In the centuries-old Missal of the Roman Rite, at the beginning of each and every Mass, the priest places himself before the judgment of God, soliciting divine judgment and making reparation for sin before approaching the altar to offer the Holy Sacrifice.
In English, this prayer, taken from Psalm 42, begins: “Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy…”
Today, we see what a loss to the Church it has been for priests to have left such an attitude of humble supplication behind. In many respects, it is the clerical state itself that has become “the nation that is not holy.” It is our very bishops who have become the “unjust and deceitful” men from which priests of old asked God for deliverance.
It struck me recently, while I was at Mass, that of every religion I have ever heard about, it is Catholicism that is the most wholesome. Many pagan religions were known for their fertility rites and even sexualized conceptions of deities. Of Islam, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that Mohammed “seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men.“
But not Catholicism. Catholicism held up as its paragon of virtue Our Blessed Mother and her perpetual virginity, along with the ever chaste and perfect life of her Divine Son. St. Joseph is himself a patron saint of purity and sexual restraint for men; he lived a life of prayerful continence while married to a woman who was undoubtedly the most perfect and beautiful creature who ever lived.
Think of the attacks on the Catholic Faith over the past century. Think of the way a world steeped in the lustful excesses of the sexual revolution mocked and reviled Catholics for their commitment to continence before marriage, their refusal to use contraception, their rejection of acts of sodomy and of all forms of unnatural relationships. Attacks that are embedded forever in the popular culture, from songs like Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” to Monty Python’s “Every Sperm is Sacred” to one of the favored chants of the pro-abortion left: “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!” In Ireland, when the constitutional protection for the unborn fell before a majority vote earlier this year, a cartoon appeared in The Sunday Independent, Ireland’s largest newspaper. What it depicted was the epitome of this cultural hatred for the Church’s mores and how they were alleged to have held people back:
Catholicism has never been hated for its sexual excess; it has been despised for its voice of sexual restraint. It has encouraged us to be pure, to be holy, to understand that only the clean of heart will see God. It has made saints of notable sexual sinners like Augustine (“Lord, give me chastity…but not yet!”) and martyrs for purity like St. Maria Goretti (“No! It is a sin!”). And it has asked us, in all things, to follow these examples – conversion for those who have lived sinful lives and tenacious preservation of purity for those who have, by the grace of God, never fallen into such sins.
This is why the Catholic Church has become the center of the most sordid sex abuse scandal in history. Not because there are more sexual predators among Catholic priests and bishops than in other religions or walks of life, but because their predation is such a uniquely vile, outrageous violation of everything Catholicism stands for. We have dared to preach sexual purity to a world hostile to the message, and we have been found so obscenely wanting that we are being eviscerated for our unthinkable hypocrisy.
This is the understanding that is lost as people debate the distinctions over whether this is a problem of homosexual priests or of priests in general. It matters very much whether the one leads to the other, but in point of fact, we should have none of either: no homosexual priests, whether unchaste by consent or by predation and abuse. While the latter is worse, the former is nevertheless a sin that cries out to Heaven for vengeance and a violation of the complete continence demanded by the clerical state.
There is a famous painting of the Antichrist by the Italian Renaissance artist Luca Signorelli. It appears in a 15th-century fresco at the Chapel of San Brizio in the Cathedral of Orvieto. In part of a larger tableau of disturbing activities, a crowd of listeners gather to hear a man who looks almost exactly like Christ, except for his dark and repellent visage, who listens attentively to the devil whispering in his ear. He is an ape of Christ – a man who, at a distance, could easily be mistaken for Jesus. Upon closer inspection, one sees a face that displays not love, but malevolence.
This is what we see now in our present situation: not the true Church, but an anti-Church, with priests acting not in persona Christi, but in persona Antichristi. These are the men who ape the one true priesthood of Christ, all while desecrating and defiling it through not just the ordinary struggles we all have with sin, but an unrepentant dedication to evil and perversity. When one reads some of the accounts of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, or those related by the late clerical abuse scholar Richard Sipe, one is struck immediately by the flatly Satanic inversion of holy symbols and gestures. The details of these accounts are too gruesome to relate here, but in reading of priests performing mock sacramental actions on victims drenched in sexual perversity, or giving victims gold crosses to mark them, or forcing them to pose in cruciform, one cannot but immediately grasp that these are men not just given over to perversity, but completely under the power of Satan.
A priest recently contacted me who does work in the area of exorcism and deliverance. He confirmed for me that another exorcist he knows has dealt with obsession or possession in an alarming number of homosexual priests. He writes:
Righteous indignation has filled the hearts of the faithful – by this I mean all those who have eyes to see and ears to hear – and that blessed anger along with holy sorrow has washed over and engulfed us. For the truth of Satan’s plot has been unveiled, like a long awaited but still sudden tsunami of malice breaking upon an unfortified shore. The Enemy lies within, not without. He is in a temporary ascendancy and has overtaken the strongholds of the Church on Earth. It is not a matter of sickening sodomy alone, but of outright Satanic worship within the Vatican and almost everywhere the Church-formally-Militant inhabits.
Indeed, the breakers of death are pounding the Barque of Peter, seeking to dislodge as many of Her wayfarers as possible. All the while demonically possessed wretches, willful accomplices of evil, clothed in Scarlet and Amaranth Red are rejoicing over the apparent destruction of the Virgin Daughter Zion.
This priest also indicated what he perceives to be a clear sign of hope. It was an insight that came to him in prayer, and which he confirmed had also been received by his friend, the fellow exorcist: that the alarming revelations of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report were released on the vigil of the Assumption. Father writes:
God works in the light and exposes the works of darkness to draw His own out of the dark and into the light. Things happen on certain days for a reason. The Church on earth is moribund in the affairs of this world, but she is called to be truly ascendant in Heaven. Mary is the archetype of the Church. This rot being exposed on the vigil, and in the mass media, on the day of her Assumption, is a signal Grace from God that He has heard the pleas of His anguished Faithful and is delivering them from those who work in darkness.
In a homily given on the Feast of the Assumption, another priest I know noted that experience has taught us that there is no wrath like that of a mother who has seen a grave injustice done to her child. Mary’s perfect anger, he reminded us, has not lessened with time, and it is “two thousand years old.”
It’s a terrifying thought, isn’t it? The idea of Mary, the great consoler, she who so often has sought on our behalf to stay God’s vengeance, becoming instead the agent of retribution for those who have profaned the One True Priesthood of her Son? And yet she is, as the Song of Solomon (6:10) has revealed to us, the one who “comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array.”
Think back to her message from La Salette, over a hundred years ago:
Priests, my Son’s ministers, priests, by their evil life, by their irreverences and their impiety in celebrating the holy mysteries, love of money, love of honor and pleasures, priests have become sewers of impurity. Yes, priests call forth vengeance, and vengeance is suspended over their heads. Woe to priests, and to persons consecrated to God, who by their infidelities and their evil life are crucifying my son anew! The sins of persons consecrated to God cry to heaven and call for vengeance, and now here is vengeance at their very doors, for no longer is anyone found to beg mercy and pardon for the people; there are no more generous souls, there is now no one worthy of offering the spotless Victim to the Eternal on the worlds behalf.
It is a sobering thought.
Nevertheless, she is a mother. She is the mother of the Church and our mother, and she is praying and interceding for us always. Her Immaculate Heart will triumph. We do not know when, and we do not know in what manner, but we can take her promise to the bank.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.