Apostasy Caused the Sexual Abuse Scandal

Goodbye Good Men 202x300 - Apostasy Caused the Sexual Abuse Scandal(This article previously was published in OnePeterFive.)

The horrifying news from France last fall that some 3,000 priests sexually abused 330,000 children over 70 years points to another scandal within the Church: too many priests who have little fear of God and scant regard for core Catholic teachings.

The perpetrators’ behavior is not typical of those who believe in the Catholic doctrines of hell, purgatory, and justice. Many of them may not believe in God at all (or may not have believed, in the case of the deceased). Other deviant priests and bishops likely adopted the New Age concept of God being some kind of impersonal life-force. Still others no doubt consider God as being all love and mercy and no justice, in which everyone goes to heaven regardless of what wrongs they do.

The sexual abuse scandal is part and parcel of the corruption of Catholic seminaries that took place in the 1970s and especially 1980s as described in Michael S. Rose’s Goodbye! Good Men. He focuses on American seminaries, but undoubtedly the same thing was happening in France and elsewhere in the world.

The good men he refers to were orthodox-minded seminarians who only wanted to embrace and deepen their knowledge of age-old Catholic concepts. Shockingly and ironically, in many cases they were dismissed from seminaries, or were forced to keep their orthodoxy under wraps. They were considered “rigid and uncharitable homophobes.”

While not the case at all seminaries, in many of them homosexual activity and pornography flourished – and official Church teachings as laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church were scorned by many professors, seminary deans, and vocations directors. In fact, it could be argued that those places were positively anti-Catholic.

At one seminary, “’a large number of students had been convinced by some liberal teachers that sexual promiscuity with the same sex was not a violation of celibacy,’ an outrageous distortion of Catholic teaching.”

As Rose tells it, it wasn’t uncommon throughout seminaries that non-marital sex was considered fine, homosexual acts normal, and contraception morally acceptable. Celibacy was discouraged. Other anti-Catholic viewpoints among professors included: the Bible isn’t to be taken seriously, all religions are equal in the eyes of God, the Pope isn’t infallible, the Real Presence is a myth, Jesus isn’t divine, and his miracles were fabrications. One formation program even pushed Gnostic and New Age practices such as crystals, tarot cards, and Ouija boards.

Seminarians lost their faith, as did priests of that era, many of whom abandoned their vocations. Many faithless men continued in the priesthood. In an interview with LifeSite’s Jonathan Van Maren, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts professor and Crisis contributing editor Anthony Esolen spoke of priests who lost almost all of their faith and who are in a state of apostasy. “And they’re still priests – that’s the job they were trained for, they don’t know how to do anything else. And they infest the churches.”

Without faith in God, especially in a God of justice, people are more prone to doing bad things. With scant regard for the teachings of the Gospels or for the moral precepts of the Catholic faith, some priests may have been in a constant state of mortal sin (absent confession) either from engaging in illicit practices themselves or by signaling to others that it’s fine to do so.

“The notion that God is watching you even when others are not is probably the most powerful civilizing force in all of human history,” writes author and commentator Jonah Goldberg. In the Catholic tradition, not only God is watching your every move, but so are angels and devils, the latter all-too eager to testify against you on your judgement day. But a sexually abusing priest of weak faith is devoid of any perception that God or any other supernatural entity is watching him. Or he has a New Age notion of God. Or he thinks God is only love and mercy and that there’s no hell. In accordance with authentic Catholic teachings, God is certainly full of love and mercy but He’s a God of justice as well.

To test whether people change their behavior if they think supernatural entities are watching them, some years ago while at the University of Arkansas, professor Jesse Bering and colleagues conducted an experiment in which they had undergraduates take a test on which it was easy to cheat. A portion of them were told the ghost of a (fictitious) dead graduate student recently had been seen in the testing room. Sure enough, that group as a whole cheated a lot less than the control group.

Pedophile priests, many of whom scorn authentic Catholic teaching, likely think no one is watching them whether natural or supernatural entities. By contrast, those who fully believe in Catholic doctrines think God always is watching. “God knows what you did. God is going to punish you for it. And that’s an incredibly powerful deterrent,” the University of Edinburgh’s Dominic Johnson told National Public Radio. “Everywhere you look around the world, you find examples of people altering their behavior because of concerns for supernatural consequences of their actions. They don’t do things that they consider bad because they think they’ll be punished for it.”

