One of the many things that has disturbed me in this ecclesial turmoil through which we are living is the simple thought: what are the abusive priests thinking? What do they think of themselves and of their victims? How can they live with themselves? Do they believe anything of the Catholic Faith? The same question might be asked of the shepherds who are complicit or cowardly: does their conscience ever awaken in a quiet moment and thunder against their hypocrisy? It is hard to believe that anyone can become as callous and as corrupt as the Pennsylvania report (and, one fears, many forthcoming reports like it) shows the perpetrators and their protectors to be.
I recall my many years of teaching Aristotle’s Ethics to undergraduates. Aristotle notes that the worse someone becomes morally, the less he is capable of seeing his own wickedness. The “limit case” is the state of vice, a habitual frame of reference and settled inclinations that make the vicious man incapable of seeing the world except viciously. He is bent on desiring what is bad and is no longer aware of an alternative.
According to Aristotle, it can get even worse: there is the condition of “bestiality,” which he describes as inhuman or subhuman vice. Aristotle classifies both cannibals and sodomites as bestial – that is, worse than vicious.
Is Aristotle pessimistic about the situation of the vicious and the bestial? Absolutely. He says they are stuck in a hole and cannot get out of it. While a man is still drifting toward vice, he can check himself and get back on the road of virtue, but once he is fully committed to vice, he is a lost soul.
Christians believe this, as well – but Christians also believe in the transformative power of God’s grace. God can take a persecutor of the Church, like the future St. Paul, and intervene dramatically in his life, without Saul’s invitation. He can confront and blind the persecutor and lead him step by step into the Church and make him a great saint. When Augustine, after years of enthrallment to lust, picked up a copy of St. Paul’s letters and began to read, God pierced him to the heart and finally released him from that sin. From then on, Augustine was a believer and lived what he believed.
Every conversion is like this, although most are less dramatic. At one period in our lives, we are comfortable with sinning, perhaps even unaware that we are sinning. Over a period of time, we become uncomfortable, we hate ourselves for what we are doing, and we want to change. There is always the hidden or open working of God’s grace, without which we cannot turn to Him and cannot be saved from the evil of our fallen nature.
This is a sobering message, and it is pure Gospel truth. Without “salutary self-hatred,” as the tradition calls it, we will not turn our lives around and make the difficult sacrifices necessary to follow God’s commandments. This is not the end of the story; there is a virtuous self-love we are meant to attain, when we love in ourselves the good that God created, the good He has redeemed.
If there is one thing perfectly obvious about the Church in our times, it is that evil self-love abounds, and virtuous self-love is a rare sight.
Let’s face it: how many times have we, feeling exasperated, discouraged, or plain angry with evils in the world, wondered why the Lord doesn’t intervene with His outstretched arm and sweep away the enemy with a blast of the breath of His mouth, as He did with the Egyptians when delivering Israel from bondage? Why doesn’t He rid the world of the worst evildoers, like (to use an image from the prophets) a man wiping out a dish? But we seldom remember what Scripture teaches us about the worst punishment of the Lord upon sinners. This is not fire and brimstone, hail and scorching winds, the ground splitting open to swallow up rebels. It is simply God withholding the grace of conversion from the sinner, precisely as a just punishment for his sinful actions.
The general consensus of Catholic theologians is that God never fails to give us “actual graces” – that is, momentary promptings and opportunities for conversion, which do not yet amount to “sanctifying grace” or the life of God in the soul. These promptings are rather in the nature of someone outside us shouting, “Hey! Look here! Come over and join me.” If we take advantage of the actual grace, our conversion is under way. But if we ignore, dismiss, or hold in contempt these actual graces when they come (and they don’t come wrapped and labeled for easy recognition), we are pushing conversion ever farther away.
This should stir up humility, contrition, and holy fear in all of us. While we have faith, we should use it to ask for more; while we are sorry, we should act on that sorrow to ask for more repentance; while we are aware of our weaknesses, we should beg for conversion. Otherwise, if we squander what we have been given or keep following our disordered desires, we will have only ourselves to blame if the Lord permits us to lose what we evidently want to lose and be stuck with what we evidently want to gorge ourselves on.
All this is a long preface to a letter I received from a young priest. Obviously, in writing to me, he asked for my discretion, so his name and location will not be discernible from this version, which I have his permission to publish. Nevertheless, what remains is powerful enough: a glimpse into the sick, vicious, even bestial mentality of the men causing such harm to the Mystical Body of Christ on Earth, a glimpse into their unrepentant blindness of sin.
This, in keeping with Aristotle’s age-old wisdom, is the reason there is not going to be a sudden great “cleaning out” of the Church under this pope and under many of the bishops currently in office. They do not really see the evil as evil, although they may pay lip service to the opinions of the crowds from whom their funding comes. They may well be incapable of seeing the evil as evil, because the Lord is punishing them for their evil by withholding the grace of conversion from them.
