Well, here I go. I think that I ought to say something about the controversy in the press about the sex scandals in the Church. Not that I think that I have any particular wisdom in this regard, but I do think that anyone who has responsibility for souls in this situation needs to give some sort of guidance or reflection.
There are at least two scandals in this situation. The first is the scandal of sexual perversion and predatory behavior among priests. This is really evil. It should not happen. It is a betrayal of everything the priesthood ought to be. I think that I can point to a number of factors that prepared the way for these scandals: lack of interior life among priests, personal failure, lack of true fraternity among priests including fraternal correction, the cultural sexual revolution and resulting sexualization of practically everything, problems in the formation of priests especially moral formation resulting from bad theology, attitudes and practices of clericalism, etc. There is a lot of blame to go around.
The second scandal is the scandal of the bishops and their failure to handle the situations as pastors protecting their flocks from predatory priests. Children and young people have been abused. They needed to be taken care of and protected. Even before any of the "reforms" that have been implemented, there has always been the Church's own canon law and internal discipline that was almost totally disregarded by the bishops. Criminal laws were also ignored. The sins and crimes of priests were not taken seriously. Too much regard has been and still is given to the reputations of proven perpetrators. No one has a right to be a priest or to continue to serve in priestly ministry. Once serious breaches of the trust that the faithful put in the office of a pastor have been proven, then that man must be dealt with openly and firmly by his bishop. This has been done too rarely. The failure to protect the flock and the failure to protect the integrity of the priesthood are themselves serious offenses for which bishops ought to take personal responsibility. Certainly no one has a right to be a bishop or to continue to exercise the episcopal office. Reputation is not as important as reality.
OK. All that being said, what about the press coverage? Well, news is news. To some extent, the press and popular culture are being perhaps a bit hypocritical in their reaction to these events. Standards are being applied to clerical sexual predators and cover ups that are not applied in other settings. This sort of behavior is unfortunately old news. In some cases the press is stretching more than in others: the reporting about Pope Benedict seems to be quite a stretch. I think that we should generally be quiet and take any unfairness in the situation. After all, to bear wrongs patiently and to forgive all injuries are spiritual works of mercy. On the whole the reporting of these scandals, although at times unfair, has been beneficial to the Church to force reform. Almost nothing else has produced efforts at reform. So basically I think the press has done us a favor, even if unwittingly. The Church is better for the reporting than if it had not happened.
Now where do we go from here? Apologize, correct, reform, renew. Mainly this has to be done by the bishops. Publicly acknowledge the wrongs of both sets of scandals. Give and accept the correction that is needed. Try to ensure that the scandals cannot happen again. Go to the roots and begin again for holiness.
Providentially I have been reading a biography of St. Catherine of Siena during these days. What an heroic figure in the history of the Church who faced terrible scandals caused by the clergy. She was strong in her condemnation of the corruption, but she also never lost her supernatural perspective. The sins of men will always be with us. The power of God's mercy is greater. We should never waver in adhering to the Truth. We should likewise not be dismayed that we see failure around us.
Finally, I think that real reform needs to take place among us priests. We are called to heroic lives. We settle for comfortable ones. I pray that we can effectively be led to renewal according to the heart of Jesus.