The type of God one believes in can make a big difference as well. While it isn’t popular these days to paint God as being judgmental and punitive, that perception of God elicits better behavior. In another experiment, Azim Shariff and Ara Norenzayan of the universities of Oregon and British Columbia, respectively, administered a math test to several dozen undergraduate test subjects, who afterward were asked about their views of God. Atheists and agnostics cheated significantly more than those who considered God to be punishing and justice-minded. As for believers in an exclusively loving and forgiving God? They cheated as much as the atheists and agnostics. “How much you believe in God matters less than what kind of God you believe in,” wrote the researchers.

Lacking a belief in God and/or a belief in authentic Catholic doctrines of a loving, merciful, and justice-minded God, there’s much less incentive to stay on the straight and narrow. It’s what led to the priestly sexual abuse scandal in France, the U.S., and elsewhere.

Fortunately, today the seminaries by and large are in much better shape. The vast majority of the sexual abuse took place in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in the U.S. and France – although from reading today’s news, one wouldn’t realize that since media outlets wish to push the narrative that the situation is still as bad as ever. And thank God that compared with older generations of priests, the younger generation of priests tend to be more religiously orthodox. They’re more cognizant that God is keeping close tabs on them. That’s a strong deterrent against sexual immorality and abuse.

When Churches Close, Hold Mass Outdoors, As During the Spanish Flu Pandemic

outdoor Catholic mass 300x200 - When Churches Close, Hold Mass Outdoors, As During the Spanish Flu Pandemic

Photo by Chikondi Gunde from Pexels

During the past several years, I recall reading pronouncements by Catholic mystics who said it was important to celebrate Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion as often as possible, because there would come a time when churches will be closed and we will be unable to celebrate Mass or receive Holy Communion. At the time I was skeptical, thinking something like could only occur in some sort of anti-religious police state, which was practically unthinkable in America.

But now – in March 2020 – they have closed the churches, canceling the Holy Mass and Holy Communion. Little did I realize that it would be prompted by concerns over a virus.

This is most unfortunate, because as St. Padre Pio said, “It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

As far as reception of the Holy Eucharist, even a secular newspaper, The Washington Times, ran an article that stated, “It would be, as a matter of faith, impossible for the virus to spread through the bread and wine.”

If they do not allow indoor Mass, bishops must permit outdoor celebration of the Mass.

During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, when local authorities closed church buildings and other venues, Catholic churches still celebrated mass outdoors. This is documented in a paper on the pandemic in Maine. Following are excerpts:

Saturday, October 5th

By Order of the Board of Health
Thomas Tetreau, MD, Health Officer

All the churches will be closed tomorrow, the masses at the Catholic churches will be held in the open air.  This is the first time this has happened in Maine.

On Saturday morning the Lewiston Board of Health, followed by a conference with Mayor Lemaire in his office, decided it would make no effort to prohibit outdoor masses tomorrow by parishioners of the Catholic churches.

Monday, October 14

Local Lewiston and Auburn physicians are working practically day and night, while the number of people needing their attention steadily grows larger.  Not only are the doctors overworked, but it is impossible to find help for affected homes where it is needed.  Whole families are ill with the disease, with no one to care for them. 

All of the Catholic churches of Lewiston held indoor services yesterday, disregarding the closing order of the board of health.

Out of door services were held by the Catholic church in Auburn, in compliance with a request of the Auburn Board of Health. 

Monday, October 21

In accordance with an order issued by the Board of Health and approved by Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott Wilson, all of the churches in Lewiston remained closed Sunday on account of the epidemic of influenza.  Out of door masses were held by the Catholic churches.  A week ago all Catholic churches in Lewiston held indoor services, disregarding the health board’s order.

As one priest recently declared, “Will I close this church, will I lock these doors? So long as it is in my power, we will not. They’ll have to step over my cold dead coronavirus corpse and pry the keys of the church out of my cold dead fingers before I will willingly lock these doors…And if in fact we should be forced to shut out of obedience, we’ll find a way and a place.”

%d bloggers like this: