The following message was sent to the parishioners of Corpus Christi, a Roman Catholic community of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, in Charleston, South Carolina. The author is the pastor, Rev. Patrick Allen, himself a former Anglican. I think it is a message many of us need to hear.
In last Sunday’s first reading, we heard the word of the Lord by the Prophet Jeremiah:
‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ says the Lord.
These last weeks have seen new revelations of shepherds within the Church who destroy and scatter the sheep. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington D.C., has been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors and prohibited from exercising any public ministry. These accusations of abuse against minors have become the occasion, though, for the public airing of many more charges against the Cardinal – namely, that he was a sexual predator who used his position of power to coerce seminarians into sexual relationships, essentially purchasing their silence. It also turns out that two of his former dioceses paid settlements to men who accused the Cardinal of sexual harassment. But most distressing of all, it is now plain that many within the Church, including bishops, knew of McCarrick’s proclivities but did nothing to stop him or prevent his rise through the ecclesiastical ranks. I myself have talked to priests who had heard these rumors decades ago when they themselves were seminarians. Journalists had verified these rumours but could get no one to go on record. When McCarrick was named Archbishop of Washington, a delegation of well-placed Catholics went to Rome to warn curial officials at the Vatican of McCarrick’s abuse, and still no one acted. In short, everyone knew.
Here is a New York Times piece reporting on the accusations against McCarrick (warning: it is horrible to read). Here is a helpful analysis from the Catholic News Agency. I encourage you to read both.
As I say, it is distressing. It was painful for me as a Protestant contemplating conversion to the Catholic Church in 2002 when the abuse scandal here first exploded, and it is more painful now, as a Catholic and a priest, when it seems like 2002 all over again. But Jeremiah’s invective against Israel’s false shepherds reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. It also tells us that God will judge our false shepherds. So while rightly distressed, we do not despair. We must pray that God will do whatever, and to whomever, is necessary to purify the Church from this filth in our own time, and especially that he would strengthen our bishops, who are our chief shepherds and pastors, to act boldly and transparently. We must pray for that, but we must also demand it from the bishops.
I am sorry to have to write to you about these things, but it is important for the good of the Church that you know, understand, pray, and act. And yes, there are many wonderful things happening in the Church and, indeed, in our own midst, and so we may pray with Jeremiah (who was not always weeping):
because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
God bless you,