A prominent Catholic priest and theologian has published a sobering essay, insisting that if Pope Francis and the Church’s bishops are unwilling or unable to tackle the clerical sex abuse crisis, God will intervene in another way.
“As we see again various news reports about sexual abuse and cover-ups, high Church leaders seem adamant about holding on to power, disguising their neglect, and retaining a deafening silence bordering on apostasy of goodness,” said Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, a Theology professor as well as pastor of Our Lady of Grace parish in South Carolina.
Father Kirby’s allusion to the “deafening silence” of Church leaders suggests that he, like numerous other prelates and clerics, view Pope Francis’ silence in the face of serious allegations to be a scandal to the faithful.
The pope has refused to confirm or deny allegations that he knowingly promoted Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to a position of influence in the Vatican despite the latter’s serial homosexual abuse of priests, seminarians, and lay people over decades.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, who leveled this and other accusations against the pontiff, recently said that the pope’s silence can only be understood to constitute a confirmation of their truth.
Meanwhile, Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, the editor of Ignatius Press, told the pope to stop “attacking Vigano and everyone who is asking for answers.”
“Be a man. Stand up and answer the questions,” he said.
In his Sunday essay for the Catholic online news outlet Crux, Father Kirby said that Church leaders had failed to embrace transparency and personal accountability.
“Rather than taking up the mantle of accountability, assuming the cross of responsibility, and both repenting and confessing their sins before God and humanity,” he wrote, “many high prelates are shamelessly acting as if God doesn’t know what has happened in his kingdom and what has been perpetrated in his name.”
Nonetheless, the priest insisted, God will find other means of correcting and guiding the Church if her shepherds fail in their task, just as he did over and over in the history of Israel.
“In salvation history, whenever a divine commission or an inspired word goes unheeded, God moves beyond the assumed and ordinary forum of exchange with his people,” he said, citing the example of the Babylonian captivity and the intervention of the Persian emperor, Cyrus.
“In essence, God used the licentiousness of the gentiles, who were never taught the moral law of God, to become the means of showing his Chosen People the consequences and squalor of a life of sin and deception,” he said.
It was no Israelite, but Cyrus who allowed for God’s people to return to the Promised Land.
“Cyrus was not of the Chosen People. He was an outsider, a gentile. And yet, the biblical narrative tells us that God anointed him and chose him for the special mission of bringing his people home. It was as much an elevation of Cyrus as it was a conviction against the evil of his own people,” the priest wrote.
This will happen again in our own time, Kirby insisted.
“In response to such a brazen lack of faith and elementary goodwill, God will direct his gaze elsewhere. He will allow the consequences of obstinacy and sin to play out in the life of his people,” he said.
“God will demonstrate that he is no fool, and he will cease to look upon these specific leaders ordained by him to govern his people, and will rather search elsewhere for other shepherds after his own heart who will truly care for his people,” he said.
“God will labor for his kingdom. His word will not go out and come back empty. If some of the ordained will not do the task of guarding the sheep and growing the flock, then the mission will continue in spite of them.
If current leadership is unable to guard and nourish the flock, “then God will raise up others,” he said.
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