Stopping the vicious cycle: become a Catholic Sentinel

A couple of weeks ago we heard that Ireland had brought forth legislation that would require priests to break the seal of confession and report cases of child abuse. Australia is considering something similar. Other countries are bound to follow.

Why do you think this is happening? To me, the answer is pretty obvious: the Church did a horrendous job of handling the sex abuse scandals over the past few decades. Secrecy, lies, obfuscation, coverups. Clergymen were more interested in protecting themselves and the image of the Church than caring for the safety of the children. There was also a good dose of ignorance about pedophilia. All told, can you honestly blame society for not trusting the Church on this matter? I can’t. Society has given the Catholic Church a well-deserved “F” on the sex abuse scandals. We’re being treated as we deserve.

When I use the word “we”, I don’t mean to implicate the laity, necessarily. Most of us were not directly involved. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Church is one body. We rise and fall as a group. The laity are shouldering the burden of the abuse scandals just as much as the clergy, or perhaps more so, since it’s the the laity that pays for the lawsuit settlements, it’s the laity that worries if their children are safe, it’s the laity that is out in the world on a daily basis facing the sarcastic howls of the world.

The laity also bears a larger responsibility on this matter than we like to admit. We haven’t prayed sufficiently for our priests and bishops. We haven’t been supporting the good priests. We haven’t done enough fasting and sacrifices on their behalf. We haven’t reported the suspicious behaviour of clergymen. We have failed to challenge the clergy when they clearly violate Church teaching or abuse the sacraments. Too often, we’ve stood by in silence, paralysed by some misguided “respect” or perhaps intimidated by the fact that they’re wearing a Roman collar. We are partly to blame. Remember the words of Bishop Fulton Sheen:

Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, before the Knights of Columbus, June of 1972

We’ve been given a mandate to act.

Not getting better

The problem isn’t going to get better by itself.

If the politicians in Ireland or Australia paid attention to how the Church continues to operate in other areas, they would find no cause for reassurement. For example, the Development and Peace scandal has shown that Canadian bishops continue along the exact same modus operandi of coverups, lies and secrecy.

My friends, the culture among the episcopacy hasn’t changed. Ask any specialist in corporate management and they’ll tell you that the culture in any corporation is much more important that the rules written down on paper. If the employees haven’t interiorized the values of the organization, the rules-sheet doesn’t mean squat. Staff will find ways to bend the rules like Beckham. The Church is no different. We may have more rules in place to protect the children, but the fact that the culture remains unchanged makes me worry that other scandals could erupt in areas not related to child abuse. Who knows what secrets lurk in the dark corners of the Church.

By the way, the predator-priest scandals are not over, not by a long shot. I was just browsing on Catholic Culture’s website and came across these headlines:

Belgian abuse victims plan lawsuit against Vatican

Archdiocesan official, accused priests to face trial together in Philadelphia abuse case

Dutch bishop may escape criminal charges for abuse in Kenyan mission assignment

Lay group lists 9 Boston priests accused of abuse

Skeletons keep dropping out of closets. It never seems to end. Do you want this to continue for another 20-30 years? That’s where we’re headed unless radical action is taken now. We need to expunge everything now, rather than continue with a steady trickle of fresh revelations for a couple of more decades.

And do you want the dissenters to keep trampling unabated on the authentic teaching of Jesus Christ? That’s what will continue to happen unless we take action now.

Taking action

Thanks be to God that the Vatican has taken serious action on the sex abuse scandals. But the job isn’t finished. We need to clean out all the skeletons that remain in any closets of the Church. If you know anything about a possible sex abuse scandal and are not bound by the seal of confession, you must come forward and speak to your bishop immediately. Don’t let any excuses stop you. Don’t be afraid. You’ll be doing the people of God a tremendous service by helping us bring justice and healing.

Also, thanks be to God that the Vatican is beginning a shakedown of the episcopacy on the separate problem of dissent. We need to feed into this process and help the Vatican. We need to be more insistent with our clergy than we have been up to now. We need to become importunate widows that are relentless in dealing with our priests and bishops. You’d be surprised how responsive some priests can be if you speak to them respectfully and in private about your concerns.

If they are unresponsive, talk to your bishop.

If your bishop doesn’t take action or respond to your complaint, then take it to the next level by sending information directly to the Vatican, with a c.c. to your bishop. If your bishop was unresponsive, make sure to mention that in your message to the Vatican. Send your messages to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine Faith
Prefect Archbishop William Joseph Levada
Piazza del S. Uffizio 11
00193 Rome, VATICAN CITY

I’m talking about serious problems here, not small details. Problems that undermine the Faith or the sacraments. Don’t go complaining about trivialities.

Most importantly, remember to thank the faithful priests in our midst. Give them encouragement and affirmation. Make sure they feel loved and appreciated. Why not invite them over for dinner once in a while? If you have a faithful priest, you are truly blessed. Don’t take it for granted.

This is an important time to act. The Vatican has signaled its willingness to move on dissenting clergymen. It’s up to us to be the eyes and ears of the Vatican on the ground to provide them with information.

If you need help in gathering evidence or preparing correspondence, drop me a line at

Let’s rock the boat and make something happen.

5 thoughts on “Stopping the vicious cycle: become a Catholic Sentinel

  1. This is not the first time governments have tried to force priests to breach the seal of confession. The Nazis (and probable others) have tried it before. It is an attack against the Church. It doesn’t matter what excuse a government gives to justify forcing priests to break the confessional seal because what is truly at hand here is not a matter of justice but a matter of a government believing itself to be of a higher authority than God.

    We have been told by saner minds that the sex abuse problem wasn’t a matter of pedophilia but a problem of homosexuality. Nor was the problem worse than anywhere else. In fact, it was a bigger problem in most other places, not that that makes it any more tolerable in the church. Obviously, while the situation is much better, some of the affects still linger. The pope has done a wonderful job and I trust he is still on the case. I’m also certain great strides are being made behind the scene. The Catholic Church remains, as it has always been, one of the safest places for children to be.

    I have always had great sympathy for priests and their task of dealing with ‘in-name-only-Catholic’ parishioners with their constant rants and complaints to bishops over any little thing they don’t agree with. I’m reminded of the recent news article from Florence about a man who beat up his priest, in front of his mother, for celebrating the Traditional Mass. The priest had received numerous threats and complaints prior to the incident from various people not just the one nut. Or, the priest who mentioned the church teaching against contraception during is homily and some of his congregation walking out on him. Extreme examples? Yes, but I think it makes the point.

    Now you purpose we do the same thing as our liberal brothers and sister and hover over our priests scrutinizing their every word and gesture lest they be perverts.

    No way!

    It’s one thing to report a known crime to proper authorities but quite another to go looking for one. The thought of it gives me chills! I thought the wall fell in 1989.

    While I understand your intent, I disagree with your suggestion. In fact, I think your post is rather tabloid like and I believe you are playing into the hysteria of those less noble. What priest in his right mind would accept a dinner invitation from some one who waiting to pounce?

  2. Hi,

    I’ve been looking for a long time for data to see if there is a link between heterodoxy and abuse. That is, were the abusive priests more likely heterodox than orthodox in their teachings? I assume that’s where you’re going with this: that heterodox priests are more likely abusers?

    If you have any information on that I would love to read it.

  3. No, I’m not claiming that there’s any link between heterodoxy and sex abuse. I’ve never heard of such a link, nor have I ever seen any evidence to that effect.

    The blog post doesn’t make that claim. Rather, it points out that we have many major problems in the Church. One of those major problems is the sex abuse scandal, for which there are still skeletons in many closets that need to be flushed out. But there are other problems too, as witnessed by the Vatican cracking down on heterodox bishops.

    Where do you suppose the Vatican gets its information on these bishops? Do you think they have the man-power to read every article that every bishop writes? I doubt it. They rely on people like you and me to feed them intelligence. For my part, I will cooperate with the Vatican in this endeavour.

  4. I think it is a great idea to invite a priest over for supper, we have done it. I’m sure they would love the company since it must be pretty lonely living in a rectory all by themselves. Priests give up a lot more than we do and if we show our appreciation they will be very grateful.

  5. “Most importantly, remember to thank the faithful priests in our midst. Give them encouragement and affirmation. Make sure they feel loved and appreciated. Why not invite them over for dinner once in a while? If you have a faithful priest, you are truly blessed. Don’t take it for granted.”

    We have few dynamic and charismatic figures like Fulton Sheen. But we had Fr. Corapi who was detested by all dissenting catholics in America. They finally took him down with the summary criminal process instituted to expedite the homosexual-pederast pandemic.

    You’re so right Steve. I’ll write to Fr. Corapi and tell him he was correct in refusing to submit to the , unfair, unjust, iniquitous proceedure that violates all fundamental principles on natural and revealed morality. I will encourage him to continue to serve his God as a layman, with his charisme of evangelist and catechist. Thanks for the elbow prompting “brother” !

    Albert Côté

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