The worst thing that can happen to a sinner is to remain unconvicted and unrepentant of his sin, as a prelude to eternal damnation. As stark as it sounds, I believe we could describe abusive clergy and their sympathizers as “living dead,” men without sanctifying grace in their souls, without charity for God or neighbor, without desire for Heaven. Their consciences are blanketed over with years of vice or worse. They are already living in the Hell that will be theirs forever – unless they respond to the actual graces by which God is calling them back to Himself.
* * *
Dear Dr. Kwasniewski,
I remember meeting you at – – – . I am currently a diocesan priest. I had to leave the place I was before due to rampant sexual promiscuity and its attendant cover-up and the persistent refusal to recognize it as a problem.
I have never witnessed sexual abuse. But I have witnessed things like stalking, targeting, and seductive behavior by priests. One priest who was accused by others had at some point actually tried to seduce me. Being a mature adult man, I never tolerated the behavior and walked away. But the sheer quantity and persistence of this behavior eventually led to my having to tell several of them that if they ever attempted to communicate with me again, I would get the police involved. That is the only sort of language they know how to speak: victimization. They are hell-bent on making you their victim, and the only thing that will stop them is if you threaten to make them a victim. Then, after you threaten them, they crawl into a corner with tears as if you’ve wounded them unjustly. They protest: “I wasn’t doing anything wrong!” They tempt you to apologize so that in your moment of weakness, they can then victimize you. Their entire rubric for life is to seduce and victimize, all the while pretending as though this is how natural friendships are supposed to be. They play the role of victim when their seductive tactics are exposed. In this climate, there is nothing that can be done to preserve the peace of a fraternal community. There simply is no peace, no charity – only sin and sacrilege and the charred remains of Catholicism.
There are now stringent rules in place at – – – to prevent predators from abusing young people. But the rubric of seduction is not limited to the sexual. There is such a thing as intellectual seduction, which is happening in a variety of ways. Those who are instructed by these men become victims of not knowing Catholic faith or morals, since they are taught gibberish in religion classes. The goal is to create adults whose consciences are malformed. The malformed conscience is easily seduced. Thus, even though the law protects these children from physical sexual abuse, it does not protect them from the intellectual abuse of having their consciences polluted and malformed, so that society will end up containing more people who are easily victimized and who will victimize others. The predators are not interested in religion except as a convenient ruse behind which to hide their sins. Even Our Lord himself is a nicety to them, an imaginary faun-like being whom they mentally flirt with, who clinks an imaginary martini glass and laughs with them at their own naughtiness and everyone else’s, waving a hand and forgiving them without repentance, even in the midst of their sin. They use biblical quotes in random ways to make excuses for their behavior. They denounce traditionalists as psychologically disturbed or full of hate. They pray only as a way of appearing pious to other people. God and faith are nothing more than anti-depressant drugs to them, and not even very effective ones at that.
I used to work in the secular music world. It is the same there. Active homosexuals and their sympathizers band together and form exclusive cliques from which all others are banned. They pride themselves as artistically sensitive; thus, they must be seen to be artistic by others. In reality, they are killing arts and culture.
Everything is mere appearance, fantasy, phenomena – nothing is substance. Wherever men engage in sodomy, or really, any regular unchastity, whether with boys, girls, young adults, or old adults, a culture of cover-up flourishes. Unchaste priests always feel that they are in the same exclusive club; they hate and despise all chaste priests. Each knows who the others are, and they have an unwritten agreement that they will defend and protect each other no matter what and will try to make life difficult for their chaste confreres. They will publicly decry child abuse and cover-up, but since they do not believe in natural law, they would have no qualms if child abuse and cover-up were suddenly legalized, much as some people changed their minds about the morality of marijuana when states began to legalize it. They have no virtue of charity to unite them, and they have no courage to fight for the good. They cling most desperately to their shared lusts. As long as there are large numbers of unchaste priests, this degenerate downward spiral will not go away.
I recently discovered that the examination of conscience provided by my current parish to penitents never references unchastity even once. Abortion is on the list of sins, but unfaithfulness to one’s spouse is not on the list. Instead, it says “non-exclusive love of spouse,” which is rather ambiguous. Contraception is completely missing. So is immodesty in dress, speech, or behavior. So are homosexual acts, bestiality, pornography, and masturbation. The vaguely termed “disrespect of sexual dignity” is on the list. I also learned from experience that this entire “soft approach” has all been carefully calculated. The word “dignity,” in particular, is suggestive of the pro-homosexual Dignity movement.
In one parish’s missal, I have seen the words “man” and “men” crossed out, and gender-neutral pronouns assigned to our beloved Savior. Deacons have been trained to say that Jesus Christ became “human” instead of “man,” and our people are told to say “for us and for our salvation” instead of “for us men and for our salvation,” as the approved text has it. Even staff members refuse to call priests “Father.” This is not uncommon in parishes, at least in the northeast USA.
