'Someone has been the cause of pain; and the cause of pain not to me, but to some degree – not to overstate it – to all of you. The punishment already imposed by the majority on the man in question is enough; and the best thing now is to give him your forgiveness and encouragement, or he might break down from so much misery. So I am asking you to give some definite proof of your love for him. What I really wrote for, after all, was to test you and see whether you are completely obedient. Anybody that you forgive, I forgive; and as for my forgiving anything – if there has been anything to be forgiven, I have forgiven it for your sake in the presence of Christ. And so we will not be outwitted by Satan – we know well enough what his intentions are.
~ St Paul, 2 Corinthians 1:15-2:11
Readers will know that I am deeply concerned that Pope Francis can, for instance, issue an exhortation to the 'coal-mining community' calling for a 'paradigm shift' within this industry, but cannot bring himself to speak directly to the hearts of men and women in the heat of a crisis in human sexuality, nor call to repentance, or espouse the need for a 'paradigm shift' among those in other kinds of 'communities' that promote lifestyles completely opposed to the Gospel. The crisis in human sexuality directly attacks the sanctity of marriage, the institution of the family and lead souls into an abyss of misery in this life and eternal punishment in the next. The eloquence with which Pope Francis's predecessors were able to defend the family and marriage without coarse and deliberately provocative language is well-known.
His Holiness may indeed not have a real understanding of the homosexual crisis in the clergy - even in the Vatican. We are really left wondering whether - at any point - His Holiness believes this is an issue that needs to be addressed 'concretely' in some fashion. I believe His Holiness received a detailed report from his predecessor about the extent of the homosexual crisis in the clergy and must surely have been briefed over the extent of what appears to be some kind of network - though by no means a network that all clergy of a homosexual orientation 'tap into'.
At times, one can easily begin to wonder whether, far from attempting to meet this enormous challenge that he has as the Successor of St Peter 'head on' - a task that would have been beyond a frail and isolated figure such as Pope Benedict XVI, His Holiness's appointments - or even statements, as well as those times when he has kept silent, instead promotes this insidious agenda within the bosom of the Church.
There is no doubt that there is a grave crisis in the clergy - and possibly in the Hierarchy - how deep it is, we do not know - a crisis of formation, faith and a crisis in priestly identity as well as a lack of paternal and fraternal care for the spiritual and psychological state, or indeed maturity, of the Church's clergy. Quite what His Holiness is to do about that situation - a situation that spans Dioceses across vast parts of the World, I do not know, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed and the addressing of this issue is long overdue.
It needs to be restated that far from all clergy who have this condition of homosexuality form alliances with the 'gay community' and that they serve by their ministry, their prayer, their sacrificial life as 'alter Christus' and by their example serve the Lord and His flock in an exemplary fashion. It is also very true that 'heterosexual' priests too suffer grave temptations and this has been made clear from recent news in England and Wales. Every Shepherd, every priest is first in line of attack from the Enemy of God and mankind, since if the Devil can topple a priest, or a Bishop, he can ruin the faith of many and cause the sheep to scatter. Our Enemy prowls around, like a lion, seeking him who he may devour. When a marriage breaks up, people really do wonder whether it is possible to stay with one person for life. When a priest gives up, people really do wonder whether it is possible to be celibate and offer ones life entirely to God alone. Both have very devastating effects.
Looking at The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma's website, I was reminded that...
...the anger of man worketh not the justice of God. ~ Letter of St James, 1:20
St Paul sets above before us a challenge that may require our serious reflection as to how we show forgiveness to an offender. It is certainly something that caught my eye as I was reading today. There are things we do know about what has happened in the case of the priest much discussed on blogs and social media over the weekend. There are also things we don't know and it would be gravely sinful and calumnious of us to say we do know things about this individual that we simply do not know. My previous blog post on the subject concentrated on the fragility of that chain that binds us to the Lord, how that can be mended by the Sacraments and prayer and how we must do what we can to be held in bonds of Communion with Christ, His Church and our brethren. These bonds of Communion are tenuous indeed but can be strengthened only by the grace of God and with each other by bonds of fraternal love. I do not with to speculate in a calumnious fashion on the activities of the individual, even if the proclivities, or at least those of his associates have been made more apparent on social media. We should, including myself, examine ourselves as to whether we are serving Christ if we knock a man down when he is already thoroughly down.
Having had a quick look at the individual's social media activity, I can see before me absolutely no evidence of Faith, but whether that individual has Faith, or if he lost it, how he lost it, it is not my business to investigate. What has taken place in this saga is tragic indeed and nobody can deny that, but we must remember that we are called by Our Lord to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated and to forgive. We are not called to pass judgment or to condemn individuals, we are not to assume things about that person's lifestyle of which we are completely ignorant and we are certainly not called to issue decrees on the state of that person's soul before God.
While the whole Catholic Church waits with baited breath as to how Pope Francis intends to take a break from matters of social inequality, the environment, economics and the need for reform in the coal-mining industry to meet the challenges in the Church that have been created by the homosexual movement and the crisis in human sexuality and gender within and without the Church, it is surely vital that the Church in England and Wales, and in particular, in the major Diocese of the priest who has resigned suddenly and 'broken the chain', makes serious efforts to ensure that fraternal charity and fraternal correction, as well as paternal charity and paternal correction, out of love for its clergy, is made a high priority. Perhaps after its reflection and discernment, that major Diocese can take its wisdom to other Dioceses, or even to Rome itself. Charity covers a multitude of sins, but what has happened should not simply be brushed under the carpet. Many of us are left 'in the dark' about events in this parish. Most cannot be certain what happened. Those in authority who are in a position of certainty regarding this tragedy must surely learn from it. Ministries seeking the spiritual welfare of homosexuals, such as Courage must surely be encouraged.
Pray for Priests, pray for Bishops, pray for the Pope and if you can show 'give some definite proof of your love' to the individual that we should pray for, who has so sadly decided to leave his priestly ministry, do. We are called by Christ to love until it hurts. Even if it hurts, therefore, we can do nothing but love and if we wish to be forgiven, Our Lord tells us that we simply must forgive. Many, if not all of us can say that;
'My past is a trail of mortal sins, my present trail may very well be in the grace of God, but then, it's Monday.'
Let us never tire of seeking God's mercy and implore His grace. We are fragile creatures. Therefore, let us not pass judgment on others. It doesn't serve us well and it doesn't serve the Lord Jesus and if we are in the state of Grace we will only stay there if we are humble.