The McCarrick Report said what we already knew.
The Catholic Church is guilty of systemic, pervasive, from-the-pope-down enabling, supporting, and yes, participating in, sexual abuse, rape, sodomy, of every description. The victims are anybody and everybody.
Priests, bishops and cardinals have raped, abused and sodomized everybody they come into contact with, including very young children, teens, seminarians, nuns, people who go to them for counseling and each other. If it’s got a pulse, there’s a guy wearing a collar who will rape it, AND, there’s a Church who will lie for him, bully for him, use its power over the faithful for him and employ its vast political, economic power for him right up to and including international law.
I read a comment a few years ago that I can’t credit because I can’t remember who said it. The comment was to the effect that there are two Catholic Churches. One Catholic Church is spiritual, loving, faith-filled; the highway to heaven for those who follow it. The other Catholic Church is a political power organization that behaves like La Cosa Nostra.
The takeaway from the McCarrick report is not that a few priests in a Godly institution committed egregious sins. The takeaway of the McCarrick report is not that individual men are corrupt. The takeaway is that the institution, the Church itself, is corrupt.
What 20 years of reveals have shown us is that the Catholic Church as an institution has had a long-standing policy — let me repeat that, it has had a policy — of indifference to the sexual and moral corruption in its ranks. We now know that it has used every bit of power at its disposal to enable and allow the destruction of souls by means of sexual abuse and rape by its own clergy, including by bishops and cardinals, for as many years back into history as we have been able to look. This practice is pervasive throughout the Church, and it is far too rampant not to be known by just about everyone on the “inside.” It extends from top to bottom, from pope to priest; from pole to pole, and dateline to dateline.
Is it any wonder that such a Church has historically supported methods of victimizing half the human race such as the sexual double standard? Does it surprise anyone that the leaders of such a Church have no problem backing sexual predators for high elected office? Doesn’t the nonsense about “virgin martyrs” fit right in with the idea that the victims of sexual assault are actually guilty of the crime committed against them, because, after all, they could have fought and died instead?
The idea that the only good rape victim is a dead rape victim is a pervasive construct of the sexual double standard that is enforced by many sicko religions.
It is not of Christ. It has nothing to do with Jesus Christ Who was Himself a victim of human sadism at the hands of a corrupt politicized church. It is anti-Christ.
The irony in all this is that the McCarrick report didn’t tell us anything new. It was no big surprise to know that Pope John Paul II knew about McCarrick. We already knew that he had given a pass to Maciel. Likewise, it wasn’t any big surprise to know that the “problem” of sex abusing clergy is endemic throughout the Church. We already knew that, too.
None of it, nothing about it, was a surprise. The facts had been sitting there, lined up in a row, right in front of us, since the National Catholic Reporter first broke the story about priest sex abuse in Louisiana, and then, later, when the Boston Globe took the story home.
Twenty years ago, I read the documents the court released about Cardinal Law. I plowed through all of it. I’ve read many of the subsequent court documents, including those from Pennsylvania.
And yet, I have kept on believing in the Church.
The reason is simple. I was called to this Church by Christ in the Eucharist. It was a call that was — and is — clear and compelling.
My one-sentence definition of the Church is simple. The Church is the Eucharist and the Eucharist is real.
Ironically, I can also testify that the priesthood can be real, as well. I have had God reach through a priest and into me with his words a number of times. I’ve also had priests say some of the meanest things to me, things that both outraged me and wounded me.
The priesthood, even at its best, is a clumsy human instrument of God’s grace. We like to say that our human hands are God’s hands in the world. But those human hands can and do punch as well as soothe.
That is the human frailty and fallenness of priests. Priests are just people. And as people, they manifest human fallenness as well as God’s grace. They can’t help it. It’s what they are. They are human.
However, priests have written two-thousand years worth of self-deifying teaching about themselves that allows them to coerce the people in the pews and bully them. These self-serving teachings are false. Priests are not another Christ. They may stand for Christ when they confect the Eucharist, but the similarity ends there.
By draping themselves in a semi-divine cloak, priests set both themselves and the laity up for systemic abuse by a corruptible human institution. What we get from this is what we’ve got; a systemically corrupt Church and a laity that is so besotted that they allow priests to rape their own children and do nothing to stop them.
Jesus began the Church, and He instituted the priesthood. I’m not arguing that. But God also set up the Levitical priesthood, and that was the same priesthood that murdered God when He came to them in human flesh.
Human beings never stop being human beings. That is why Jesus was incarnated human, and it is why He consented to suffer what we do to one another to the point of death. There is nothing pretty about what we did to God when He became one of us.
That, and not the self-deifying nonsense that the priesthood hides behind is the real message of Calvary. Priests aren’t another Christ. They’re human beings. I can attest that most of them try as hard as they can to be representatives of Christ to their parishioners. The surprising thing for me is not that some priests are corrupt, but that most of them are good.
I honestly feel both love and gratitude toward the priests who have pastored me. I am fully aware of how much of themselves they have given to me, and to others. I love them, and I am grateful to them. What I don’t do is worship them and expect them to be shades of the living God. They are human beings who consent to bring us the Eucharist. That is enough.
The Church has been faithful to the Creeds through 2,000 years of history in which the human condition has changed far more than in any 2,000 years previous. The Eucharist is freely available to all who will partake of it, and — I say this again — it is real.
But the Church is corrupt.
That is the takeaway from the McCarrick report, and all the other reports and findings, testimony and reveals we’ve waded through for the past 20 years. The problem isn’t a few perverted and sick individuals. It is a manifestation of what always happens when human beings are allowed to make their own rules and operate without accountability.
I don’t think the Church can cleanse itself from this sin, not so long as it insists on keeping secrets and policing itself. The drive to engage in sexual behavior is woven into the fiber of our being. It is an essential primal force that, in a human being, is much more than the drive to procreate. It is woven into our need for love, our hunger for bonding with another person, and our desire to be touched and cherished. It is an expression of our selves, as well as a pounding, biological imperative.
That is why sexual assault and rape are such hideous crimes. They are crimes that attack the personhood of persons. They are crimes against everything that makes us social and loving. They are selfishness and cruelty writ animalistic. When the Church participates in and supports sexual assault and rape, it is directly refuting the fact that all human beings are made in the Image and Likeness of God.
Rape and sexual assault destroys people, shatters them. The younger the victim, the deeper the damage. When these things are coupled with the claims to near divinity that the priesthood makes for itself, and bound up in the mystical union with God that is the Eucharist, they become soul destroying.
The Church is corrupt.
And because this corruption is sexual and clerical, it is also satanic. Clerical sexual abuse is not a man, degrading the body and spirit of another person. It is a direct attack on that person’s soul.