Bernardo M. Villegas
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Drowning Evil With Abundant Good (Part 1)

          The Pennsylvania child abuse scandal demonstrates once again what we have known since the time of Jesus Christ Himself who had to express “shame and sorrow” about the behavior of one of His closest collaborators, Judas the Apostle:  that evil exists within the very bosom of the Church.  It is no surprise that once again we have the Vicar of Christ today, Pope Francis, expressing “shame and sorrow” over the sexual abuse of at least 1,000 children by more than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania, USA.   As the director of the Holy See press office, Mr. Greg Burke, declared:  “There are two  words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes:  shame and sorrow.  The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible.  Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted the abuse to occur.”

         Even if the wrong doers are able to escape criminal sanctions for one legal reason or another, the evils they perpetrated must be clearly specified and denounced so that those Catholic faithful who are convinced that the only way to fight evil is with the abundance of good that each one can individually do will be more strongly motivated to  cultivate the opposing virtues.  Among the abusers, the abominable sins have to do with  succumbing to the concupiscence of the flesh (lack of chastity) manifested in the  majority of the cases  in homosexual acts against children.  They also have sinned grievously against distributive justice since they were supposed to be the first ones to protect the welfare of the children entrusted to them.  Among the cardinals and bishops who concealed and protected the perpetrators, the condemnable vices were also injustice, and in addition imprudence and lack of fortitude.  They were sorely lacking in the cardinal virtues that even the pagan philosophers much before Christ defined as the foundation of good moral behavior.  If we are going to prevent the same vices being repeated by our fellow Catholics (whether priests of lay people), we must be the first ones to struggle to live the opposite virtues, with the help of the grace of God, especially through the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.  We have to drown evil with an abundance of good.

         In fairness to the truth, however, it must be pointed out, as reported by Mr. Burke, that the Pennsylvania report found very few cases of abuse that occurred after 2002.  This was “consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse…. The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm.  The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements.  The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the church and in all of society.”

         In this regard, I would like to point out that, although we have to be  concerned with those whose faith may falter because of these scandalous behaviors of the clergy, human reason alone can demonstrate that “the hypocrisy of Catholics is a very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church,” quoting famous Catholic author Peter Kreeft.  I would like to share with my readers the content of one of the blogs in that narrated the story of a Jew who got converted to Catholicism precisely because of the very reprehensible behaviors of Popes and other high officials of the Catholic Church in centuries past.  There was a Jewish businessman who was thinking of becoming a Catholic but had to go to Rome to do business with the Vatican during the time of some of the most corrupt Popes in history, the Borgias  (popularized by a TV series in the United States).  The Jew’s Catholic friends tried to dissuade him to go to Rome, fearful that he will change his mind.  But the businessman, a practical Jew, retorted that for him business was first and the pleasure of converting was second.

         Six months later, the Jew returned and immediately asked for baptism into the Church even after seeing the hypocrisy of the Pope and the cardinals.  With great common sense, he said:  “I am a practical Jewish businessman.  One thing I know for sure:  no earthly business that stupid and corrupt could possibly survive 14 weeks.  Yours had lasted 14 centuries.  It is a miracle.”  Peter Kreeft explains:  The hypocrisy of Catholics is a very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church.  When Popes were assassinating each other, they never added a doctrine that said now you can assassinate the Pope.  When they had 13 mistresses, they never said that is ok for Popes to have mistresses.  And I may add:  none of the erring cardinals or bishops who protected the abusers ever declared that it was now morally OK for priests to sexually abuse boys. The doctrine remained absolutely pure even though the practice was never very good and sometimes was horrible. That was very impressive.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI told the same story and he quoted the Jewish businessman as saying:  “It is because of all that I have become a Catholic.  For if the Church continues to exist in spite of it all, then truly there must be someone upholding her.”   The Catholic who knows his faith well knows that Christ Himself is upholding her, having promised that He will protect the Church from all evils including those perpetrated by her own members: “The gates of hell will not prevail against her.”  (To be continued).