I know I am not alone in my sorrow over the reports of sexual immorality among the clergy of the Church from the scandals of abusive priests of the early 2000s to the more recent revelations of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s notorious predatory behavior, the letter of the Honduran seminarians about homosexual activity in their seminary, the stifled report of priestly abuse in Pennsylvania, and so on. The actions of abuse of children and clergy using their power to intimidate those below them into sinful actions and to covering up immoral acts are sins that cry out to heaven for justice.
The words of Jeremiah to the unfaithful Israelites in the readings recently ring true to us today:
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ […] ‘Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Ba’al, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’ — only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, says the LORD. (Jeremiah 7: 3-4, 8-11)
Clergy and lay people in the Church have covered up these sins for too long. One of the many things that need to be improved is the understanding of the virtue of chastity as central to a life of holiness. I think it is not too much to expect that ordained clergy actively seek holiness, and along with holiness comes the formation of all the virtues. We are all called to live chastity; but it looks different in different states in life. Celibacy is just part of the chastity that all unmarried clergy and lay people are called to live. The only people who can chastely express sexual love are those who are in a valid marriage between one man and one woman with their spouse. And we are all called to have purity of heart where our thoughts and actions reflect our final end of union with God. If we in the Church do not encourage and demand chaste behavior of each other, then we will become no better than the secular culture that thinks the only limits on sexual behavior are age and consent.
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