Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. What follows is condensed version of the homily I
gave last Sunday. It seemed to be helpful to a lot of people, so I thought I’d share it with
you here.. :
Each of us, from time to time, fails to live up to our Baptismal calling to live a life
of love for God and neighbor, and keeping the commandments. But priests, bishops and
popes have a special call and obligation to strive to live holy lives, for the good of the
But priests fail too, even in important ways that are not uncommon among men,
ways that may disappoint us, but not cause us to give up on them. But sometimes, some
priests fail miserably and in repulsive ways, ways that seem to, as Scripture says, “cry out
to God for vengeance.”
In the last few weeks we’ve heard in the news that the former Archbishop of
Washington, Theodore McCarrick, has been accused of terrible crimes and reprehensible
grave sins. He has publicly denied these accusations.
But more and more have come out. After years of hiding the stories the media has
finally started to report what they have known for about for years, and are laying out
names, dates and documents. As a result, last week McCarrick resigned from being a
cardinal, and the Vatican announced he would remain in seclusion “for a life of prayer
and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical
trial.” To me this is an admission of guilt: The last time a cardinal resigned was 91 years
ago—it just doesn’t happen.
This kind of thing has to be terribly hard on you, even devasting to some of you. I
understand that, because it has been hard on me—for about 28 years, I hardly knew
Bishop McCarrick, but since I entered the seminary, I and most of my clerical friends
knew the accusations against him. There was no evidence—most of his victims were too
afraid to go public, and the ones who did were ignored. So nothing could be done: you
can’t accuse someone publicly on hearsay. But the thing is…. “everybody” knew.
So, all we could do is watch with trepidation as he was promoted first to
archbishop, then to cardinal, and eventually a powerful advisor to the current Pope, even
years after his retirement.
But as the Psalms tell us: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom
there is no salvation.…Blessed is he…whose hope is in the LORD his God.” We don’t
follow bishops or priests, or cardinals, or even popes, as much as we might love them. We
follow Jesus Christ, and the Holy Catholic Church He founded. And by “Catholic
Church,” again, I mean the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, full of sinners and
saints, but protected by the Blessed Trinity from destruction and from passing on
erroneous teaching to the generations. I mean the centuries of great and faithful saints,
who have passed on what they received down the generations what the apostles had
received from Christ Himself.
So when a priest or bishop or cardinal commits an act that cries out to God for
vengeance, or covers it up, I say, lock him up and throw away the key. But it does not
affect my faith. But my faith is not in men, but in God. It is not in priests and bishops, but
Jesus tells His apostles: “without Me you can do nothing.” Jesus is the one who is
the founder and sustainer of the Church, not the apostles. His apostles and their
successors are merely His instruments to bring His word and grace to His people.
And He doesn’t simply entrust those gifts to individual men, but to the Church, His body with members that include not only sinful Cardinals, but also saintly men and
women in all generations, from St. Peter, to St. Raymond, to St. Therese to St. John Paul
Now, Please don’t let this lead you to distrust all priests and bishops. Many make
great sacrifices for their people, and some are truly saintly. They strive to be good
shepherds, even if they fail from time to time. Rejoice in their goodness, and have mercy
on their failures. And love them, respect them, and support them.
But there are a few that are not even trying to be shepherds, but are more like
wolves in sheep’s clothing, preying on their flock. Do not be afraid to hold those to
account, always with charity and mercy, but also always with true justice.
And do not be discouraged by them. Our hope is in Christ, not in them. And
Christ is our hope, not our despair. Discouragement comes from our own weaknesses, or
from the devil himself. The devil is loving the current scandal: he wants you to be
discouraged; he wants you to give up.
But do NOT give up. Remember simply two words: Jesus Christ! And fix your
hearts and minds on Him. And do not be discouraged by the failures of men, but accept
the grace to believe, hope and love in Christ and His Church.
Liturgical Changes. Last week I announced a few liturgical changes in the parish.
First, effective NEXT SUNDAY, August 12, at the exchange of the sign of
peace I ask that each of you turn only to only two people, the persons on your left and
right and (ideally, but not necessarily, with folded hands) give a slight bow of the head or
shoulders. If you chose to do something else (e.g., shake hands or hug family members)
you will not be reprimanded; but you should respect the choices of others as well.
Second, effective Sunday, September 2, the portable altar rails/kneelers will
remain in front of the sanctuary at all times, so that at every Mass the people coming up
the main aisle will receive Communion the at altar rail, either kneeling or standing (their
choice). Communion will continue to be distributed in the transepts as usual, i.e., no altar
I also announced that effective Sunday, September 16, on the 1
st and 3
of every month we will celebrate the 10:30 Mass using the “Ad Orientem” form (the
priest facing in the same direction as the people, toward the apse/tabernacle). For the last
year we’ve done this on the 1st Sunday, and we are now extending it to the 3rd as well.
Considering Sunday Child-Care. In response to many requests from parents, we are
considering providing child-care during the 8:45 and 10:30 Masses every Sunday. I
struggle with this idea a bit, and I would continue to encourage all families to bring all
their children to the Mass with them. But I would do this in order to assist those parents
with small children (under age 5?), who discern that child-care would be best for their
particular situation. It would be a matter of trusting parents, not excluding children.
Anyone interested in coordinating this (for a small stipend), or anyone who would
like to give feedback for our consideration, should contact Mary Butler in the parish
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles