Scandals. What follows is a very condensed version of my homily last Sunday addressing the news of abuse and cover-ups in the dioceses of Pennsylvania. (You may read or listen to the full homily on the parish website):
I am sure most of you are devasted and angry. And I am too. Angry, no, infuriated, at the priests, bishops and cardinals who either committed unspeakable crimes with children or abused their positions of trust with vulnerable adults, or used their clerical celibacy to cover their revolting homosexual lifestyle, or lied and schemed and organized to cover it all up.
But there’s something we all need to be careful of: the tendency to suspect all priests and bishops, and so not only distance ourselves from them, but from the Church itself.
My friends, this is the master plan of the devil unfolding: first, corrupt a few priests and bishops, directly or indirectly, then devastate the lives of victims, then destroy all trust in all the clergy, and finally drive good people from the Church.
We cannot let the devil, and his evil cooperators, win.
27 years ago I was living in San Antonio, my hometown, and was looking carefully into studying for the priesthood there. But the more I knew about that archdiocese, it became clear I couldn’t be a priest there: things were too corrupted by false teachings and the sin of lust, in particular homosexual lust.
So after looking at different dioceses around the country, I decided to study for the priesthood for the Diocese of Arlington. The Arlington Diocese is not at all perfect, but I thank God every day that I am a priest of Arlington, where there are so many fine priests, and where the incidents of this kind of wrong doing have been very rare.
Now, even one act of evil in the priesthood, especially against a child (or covering up) is an abomination and deserves the most violent retribution.
And clearly, parents must be careful: trust but verify. And make sure your children know that they should tell you if anyone, including a priest, touches or speaks to them inappropriately.
Even so, do not let the devil keep you or your children away from good priests or from the Church, and do not discourage the call to priesthood.
Back in Texas, looking at all the crud I found, I realized that it didn’t have to be that way. That there were many good priests struggling to do Christ’s work. And that without new men joining the good priests in the struggle, they and the whole Church would be left to suffer at the hands of all the bad priests and bishops.
So, it came down to this: if not me, who?
Sometimes people make the priesthood sound kind of like the Peace Corps. But the priesthood has got to be more like the Marine Corps. With brave, strong, intelligent, and dedicated men. Men who will sacrifice everything for Christ and His Church. Men who will go into spiritual battle every day, and never be discouraged by the wickedness or strength of their opponents, to clean up the spiritual mess that the Church is becoming.
Now, clearly, not even all the good priests are heroes and saints, and I am definitely not. But so many priests I know are striving to be just that. What more can you ask of them? And what more can you want for you son or brother, or yourself, if there is a call to priesthood?
Today is kind of like the Church’s 9/11—we are under attack by evil doers. But remember how after September 11, 2001, the whole nation seemed to rally together against the evil? Today, in the face of the evil we have seen trying to destroy our church, will we rally, or will we run? Again, if not me, who?
That is the question all Catholics should answer today. Who will resist and fight the good fight, if not you? Who will stand up to the corrupt bishops and priests? If not me and you, who? And who will replace them in the pulpit and at the altar, not as wolves, but as true shepherds and fathers? If not me and your sons, who?
Altar Rail Next Week. As I announced last month, beginning next Saturday, September 1, at the Vigil Mass, the portable altar rails/kneelers will remain in front of the sanctuary all the time for all the Masses. So that at every Mass the people will come up the main aisle for Communion as usual, but then spread out to the left and right at the altar rail, either kneeling or standing (their choice), to receive Communion. Communion will continue to be distributed in the transepts as usual, i.e., no altar rail.
Why? My primary reason for this change is very simple: to allow people to exercise their right to kneel to receive Holy Communion. Kneeling without a kneeler is difficult and time-consuming, and therefore discourages most people who would like to kneel to receive. This is unjust. Moreover, with up to 8 people at-a-time standing/kneeling at the long rail, there is no need to rush to get out of the next person’s way. So by adding the Communion Rail, everyone can receive comfortably the way they want, kneeling or standing.
But let me be frank: I believe there are also great spiritual reasons for kneeling to receive Our Lord. As Cardinal Sarah has written: “For if, as St. Paul teaches, ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth’ (Phil. 2:10), how much more should we bend our knees when we come to receive the Lord Himself in the most sublime and intimate act of Holy Communion!”
Again, I reiterate, kneeling or standing is your option. For those who have never knelt for Communion, I recommend that you try it once or twice—I think you will like it.
Back to School. Most of our kids are going back to school this week, so we need to keep them in prayer. Pray especially for the kids in public schools, which do not share many of our values and so often teach that our values are wrong, or even hateful.
Parents, remember to keep a watchful eye on what your kids are learning: do not abandon your precious children to strangers. Ask them what they’re learning, look at their assignments, participate in parent-teacher meetings. Remember to constantly reinforce Catholic values and teachings, be especially aware of the subtle ways some teachers can try to undermine them: e.g. the English paper about the injustices against transgenderism. But also, be supportive of good teachers and administrators who are trying to live their Christian faith in the schools.
For those of you in Fairfax schools, remember to “OPT OUT” of Family Life Education (FLE).
And remember to sign your kids up for CCD/Religious Education, and make sure you and they take this seriously. This is the most important school they will attend—learning about God, and how to live just lives, and how to get to heaven!
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles