give sins.WE BELIEVE IN THIS FOR JESUS SAID SO…”AND THE GATE OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT”Peter to the priests”John 21:25.The church is based in Tradirion and the Bible not Sola Scriptita alone.It was founded on 33A.D. Before the Bible was Written.I love mh church for it’s HOLY.WHERE THE CHURCH IS THERE JESUS IS.

  • Mary Beth Beacom

    This is frustrating. The 60 minutes interview with Archbishop Dolan brought about the same thoughts. Someone needs to say, often, that these misdeeds are the deeds of men (and relatively few of them). They are NOT the officially policy of the church! It is a problem with the weakness of men and the presence of evil.

    What if, say, it was the official policy of the church to cdone the killing of children in the womb (as some denominations do)?

    Now that is scandal.

  • MongoDad

    My non-Catholic Christian friends are fond of pointing to the corrupt Popes of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance as evidence that the Church is invalid. My response is one I learned from someone else, “How small and weak is your God that you think He cannot work His Will through imperfect men. Perhaps your clergy are perfected; ours are not. Whatever the sins of those Popes, adultery, assassination, material greed…they did not try to change the doctrine and teaching of the Church to condone private armies, acquisition of enormous wealth and sexual misconduct. Your Reformation (Deformation) is, in my opinion, the invalid enterprise as it is peopled with individuals no less corrupt, weak, fallen and sinful as any you can find in Holy Mother Church. Do you think Jesus did not know that such folly and sin would occur when he gave Peter his commission???” May everyone reading this receive extra grace today…please pray for Pather Corapi…MGRBY.

  • Wayne Sutton – great prayer site!

  • jcd

    What has always bothered me about the Cutie story is that he left the Church and has now put his soul in grave danger of being eternally lost.To leave the Truth and now preach from a false pulpit is the greatest tragedy.

  • jcd

    What has always bothered me about the Cutie story is that he left the Church and has now put his soul in grave danger of being eternally lost.To leave the Truth and now preach from a false pulpit is the greatest tragedy.

  • Dan

    It’s difficult to say it’s not a quasi-unofficial policy when so many priests, so many bishops, so many orders are dominated by predatory homosexuals.

    We’re not talking guys teeing off on little kids under 10. We’re talking homosexual men introducing homosexuality to impressionable pubescent boys, pre-teens and often times teens.

    This is sick stuff! Big Time as Dick Cheney would say.

    Yet despite the enormity, the gravity, the horror of what’s been going on, there’s been no purge, no massive upheaval within the Church’s leadership. All we get all apologies offered in some limp-wristed manner, and in a tone of voice that makes red-blooded men wonder about the inclinations of the man doing the apology.

    This is sick stuff!

    And when there hasn’t been the kind of healthy reaction that we should have seen, ———- it gets real difficult to continue with the line that this behavior is only the misdeeds of the few, instead of a behavior conived at by the many.

  • Dan

    Those that are “protesting” must continue their “protesting,” otherwise they have serious probs justifying their remaining outside of the fold of the Roman Catholic Church.

    That’s why they dwell so often on these lurid legends of yesteryear. And that’s why this policy of opening the door of the clergy to homosexual predators around the time of Vatican II was such a disaster. It played to stereotype for Protestants, it was almost made to order for them.

    And of course that policy of opening the door to them was in reality only a depth charge that would detonate when it reached a critical pressure point.

    An utter disaster, that did untold damage to the Church, it’s mission, and the salvation of God only knows how many souls.

    And yet it continues.

    The door hasn’t been shut, the predators remain within the priesthood, and orders dominated by them remain so dominated.

    God help us.

  • Dan

    And oh, by the by, don’t worry about Corapi, he’s Alpha; he can handle it.

  • Papagee

    Yes, and then of course there are the many “faithful” Catholic married couples who justify their use of methods of artificial contraception, which means they are receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin. Some of these married men are even deacons in the church! This type of on-going mortal sin within the Catholic Church, and the blind eye it has been given since Pope Paul VI warned us of the consequences of artificial contraception (ie The Winnipeg Statement given at that time by the CCCB) has indeed brought the Church to this crisis of faith we are in now.

