Sowing Seeds of Scandal

A Crisis of Credibility in the Catholic Church

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Mt 8:6

It’s so hypocritical for the Catholic Church leaders not to practice what they preach or teach. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2285 Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.

2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.

Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.” This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to him by whom they come!”

When the Catholic Church lobbied to stop dozen of bills making their way through legislatures in states including New York and New Jersey that aim to give child sex assault victims more time to sue their attackers, many of the Faithful were scandalized.

When the Catholic Church endorsed Donald J. Trump, a known adulterer, white supremacist, and corrupt businessman for president in 2016, and in 2020, many Catholics believed that the Church committed a SCANDAL of great proportion. Many priests and bishops were on YouTube telling people during the homily at Sunday Mass that it was sinful to vote for Clinton and then Biden. 

Sister Dede Byrne, of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

This raised an issue that most are not aware of: To keep their tax exempt status, the Catholic Church and all non profit entities  “may not support or oppose candidates for elected office.” This law is The Johnson Amendment and it provides that 501(c)(3) organizations – charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations – in exchange for the privilege of receiving donations that are tax-deductible to the donors, may not support or oppose candidates for elected office. Thus, to keep that special privilege, 501(c)(3) organizations may not endorse candidates or use any of their assets to support or oppose specific candidates. 

Yet, the Catholic Church violated that law and continues to do so. Just go to YouTube and search for “Catholic Churches that slam Biden” You can watch the many clergy that opposed his election and endorsed DJT. Technically, they should have to pay taxes. And even according to the church’s official Code of Canon Law, Canon 287 also states  it states that priests “are not to have an active part in political parties and in governing labor unions unless, in the judgment of competent ecclesiastical authority, the protection of the rights of the Church or the promotion of the common good requires it.” 

In a general audience at the Vatican on July 28, 1993 (later quoted in the “Directory on Ministry and the Life of Priests,” released by the Congregation for the Clergy in 1994), Pope John Paul II said that a priest “ought to refrain from actively engaging himself in politics, as often happens, in order to be a central point of spiritual fraternity.” The Congregation for the Clergy’s document also quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1993: “It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful [emphasis in original], acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens.” The “Directory” states further that the “reduction of [a priest’s] mission to temporal tasks, of a purely social or political nature, is foreign to his ministry, and does not constitute a triumph but rather a grave loss to the Church’s evangelical fruitfulness.”

President Joe Biden is upholding the First Amendment which states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Despite the fact that President Biden and other Catholics are not for abortion, he and they believe that the Catholic Church or any other Church or religion cannot impose their beliefs upon the American citizens in keeping with the First Amendment.

The Catholic Church is asking Catholic citizens to ignore the First Amendment while the Church itself breaks the tax code for non-profits! It is a fact that the Catholic Church has been involved in many scandals in its history.

The latest being the following reported in the Anchorage Daily News and the Associated Press found that “The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, with many millions going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups. By aggressively promoting the payroll program and marshaling resources to help affiliates navigate its shifting rules, Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools and other ministries have so far received approval for at least 3,500 forgivable loans, The Archdiocese of New York, for example, received 15 loans worth at least $28 million just for its top executive offices. Its iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue was approved for at least $1 million. By aggressively promoting the payroll program and marshaling resources to help affiliates navigate its shifting rules, Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools and other ministries have so far received approval for at least 3,500 forgivable loans.” The Archdiocese of New York, for example, received 15 loans worth at least $28 million just for its top executive offices. Its iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue was approved for at least $1 million.” Read more at  Scandal-plagued Catholic Church lobbied heavily to get $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed pandemic aid

The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid.

Another scandal that occurred years ago is now continuing with this report from  NBC news.

“Nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that the Roman Catholic Church considers credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living under the radar with little to no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement, decades after the first wave of the church abuse scandal roiled U.S. dioceses, an Associated Press investigation has found.”

American Bishops reassigned abuser priests.

“Dioceses and religious orders so far have shared the names of more than 5,100 clergy members, with more than three-quarters of the names released just in the last year. The AP researched the nearly 2,000 who remain alive to determine where they have lived and worked — the largest-scale review to date of what happened to priests named as possible sexual abusers.” Read more at: Almost 1,700 priests and clergy accused of sex abuse are unsupervised

DO the American bishops think that they can just continue to focus on abortion, communion, and the Latin Mass as distractions from the perpetual violation of their own Canon Law and Catechism of the Catholic Church not to mention their violation of the Johnson Amendment to the IRS Tax Code?

Then there’s the indictment of several Church officials, a prominent French priest and psychotherapist who was once an influential Vatican adviser on matters regarding human sexuality. Heis going to face trial in a church court over accusations of inappropriate sexual relationships with male clients, the Paris Archdiocese has confirmed. Read more at:French priest, former Vatican adviser, to face church trial on abuse claims

Another scandal that many are unaware of: VATICAN CITY, July 3 (Reuters) – A prominent Italian cardinal was among 10 people sent to trial in the Vatican on Saturday charged with financial crimes including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office. Read more at: Cardinal among 10 indicted by Vatican for financial crimes

Pope Francis speaking about the Church scandals

Even Pope Francis is troubled by the many scandals that the Catholic Church has caused. In 2019,  the year ended for the Pope in embarrassment when he angrily slapped the hand of a woman who had pulled on his own while he was greeting pilgrims on New Year’s Eve. He began 2020 with a public apology for losing his patience and setting a “bad example.”

It was a fitting coda to a year in which the pope addressed one scandal—the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse crisis—only to become embroiled in another, over the Vatican’s murky finances. Read more here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/pope-francis-struggles-to-escape-scandals-of-2019-11578052800

While the Church has been tainted by its dark history, their is always the hope that the Body of Christ will undergo major surgery to remove the cancer of clericalism, patriarchy, authoritarianism and misogyny as penance for its many offenses against its own laws and those of Jesus!  Many Church scholars and historians point to the fourth century as the beginning of the Church sowing the seeds of scandal.

“Was the Constantinian alliance a betrayal of the pure essence of Christianity, with religion contributing to society and culture at the risk of its own soul, at the expense of its eternal mission? One might wonder if ‘real Christianity’ uncontaminated by the world could have survived. “Can Jesus be preached in the whole world without ecclesiasticism?” asked Friedrich Naumann, an exponent of charismatic religion in the early years of the twentieth century. “Can molten gold be carried from place to place in anything but crucibles of iron and steel?” from The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity edited by John McManners

Nonetheless, there’s no shortage of material for accusing the Church of a dark history in which so many seeds of scandal were sown. The horror is that it continues to this day!

It’s fitting to end with the words from Matthew’s gospel and some final thoughts.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. ”He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Mt 26: 36-45

The Catholic Church and its many traditionalists or conservatives can’t remain “asleep” as the world turns into the third decade of the twenty-first century. Their longing for the days of the Church Militant cannot erase the seventeen hundred years of dark history but instead it will extend it.  

Jesus’ exhortation was pretty clear:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Mt 5: 13-16

Creating laws and getting involved in politics is not what Jesus taught or expected. 

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
Mk 16:15

About Dr. Ernie Sherretta, D. Min.

Retired Director of Religious Education for the Catholic Church since 2014, granted a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Immaculata University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Spiritual Well-Being Counselor
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