Friday, January 6, 2012

What about Punishment?

An auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles has resigned, owing to the unfortunate revelation that he has two teenage children.  A handwringing statement of "sadness and shock" emanates from the Archbishop: but what about the justified anger and rebuke due to such a shocking piece of episcopal hypocrisy?  Meanwhile a Canadian bishop has been imprisoned for possession of immoral images of children.  (There is of course a difference between an immoral but non-criminal relationship engaged in on the sly, and criminal, outrageous perversion plotted in secret: the former is less wicked than the latter, as being less against the order of nature; and only the latter results in a custodial sentence.)

In both cases – as, horrible to say, in many more – the Church hierarchy should not limit itself to passive sentimental messages expressing "sadness and shock": the hierarchy should rebuke and punish such sins and crimes, making examples of their perpetrators, rather than keeping silent in the face of such scandals.  Indeed, in the case of the whoring bishop, rather than letting him scuttle off to his concubine and bastards, what about imposing ecclesiastical penance on him on pain of excommunication, such as a long stay in a monastic cell on bread and water?  He's had his fun, let him pay for it.  If he decides to take such medicine, well and good; if not, tough.

When was the last time such a clerical malefactor was given a public warning of the threat of eternal damnation hanging over his corrupted soul?  Where are the justly harsh words scolding such perverts and hypocrites?  Our Lord did not whine about how the Pharisees made Him feel "shocked and sad", no; He named them whited sepulchres, vipers, and worse.  In all this, such stinging rebuke and harshness is not intended to drive such sinners to despair, but rather to wake them up, that they repent and by grace are saved, and to teach others to fear lest they fall.  Our Lord did not say, Go, and keep on sinning!

The morning newspaper mentioned in regard to this latest L.A. outrage that the Pope has said – I am searching for the original quotation* – that those clergy who cannot keep their vows should resign.  (This is of course a corollary of what the Apostle says: "If they do not contain themselves, let them marry" – I Cor. vii, 9.)  That should hardly be news!  If a man cannot keep his vows, then he ought seek to be dispensed from them, for the good of his soul, that, having sinned, he may be saved at the last (and not to mention averting some of the damage the scandal will cause when sooner or later it breaks).

(*From the news media: "The pontiff has demanded action be taken in the case of priests who are homosexual or married, calling on those concerned to hand in their resignations if they cannot abide by their vow of chastity.")

After all, the last Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes quietly resigned when some moral failure of his from the past threatened to become public.  At the time, nothing was said, but some months later a reticent remark to that effect was made public.  I would add that, rather than giving the impression of sweetheart deals (perhaps in the literal sense!), there should be nowadays a severe public rebuke addressed to such an errant prelate, and the assignment of quite some penance for his crime.

In the past, certain religious orders ran penitentiaries for priests and religious guilty of ecclesiastical misdemeanours, and these were known for meting out severe and certain punishment.  It appears from an amusing post on Fr Z's blog that like institutions exist even to-day, despite the nannification of the Church since Vatican II, given his report of a criminal, assigned to a Franciscan monastery as part of his sentence, who escaped and demanded to be sent back to prison!

Why do priests – if they have such skeletons in their closets – agree to be made bishops?  They must know that in this prurient age their faults and failings will be made known.  Vaulting ambition o'erleaps itself, as the Bard remarked.

In sum, priests and bishops who commit notorious sins should be given a stinging rebuke in public, and a sentence of penance and fasting on pain of excommunication.  Otherwise, it appears that there is no justice, but rather for them an understanding wink from their peers.


(Surprise, surprise, that auxiliary bishop was no great supporter of anti-abortion activism, but on the contrary aided and abetted ministry, questionably Catholic in attitude, to those with same-sex attractions; and was a fairly stereotypical social justice activist himself, right down to, as mentioned, his insouciance about abortion.  One particularly selfish remark of his was that Catholic media reporting clerical sexual crimes should speak with "love and mercy" – what a vile loathsome hypocrite!

(And the Archdiocese of Los Angeles now undertakes to help pay for the education of his illbegotten offspring!  On the contrary, the ex-bishop should do some work and raise the money for that himself, as the breadwinner for his family, for that is what he owes them in justice. I am outraged on behalf of all Catholics there, now expected to pay for the benefit of his sins. How typical that those who prate of justice lift not a finger to work for what is just in their own case, but expect society at large to pay up.)

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