A week before my high school graduation in 2002, the horrid priest abuse scandal broke. A few days later, the media swarmed our bishop following our Baccalaureate Mass. Thanks be to God, I had had only positive encounters with bishops and priests up to that point.
A few months after the priest abuse scandal made headlines, my mother shared the unthinkable story of her friend’s brother, who committed suicide after being molested by a priest some years ago. Sin leads to many causalities, seen and unseen. Although I was troubled by this scandal, I was very much oblivious because I had never been affected personally – that is, until one day.
Fast-forward to 2004, during my summer college internship with the National Park Service. At this time, I began to seriously discern my vocation to the priesthood and religious life. On my last day, my coworker confronted me with a sinister tone: “Don’t let me read about you molesting some boys.” Perhaps he was a victim or knew someone who was. Or maybe he was sickened by this scandal. I have never forgotten his words.
In 2008, I joined a religious order. As a postulant, I attended the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec later that year. As we processed in the street behind our Eucharistic Lord, I noticed some Franciscan Friars getting a blessing from a prelate, who was standing alone on the side of the road. I asked them who it was, and they said it was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. I had never heard of him before, but I thought, why not get a blessing? Though somewhat guarded at first, the cardinal bestowed God’s blessing. Little did I know that this man and many like him had ignited a wildfire in the Church that has yet to to die, destroying many lives and vocations in the process, due to their perverted passions.
Slightly two years after meeting the former cardinal, I would get burnt.
In 2010, I left my religious order due to several unwanted advances and emotional abuse from a superior. The signs should have been obvious when another member from my order, the vocations director at the time, frequently invited potential candidates along with young men from our high school to shower at a nearby university after a game of racquetball. Although these were public showers common at any YMCA, this was still post-sex abuse scandal, and I thought our priests had learned their lesson. Apparently not. I felt extremely uncomfortable showering with a priest and a few other random strangers there, but I also feared being labeled a prude.
After going through some counseling and still battling post-traumatic stress and nightmares to this day from the unwanted advances and emotional abuse, I am no longer naïve to this horrific scandal, in which some bishops and priests became pawns of Satan rather than servants of the Lord.
Unfortunately, my vocation along with many other men’s vocations has been lost – I dare say stolen. It should come as no surprise that many men who entered the seminary and religious life in the last 40 years, even many religious orders in 2000s, either were dismissed or left themselves rather than compromise their chastity. Some did not leave unscathed. Make no mistake: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37). The vocations harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few because many in charge have exploited their laborers for their own sexual perversions.
In light of the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and the McCarrick scandal, I believe that two saints among many offer a solution to our darkened times, for they stood the time of testing and valiantly triumphed with God’s help. In this, the greatest crisis in the American Catholic Church, these two men reveal to our bishops, our priests, and the laity that there is no true love without dying to self, even unto the destruction of the body.
First and foremost, we need more bishops like Saint Thomas Becket, a 12th-Century English martyr. Besides the fact that Becket wore a hair shirt and a simple black cassock, he was prudent in selecting worthy candidates for the priesthood. He stood for the truth even against his dear friend, King Henry II, which eventually cost him his life.
We need bishops who are willing to die for their flock like the Good Shepherd and St. Thomas Becket rather than retreat like the hireling when the wolves come – and the wolves are coming (John 10:12). In the last 100 years, the wolves have ransacked the Church. In 1884, Pope Leo XIII had a vision in which the Devil told God he could destroy His Church. Our Lord asked him how much time he needed, and the Devil said, “75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.” Our Lord replied, “You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.”
When many bishops remain silent on issues like abortion, contraception, homosexuality, pornography, and the “four last things” while abhorrently abusing or covering up such heinous crimes spanning several decades, they have allowed Satan to “do with them what you will.” Tragically, many commanders – priests, that is – have followed the directives of their derelict generals. To be clear, the gay subculture present in episcopacy and clergy is fiercer than any wildfire. Those in command have only added fuel.
Besides ensuring that men with same-sex attractions not be admitted to holy orders or religious life in the first place, I truly believe that if all bishops and priests made a daily holy hour and prayed their rosary every day, this scandal would have never happened. Only the Holy Eucharist can satisfy our hearts, not some disordered ape of love.
Ask any married man whether he can remain faithful to his wife and properly love his children if he prizes his career, greed, and lust over her. The answer is no. The same logic applies to our bishops and priests. If they are not madly in love with the Eucharist, they will be hard pressed to remain faithful to their vows and the Church.
Finally, we need laypeople like Saint Thomas More. This 16th-century English martyr and father of four children staunchly defended the indissolubility of marriage and was beheaded as a result. If our generals and commanders are not willing to lead us into battle against the flesh, the world, and the devil by living pure lives and speaking out against homosexuality, then we, the laity, must courageously proceed alone, for it is better to die for the truth than to hide behind their timorous collars and crosiers.
To all those heroic bishops and priests whose office has been tarnished by the lusts and pride of a few and now will bear persecution for the rest of their lives, thank you for remaining faithful. Never forget Our Lord’s words: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5: 1-12).
Our Lady, Queen of Clergy; St. Thomas Becket; and St. Thomas More, pray for our bishops, priests, and laity, and for all sex abuse victims, both seen and unseen.
Patrick O’Hearn is a husband and father. He has co-authored the book Nursery of Heaven: Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss in the Lives of the Saints and Today’s Parents and authored the soon to be released book Parents of the Saints: The Hidden Heroes behind Our Favorite Saints.