    The pundits on most Catholic blogs are also, I have noticed, very quiet about the issue of artificial contraception. I think there are many who would like to see the bloggers give us their viewpoint on the use of artificial contraception by Catholic married couples. That would be much more interesting and to the point than all this pontificating re: the sins of the few priests like Cutie. So Catholic bloggers, tell us, what do you think of the teaching from the chair of St. Peter on Catholic couples using artificial contraception? Now THAT would be something of interest for us all to read!

  • Anonymous
  • Papagee

    Nah, just when you spit it back, but obviously hit a nerve. Sorry, MeanLizzie. Too much for you, I reckon.

  • Anonymous

    You’re not too much for me, and you didn’t strike a nerve. I gave you what you asked for — a post on artificial contraception — and simply wondered if you got any spit on yourself in the way you demanded it, which you appear to be quite proud of. Jesus must be so proud of all of us, I guess.

  • Papa

    And by putting out the “spit” comment in response to my post, that would make Jesus proud? Okay, Lizzie. I write spit and you write wine. Thank you for your enlightenment. Hooboy!

  • Anonymous

    You can play with this all day, but I’m not going to. You made an aggressively worded demand. I gave you what you demanded, and noted your aggression. I’m sure I’d be a better Christian if I’d just given you what you wanted, without noting how nasty you’d been, but that would make me a saint, and I am not one. Never claimed to be. Sometimes, when someone spits, I don’t mind making a note of it.

  • Manny

    I had a good laugh at Fr. Cutie’s name. How appropriate is that…LOL.

  • Papa

    Well, I’m a nasty, aggressive, demanding rascal and that’s that then.
    Meanwhile, people in the pews are using the pill, which these days also acts often enough, as an abortifacient, but thanks for the thoughts on it from 2009. They were very nice. Too bad we, the Body of Christ,weren’t really done “playing” at this, that’s for sure, but as for here, okay, as you wish. I’d really rather not carry on with it either.

  • jeff

    in the words of rodney williams, can’t we all just get along

  • Dgsmonterey

    I think Fr Cutie is responsible for what we saw in the news . If you watch all the videos you can see is not a coincidence but something plan and now he is using the news as best he knows for a income for his new family.
    I think is ok that he get in Love but what Is wrong is that he publicized everything and argued the position of the Church about priestly marriage that he freely accepted.
    Cutie needs to understand if he is really saying that he was in love with Christ and the Church, His new position is is harming that same people he professed to love

  • jeff

    I think it was William F. Buckley who once said that if the requirement for speaking out in defense of the Church or the truth were perfect holiness, none of us would ever say anything. We would all be reduced to total silence. This blog wouldn’t exist, or if it did, the comment sections would be empty. The pope would have very little to say, and there would be no preaching or sermons.

    So Father Corapi’s sins, whatever they may or may not be, have never for a moment entered into my thought process when listening to his talks for edification. I have never said, “wow, this man is perfect!” and I doubt anyone else with a modicum of life experience did either. This is such a straw man being set up; very few if any of us need to be reminded that the clergy are imperfect.

  • Anonymous

    Surely you don’t think your comment is a serious response to the wickedness of the Roman church and its history of corruption. You make a bogus distinction between the church and the people in it as a way of sidestepping responsibility. Clever ruse, but no cigar!

  • Anonymous

    Please! Belonging to a religious cult will not do you any good in achieving immortality. How foolish! Don’t drink the kool aid.

  • Anonymous

    Jesus is a fictional character based on the hero-demi-god of the ancient mystery dramas. So I doubt that he is proud or not-proud. He is imaginary! Wake up!

  • doubting-thomist

    Thanks for this–especially the beginning answer. It’ll be helpful when I start getting comments on my recent articles about the sex abuse scandals at my own blog.

    As far as beautiful churches producing vocations, I don’t know about that on a general level, but I do know that my own parish has put forth a lot of vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate, and to religious life–and it’s a hideous monstrosity from the 60′s.

  • Don L

    My favorite answer to this self-serving accusation of God because of the failure of some unholy priests, hence the Church itself, is Judas. He was handpicked by Christ and hardly just a run-of-the-mill sinner, but the very betrayer of God. His evil actions were converted into the means of our salvation – defeating once and for all the power of the temptor, who urged him to take the 30 pieces of silver. As the late Bishop Fulten Sheen understood, such attacks often reflect the condition of the accusor’s soul more than the soul of the Church.