I have been delayed in writing about this due to being on vacation, and from arranging my thoughts. Even so, this is going to be a very rough outline.
Despite taking so much time, I still find my thoughts in disarray, just because there is so much to talk about and so much of it (as with most contemporary issues) requires us to look in the opposite direction from where we’ve been taught to look.
Let me put it this way; the problem is not with the Church. The problem is that many in the clergy, laity, and hierarchy don’t want the Church. They want a kind of non-profit social program with the respect that the Church once held. They don’t want Christ or truth or salvation; they want ‘progress’ or ‘social justice’ or whatever other silly idol is popular with the smart set of today.
So, to be clear, when I say the problem is not with the Church, I mean that if the Church acted like the Church, and not even the ideal Church triumphant, but simply like the Church of past ages, this situation would never have happened, at least not to this extent.
Let me explain: in today’s Church, at least in the west, there is very little discipline, whether in the liturgy, doctrine, or morality. For instance, just a few weeks ago Fr. Thomas Rosica, an attache of the Holy See’s Press Office, called the Catholic devotion to Scripture and Sacred Tradition “and unhealthy attachment” which the Church is moving away from. As far as I know, nothing has happened to him. He hasn’t lost his job, been stripped of his office, or even been rebuked by his Bishop. In a sane age, a Catholic priest, even one not attached to the Holy See who said something like this would have his Bishop down on his head like a ton of bricks.
And this sort of thing is common: priests publicly denounce or oppose doctrine – and not obscure, fiddling dogmas, but basic truths of the faith – every day without any ramifications. The liturgy is regularly mocked and gutted by celebrants without any correction on the part of the Bishops, most of whom are no more concerned than the priests themselves. If anyone – priest or laity – complains, he’s more likely to receive a rebuke for being ‘intolerant’ or ‘rigid’ than to bring about any corrections. Again, Priests and Bishops shrug off or openly advocate for moral evils in the name of ‘tolerance’ and reserve their rebukes for those who call them on it. Morality and doctrine, for many in the contemporary Church, are determined by the latest fads in the secular world.
This is not how a Church that actually believes in the Gospel behaves: this is how a political organization that wants to attract members behaves.
I could go into the background of this, the various possible factors involved from Marxist infiltrations to Vatican II to just the absurd habit that most moderns have of treating their ancestors with dismissive contempt (see the recent move regarding the death penalty). Probably I will sometime, but the point is that all this amounts to a reluctance in the Church, as in the secular world, to call evil evil and falsehood false. Priests are all-but forbidden from calling each other out on liturgical or moral or doctrinal matters lest they be branded ‘intolerant’ or ‘judgmental.’ Even discounting tales of officially-imposed bullying and cover-ups, any warning signs or smaller infractions on the road to full-blown abuse were not acknowledged and not permitted to be sanctioned because to do so would be intolerant.
This is one principle we desperately need to relearn; that evil does not happen in a vacuum. A man does not one day become a pedophile or commit sexual assault or rape without first having gone down a long line of lesser sins. This is one reason for the Church’s former refusal to tolerate even small, venial sins or minor sexual infractions: because with the wisdom of ages, she knew that it never stops at these things. Now, however, along with the rest of the world we delude ourselves that these things don’t matter and then are shocked when they blow up in our faces.
Nor do I think the lack of doctrinal or liturgical discipline is unrelated. Even if we discount supernatural effects, there is simply the question “we don’t expect them to think like priests or pray like priests; why are we surprised they don’t act like priests?” We put up with heresy, sacrilege, and irreverence from them every single day without a word and then we are shocked to find them abusing their position. Once again, these things don’t happen in a vacuum.
All this is a way of saying that the Church is in this position because so many within her do not actually believe in Christ or want anything to do with Him. They believe in politics, in progress, and in all the other idols of modernity. I don’t say this as a judgment, but as an observation. If the Church is to have a renewal, I’m afraid she can no longer tolerate such members, at least not in the clergy. There needs to be a great cleansing within the Church, not just of those who are guilty of abuse or of aiding it, but of all those those who worship the gods of the marketplace rather than Christ. True, this would leave her a shrunk shell of her current self, but she could recover. She cannot recover as long as she continues to tolerate this kind of hypocrisy among her priests.
As so often happens, the answer is “Repent and Believe in the Gospel.”