The response of liberals to this disgusting mess is to argue that the Church, far from needing to recover its higher standards from the past, has not changed enough. According to them, the current scandals are happening because John Paul II and Benedict XVI unreasonably prevented Vatican II from achieving the end for which it was called: to bring the Catholic Church fully “up to date” with the modern world. The problem, they say, is that the priesthood is an enclosed society, too cut off from normal people, in which vice is allowed to flourish because of a protective “old boys’ club.” “If only women were there, things would be so much better,” they plead. They also think this problem is linked to the hierarchical nature of the priesthood, that Our Lord never intended the priesthood to be hierarchical or distinct from the laity, and that this distinctness is the cause of the abuse crisis. They argue for new laws requiring transparency and accountability between bishops and laity. They want the laity more involved in the management and oversight of the Church, especially the formation of priests. In their minds, the priesthood is inherently imperialistic and power-driven, and this is harming the Church. Judging by his most recent statement about this matter, the Holy Father feels the same way.
What they are really saying, underneath all of this banter, is that the law of celibacy must change. But if you ask them, “Do you mean that the law of celibacy needs to change?,” they will reply, “No,” because they fear being victimized by the current position of “strong thinking” in the Church’s teaching on celibacy rearticulated by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They take their moral formation from the gay pseudo-philosopher Gianni Vattimo, for whom virtue means a submission of the strong thought of logic and nature to the weaker thought of inner needs. They truly believe that the law of celibacy should change, but they will not say this publicly.
In fact, they want the entire Catholic teaching on the virtue of chastity to change. But before they can say this openly, they need to feel that Church authorities have reached a “weak position” on the issue of celibacy such that they can speak freely about it without fear of persecution. Under Francis’s papacy, they are starting to feel more confident. But until they reach a point where they can say this openly, they shroud their true opinion in statements like the above, using terms like transparency, oversight, accountability, lay involvement, etc.
In the meantime, they allow the unchaste, secular world to wreak moral havoc on themselves and their flock. They perniciously allow the malformed consciences of their parishioners to be exposed to repeated temptations to sin, the goal being that the majority of Church members will eventually want to compromise with the unchaste principles of secularism. Meanwhile, if we are to believe Sr. Lucia of Fatima, souls are going to Hell in droves.
For now, the liberal priests beat their breasts; they make generic confessions and generic absolutions, and they shout, “Enough! This must stop! I am sick of this! We have failed you, the Church has failed you, and we are collectively sorry. May God forgive us!” They treat the name of Our Lord as a general panacea, and they never once do they demand any internal repentance, never once demanding contrition for and confession of that ocean of sexual vice that pounds against the shores of so many souls. They like to foment the sense that the clergy as a whole have failed the laity, or worse, that the Church as a whole has failed them, because it makes the laity think that the essence of the priesthood and of the Church needs to be changed drastically. Liberal priests have taken the temperature of the masses, and they believe that the majority of Catholics are now almost ready for the gigantic ideological shift toward the left that the Church has been waiting for since Vatican II. This is going to be their big push for total destruction of all that you and I would recognize as Catholicism.
The devil is surely behind this. His ultimate goal is to wrench the Catholic Church out of itself in slow motion, so that it disintegrates into secularism by an erosion of chastity. The Novus Ordo is also part of this plot, since it was intentionally designed to foster a lack of understanding and reverence for Christ. It is an indirect attack on the immaterial object of faith itself, which is Christ Our Lord, High Priest of God and supreme model of manly virtue. The word for this is apostasy. And when the ultimate Good is unknown or obscured, it should not surprise anyone that lower material goods are sought in a disordered manner. This includes, among other things, money, power, and sex.
Even the conservatives play into this system. Conservative bishops fear the power of the enormous secret homo-collective, as well as the intellectual seducers, and they survive by compromising with this system. Conservatives are not, as a rule, allowed into the system, nor do they want to be part of it. They do everything they can to avoid it. Hence, in some ways to their disadvantage, the conservatives have only suspicions, not evidence. To denounce a priest because of suspicions is very risky; even if many agree that a certain type of activity is cliquish, seductive, effeminate, sexually charged, flirtatious, or shady, one needs actual evidence for guilt. There is rarely such evidence. Hence, the valiant whistleblower becomes the boy who cried wolf, and even good priests do not want to live with someone who has denounced other priests without sufficient evidence. It is easy for the lavender mafia to destroy the priestly career of whistleblowers; all they have to do is pay someone a lot of money to accuse the whistleblower falsely (they are always well funded), and, thanks to the Dallas Charter, the whistleblower’s priestly career is over.
