The recent revelations regarding Cardinal McCarrick and the Pennsylvania 300 have forced many more Catholics into an uncomfortable realisation that some of us cradle Catholics of a certain age have lived with our entire adult lives: as Pope Adrian VI remarked of his immediately pre-Tridentine era, “the Catholic Church is sick in head and members.”
Of these specific scandals and their allied occurences (even within the Vatican) that have sullied the past few decades, much has been and can be written: how disgusting it is that men could seamlessly perform both the most sacred rites and loathsome acts imaginable; that a culture of acceptance of this horror has grown up within the hierarchy – a hierarchy so often committed to altering the Faith committed to its care in as brutal a manner possible; and that under the current Pontificate, favouritism from the highest quarters of that hierarchy has protected some of the worst offenders.
But there are other things to that can, have, and should be said: that in many ways – despite Church teaching – this de facto acceptance of these practises by prelates parallels developments among the elite in western society as a whole (not merely Hollywood but Washington, where recurrent page scandals underline the fact that the age of consent in DC is 16 by Act of Congress, and elsewhere); that the problem is as bad or worse amongst other religious and civil organisations – especially the public schools (who coincidentally are usually exempted from any government attempts to lengthen the statute of limitations); that what is so often misnamed “pedophilia” by the media is simply the desire for younger men by older homosexuals; and that the difficulty of homosexuality in the priesthood so demonstrated presents a marketing problem for our media and elites, who wish to promote the practise in the greater society while attacking it in the Church (hence the misuse of the “pedophilia” label).
These points, however, are far from exhausting what may be said. On the one hand (as the scandals in the dioceses of Lincoln and Scranton and the Legionaries of Christ show) theological “Conservatives” are far from immune to the problem. But on the other, it is certainly the dominant theological strain in the Church to-day that has fostered and protected the problem until it has become the grotesquerie we are forced to deal with. As both the revocation of Pope Benedict XVI’s reforms in this area and the shredding (for non-sexual, purely ideological reasons) of the Franciscans of the Immaculate show, that strain has the power to accomplish much of its agenda at the present time, as it has had on the local level in most dioceses since Vatican II. But with that power comes responsibility.
It must also be pointed out that this moral collapse is intimately connected with the doctrinal, liturgical, and devotional coallapse of the Conciliar era, and that Satan reserves his choicest attacks for the clergy. Moreover, by leaving the Faith primarily as something for clerics and religious to deal with whilst we got on with our real lives – or else by trying to usurp clerical administrative or litugical roles, and congratulating ourseselves when we did – many of us laymen have contributed to the problem. The loss of Faith in the Eucharist amongst priests, of devotional lives amongst the laity, and the pursuit of personal holiness by both is most certainly a huge factor – and one which, whilst pointing fingers at everyone else, we are most tempted to ignore.
But underlying the perfect storm of horror is a fatal wound which Benedict XVI commented upon back in March of 2016, and which you of the Ordinariates (and I say you, because – while an Ordinariate member, as a cradle Catholic who has never stopped practising I am in a unique position to appreciate the gifts you are bringing us) are is a unique position to heal. As the Pope Emeritus pointed out, since the Council, the vast majority of Catholics no longer believe in the necessity of Church and Sacramemts (and so the Priesthood) for Salvation – a development Pius XII warned against in his encyclical Humani Generis. In a nutshell, the majority of your brother Catholics are de facto either Pelagians or Universalists – a situation Benedict warned had not only killed our attempts at evangelisation, but in effect removed any need to remain Catholic: “Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself becomes unmotivated.” In a word, we no longer believe in the Salvation of Souls.
This reality, affecting the vast majority of Catholics – clerical and lay alike – undermined our Faith in innumerable subtle and not so subtle ways. But it is precisely here, amongst all of the many other gifts of the Anglican Patrimony, that you have what your Catholic brothers as a whole desperately need. On the one hand, each of you has come into the Church to save your own soul – often at considerable personal pain and cost. As individuals and as groups, you have faced adversity – often heroically – both within and without the Church. Your witness and your motivation alike are essential to us all, if the Church is to regain her sense of mission in a world at deadly need for what she has to offer.
Beyond that, the ideas of the “cure of souls” and “full homely divinity,” for which Charles I died, and such as Herrick, Keble, and Hawker tended their flocks and wrote about for posterity, is something of the Medieval Church that they retained or restored in a uniquely Anglican manner. Their pastoral style and the resultant love and cooperation of their people – cognate to that of Continental priests as depicted by Bernanos or Guareschi, but not common among English-speaking Catholics due to the exigencies of the Penal Times – is exactly what the Catholic Church in the Anglosphere needs to-day. It is a sovereign antidote for the corporate Pelagianism that has poisoned and well-nigh paralysed us. Your coming into the Church at this time in her history is, alongside the heightened Catholicity of younger priests and religious, and ongoing Eucharistic and other miracles, a powerful sign of the providential care Christ always takes of His Mystical Body.