Rector to seminarians: ‘We are part of a diseased body not of our own making’

Rector to seminarians: ‘We are part of a diseased body not of our own making’ August 24, 2018

From Pixabay/Public Domain

This homily was delivered by the Rev. Matthew Kauth, rector St. Joseph College Seminary in the Diocese of Charlotte. He offered this response to the growing sex abuse scandal:

I have an emotional response. The same as any sane man.  I am sickened, disgusted, angry, horrified . . .  What I am not is surprised. I am not shocked. I have no longer any trust in princes. In twenty years as a priest I have seen too much of man and too much of the devil.  I am not shocked. Shock ended many years ago.

Priests are not allowed to speak on certain topics. Perhaps it is better to say they can do so, but only at their own peril. The moment the god of personal choice is attacked the weapons of social media launch an assault from all sides with the cry of outrage. I know because I lived through it. I know the price you pay for touching certain diseases in the Body of Christ and speaking about them plainly. One disease has been made untouchable, unmentionable as a sickness. Thus, are we shocked to find its infection into all that is sacred. In the words of St Catherine, we have been taught to apply the ointment of mercy when what was needed was the knife of justice. What should have been cauterized over the last hundred years has been soothed. We are not allowed to speak about diseased attractions. You are to accommodate them. Accept them. In some Dioceses celebrate them.  In some circles promote them.  But you must never take up arms against them.  And yet we are shocked to find their effects riddled into our sanctuaries? I am not shocked. Nor is anyone who has lived inside the heart of the Church for these many decades. My shock ended when I was young and wondering what my response would be when I first encountered the stench of rotting flesh on the Mystical Body. What would my response be when I had all these violent emotions?

What does one ever do with emotion if it is not to rule us? Use it. Harness it. Form it. Direct it. We are part of a diseased body not of our own making. The options were clear for me when I was 19 years old. Cut oneself off from the body or attempt to fight the cancer. The former seems easy to do but it won’t do. Not if you know that the body is His body. I knew the Church was divine. That she was Christ’s. And I knew that her members were sinful because I knew myself a sinner. But what to do about this disease? To fight this leprosy requires a saint and I am not one. So, my passions gave way to another response. I thought.

I had an intellectual response. I sat down and thought about the battle as Christ commanded us to do before entering into it. Could it be won? What does one do when surrounded on every side? What does one do when the odds are impossible? Only what one can. What could He do with me? I who stood there with a crust of bread and the head of a fish but what is that for so many? He didn’t care. Feed my sheep. My response to this scandal started a long time ago. It started when I decided to be a priest. I was shocked before seminary but no longer. I knew what I was heading into. I wanted to run into a burning building. I wanted to jump on the boat that seemed to be sinking. I encountered the evil long ago, and I wanted to attack it. Foolhardy perhaps. Only He could inspire such a thing. He inspires to walk on water. But what would that do?  What is one weak man against so many? But I was not alone. I simply didn’t know how many others there were.

The intellectual response grew in my will and became a fire in me. It was time for a practical response beyond the priesthood itself. Words are not needed. Deeds are needed. I wanted to fight fire with holy fire. I wanted to respond. What deed? I believe that what I have experienced in 25 years of attempting to follow Christ was in some sense to prepare me for this deed, this response. My response is this. A seminary. My response is you. A new priesthood. Whatever we do we are not doing what was done. That has not worked. When a vocation is born it is pure-like water from a spring. We cannot attempt to purify the water after it has become brackish. We must start at the source. The building of solid men for the priesthood. People say we are too traditional? I don’t know what that means. When something new doesn’t work one has to circle back and revivify what once did. Solid formation according to the mind of the Church, not the mind of the age the Church is in. Perennial. Tradition. Period.  We don’t want what has been done for the last 100 years. We are not doing that. We want Him to make all things new not try more new things.

If people ask me what my response is I will tell them silently by pointing to you. You have that same look in your eye. You want to be trained, equipped, formed, strengthened for this epic war. Are you scared? Perhaps you should be. But did we not choose as our motto the words spoken to Joseph? Do not be afraid to take the Church as your own. To guard and protect her from her enemies-inside and out. Do not be afraid to stand with Christ at the cross of this scourge. Do you think they are just words we use to sound pious? It kills. Do not be afraid to nurture the Church with your own sacrifice. You are blessed to have a bishop who will stand with you-who is a vigilant gate-keeper. I will stand with you. The priests who work here will stand with you. We may fall but we will fall together.

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