Thanks to recent press, everyone now knows that this homosexual, protective, well financed club exists. Good priests would expose it if they could. But…they lack evidence. So they have to be compromisers, pretending not to suspect anything just to save their skin.
Vast numbers of clergy have never read a single work by Aristotle or Aquinas, or any magisterial work prior to 1960 – and because they were formed in a secular, non-classical, anti-ecclesial, non-liturgical, non-literary, atheistic culture posing as Catholicism, they have absorbed its thinking and internalized its lies. Their souls are full of stumbling blocks placed there by heretics. They have become intellectually and morally bankrupt and are in no way suited to be pastors of souls. There is no rapport, no common language or common ground with them, because the very ground for knowing the real is denied by them. They think primarily with slogans. For generations, they have not been doing the primary thing they are supposed to do: uphold the apostolic traditions. Their predecessors rejected their own identity as priests and bishops a generation ago and accepted themselves as well dressed community activists and fundraisers who were content to possess priestly character and enjoy the trappings of Catholicism without the Faith. Some of them were successful at these things – so successful that they attracted the attention of the pope, who made them monsignors, bishops, even cardinals. The popes should have looked for piety in bestowing honors upon the clergy, but instead they looked for money, diplomatic skills, secular political connections, and willingness to submit to power.
You call it an apostasy, and rightly so. Let us call a spade a spade. It is time to decry modernism in the clergy, and every modernist priest must be denounced, whether or not it is his fault that he is one. Culpability cannot be taken into account when so many souls are endangered. The surest way to do this is for a pope to repeal Vatican II and its attached postconciliar pronouncements. By “repeal,” of course I do not mean delete it from the list of councils; I mean to cease to render it a springboard for implementing constant change, and to relegate it to a position of impotence in the practical life of the Church. It shall no longer be quoted in catechisms or taught in schools; it shall be a quaint museum piece for scholars of the future to discuss over tea. If there is anything in it that sheds light on the Catholic faith better than any other council or pope, I would like to know what it is; surely, fifty years would have been enough time to discover it. Bishop Barron keeps saying councils take one hundred years to have any effect; people like him say this merely to evade the present disaster. This “one hundred years” statement is pure nonsense; it is not based on historical evidence. Regardless, since it was never meant to teach anything definitively or to condemn anything definitively, Vatican II as an ecumenical council stands in contradiction to its own essence, which is to be magisterial.
So repeal it. If this is done, many priests and bishops who worship the holy twins (Roncalli and Montini) will form a schism. The ones who stay with the Church will truly reform her. This, and only this – not more policies and procedures, not more laws and regulations – will bring about a new flourishing of the Catholic Faith and will rid the Church of the filth that the clergy have allowed to accumulate in her spiritual granaries, mixing with her food and silently poisoning her children with hidden apostasy over these several generations. (I’m not saying everything was rosy before Vatican II; the apostasy was already fomenting for decades prior to the Council. Clergy formation in the 1940s was already abysmal, totally exposed to attack from the nouvelle théologie onslaught of the 1950s. Vatican II only provided this intellectual and liturgical cancer with the enzymes it needed to metastasize exponentially.)
People will say: “Why couldn’t bishops just summon their priests one by one and ask if they are sexually active?” The priests in most need of repentance would be the ones who lie the most freely. Their loyalty to the club of “New Liturgy, New Morality, New Church” trumps their loyalty to their bishop and to God. This entire edifice of nouveau-Catholicism must be repealed in order to provoke their free departure. Gay witch hunts would not be successful.
When I say my daily rosary, one of my intentions is for an end to modernism in the clergy. When Our Lady of Fatima visited us, she knew the perils we were facing. The more I meditate on this, the more I think the portion of the Third Secret not yet disclosed is about widespread clerical apostasy and its heraldic centerpiece, the Second Vatican Council. Homosexuality in the clergy is but one little part of a vast campaign to thwart the salvation of souls. We are in the middle of a chaos created by Satan, and chaos is, by nature, hard to describe, especially when one is standing amid the ruins.
There is no “grand solution” for mortals such as ourselves. The work Our Lord wants us to do right now in order to clear and rebuild this ruined city starts with the removal of one piece of garbage, then another, and another, wherever and whenever we can, and the reinstallation of anything that is good, true, and beautiful, be it sound doctrine and Christian morals in our families and our schools, solemn and reverent liturgy in our parishes, good intellectual formation, a serious commitment to the traditional devotions and customs of the Church. Brick by brick. In the end, Mary’s Immaculate Heart will triumph.
Oremus Pro Invicem,
Father – – –
Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer, is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and The Catholic University of America. He has taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria, the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, and Wyoming Catholic College, which he helped establish in 2006. He writes regularly for Catholic blogs and has published seven books, the most recent being Tradition and Sanity (Angelico, 2018). For more information, visit www.peterkwasniewski.com.