FTR I had no idea, when I let loose a couple pertinent rants over the past few days, that The Pillar would be breaking such a major story yesterday, right on topic. Quick comments rather than an essay:
#1 Darwin Catholic (who also writes for The Pillar) states perfectly my own shock at the knee-jerk response, by some, to the investigative reporting that went into the story: “We Must Not Be A Church of Lies”.
#2 For my own part, I’m appalled (though not surprised) by the ragingly homophobic commentary from some quarters. I’ve been wanting to write on the topic of real vs. falsely-accused homophobia for some time, and later I still hope to. Important topic. For now, though, personal analysis: Even though there are obvious reasons that a man who is sexually attracted to other men is extremely vulnerable to temptation within the Catholic priesthood, nonetheless, in terms of this scandal, I believe the primary key here is mutual blackmail.
–> Burrill’s unchastity — whatever precisely it turns out to be, we don’t know what he did or didn’t do — is important to the question of cover-ups not because of its particular flavor, but because it left him vulnerable. Had he been meeting women, he would have been just as easy for his superiors to order around, demand participation in the massive work of carefully slicing out McCarrick while leaving the rest of the team untouched, etc. Had he been meeting with women, he would have been more than sufficiently violating his vows and the Catholic faith to call into question whether he is really the right guy to, say, carry out the reform the US Bishops’ sexual harassment of seminarians problem.
#3 I absolutely think that the kind of data-sharing that Grindr engaged in should be illegal. I do not think that such laws will provide *much* protection to anyone, don’t kid yourself, but they would be more than nothing. I hope this case creates a backlash.
However, I have no qualms about journalists following-up on tips and using legally-obtained, publicly-available data to confirm allegations. That’s what journalists do. This story concerns a major public official who has massive responsibility for administering policies directly related to the topic of the story.
This is not Father Podunk’s little drinking problem that his bishop is quietly helping him get treatment for, and meanwhile the Knights quit selling beer at the fish fry. This is not even Msgr. Bigwig’s private (adult-)porn addiction that he brings to confession, is trying and trying to deal with, and dammit he just can’t stop, but thank God he manages at least to contain it, and manages to allow God to use his continual failure and weakness to build up his humility and let the grace of constant repentance and contrition fuel his work that, fortunately, resides primarily in some other sphere, because his bishop had the good sense to pull him out of ministries that created a conflict.
Alas, in Burrill’s case, the private sins are relevant to his massive, central responsibilities. Sexual addiction is powerful, and I won’t for a moment pretend to know the state of Msgr. Burrill’s soul. I hope for the best. But this is a massive management failure on the part of his superiors who put him in office, either knowing of his weakness, knowing of rumors of his weakness, or, alternately, blithely ignorant of what had become an all-consuming public acting-out of some very serious spiritual problems.
#4 You are joking yourself if you think Msgr. Burrill is just another isolated case.
#5 You are joking yourself if you think that compulsive use of anonymous hook-up apps is the same thing as Sr. Scrupulosa’s messy desk and her Mountain Dew addiction. The distinction between mortal and venial sins has meaning. She needs to fight the small stuff precisely because the little sins, left unchecked, bit by bit lead towards larger ones.
#6 There but by the Grace of God go any of us. It’s a battle. It is not easy. No one this side of the grave is immune.
#7 If you are caught in an addictive sin that has snowballed into proportions that honestly horrify you? Just keep on trying to fight the fight. Avail yourself of what helps you can, extract yourself from disastrous settings (including quietly resigning from inappropriate work before you get caught in a snare), and plead with God for mercy with heartfelt repentance . . . even if it is repentance you must resort to daily, even hourly.
God is not too busy to keep on forgiving you each time you fall. Thank God Jesus only had to die once to save you from all your sins, and me from mine — no sense wasting what was the most efficient use ever of a short life and a long torture session.
The forgiveness is available to you. God knows very well that you need it, and He’s eagerly waiting for you to come get another dose. Throne of Grace open 24/7/366.
Photo of a trail into snow-capped mountains courtesy of Wikimedia, CC 4.0. Mountaineering tip: Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Pretty effective.
[For those who are wondering, I’m still on 25%-75% sick leave, depending on the day, and, as I put it to a friend who kindly inquired, averaging about a C- in the holding-life-together department. The reason I was, unusually, wasting lots of time reading Twitter when this story broke is that I was useless for anything else and therefore indulging an old vice.]