Retired French Archbishop Jean-Pierre Grallet of Strasbourg is seen in this 2004 file photo. On Nov. 15, 2022, he admitted making "inappropriate gestures" to an adult woman when he was a priest in the 1980s. CNS photo/Christian Hartmann, Reuters

Editorial: Church’s silent killer

  • November 18, 2022

The renowned Catholic news organization La Croix International recently published an article appealing for ways to summarize the damage from revelations that 11 French bishops, including a retired Cardinal, are under investigation for sexual abuse.

Tsunami. Desolation. Even “apocalypse” were among the descriptors offered.

We would add “carbon monoxide.” It seems an ideal metaphor for the silent, tasteless, deadly toxic gas that these clouds of sexual scandal resemble as they spread through the Church. And let there be no doubt, the staggering incapacity of the world-wide hierarchy to stop that spread is killing the institutional life of our Holy Mother Church. Hyperbole? Hardly.

Shift focus to Canada, specifically to Statistics Canada 2021 census data released last month showing the number of Catholics in the country has fallen two million since 2011. That’s an average of 200,000 people a year who simply ceased to identify as members of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s not people who reduced their Mass attendance or simply stopped showing up for their Sunday obligation. It’s people who deny — hello, crowing rooster — being part of the Faith in which they were baptised.

Of course, the Mass numbers matter less than why these Catholics have become numb to the Mass, to the Magisterium, to Catholicism as offertory of Christ’s salvific gift. True, there is a matrix of answers to that why, including the response that no one knows for sure. 

Yet even factoring for the caveat that correlation is not necessarily causality, a timeline comparing the explosion of clerical sexual abuse revelations with the collapse of Catholic identity at least in Europe and North America would provide compelling evidence of direct cause and effect. Indeed, it would require almost imbecilic gullibility to fail to see how rampant priapic perversity within the priesthood has led millions upon millions of the faithful to silently cease to be Catholic.

As Marie-Jo Thiel, a theologian, ethicist, member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and advisor to France’s bishops for two decades of the sexual abuse crisis,  told La Croix International: “This affects the DNA of the priesthood. It’s further confirmation that no one in the Church is infallible. It is extremely heavy because a bishop is the only one who has the fullness of the priesthood.” 

It does not take a professional logician to follow the if-then implications. If specific bishops with the “fullness of the priesthood” are criminals who violate the Church’s teachings that they themselves preach, and if others hide their crimes, then either they are liars or the teachings themselves are false. Any Catholic would immediately see, of course, that only the first is viable. Church teachings are true by faith and reason. Falsehood lies with the teachers. But why, then, listen to liars who give lip-service to truth but wilfully refuse to live it?

The very question is part of the toxic cloud the world-wide hierarchy of our Faith must disperse. Catholic life demands it.

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