In response to recent sexual abuse crises, the Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, has said that the Catholic Church must renew its conviction to identify and reject sin, and admit that a homosexual culture among some clerics has caused great harm in the Church.
The bishop also called Catholics to join him in offering acts of reparation for the sins of sexual immorality among Catholic deacons, priests, and bishops.
“For too long we have diminished the reality of sin — we have refused to call a sin a sin — and we have excused sin in the name of a mistaken notion of mercy. In our efforts to be open to the world we have become all too willing to abandon the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In order to avoid causing offense we offer to ourselves and to others niceties and human consolation,” wrote Bishop Robert Morlino in a pastoral letter released Aug. 18.
“There must be no room left, no refuge for sin — either within our own lives, or within the lives of our communities. To be a refuge for sinners (which we should be), the Church must be a place where sinners can turn to be reconciled. In this I speak of all sin,” he added.
Morlino said that he had been sickened by reading the stories of sexual abuse contained in a report on clerical sexual abuse released Aug. 14 by a Pennsylvania grand jury, and by allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has been accused of serially sexually abusing two teenage boys, and of sexually assaulting and coercing priests and seminarians for several decades.
“But my own sickness at the stories is quickly put into perspective when I recall the fact that many individuals have lived through them for years. For them, these are not stories, they are indeed realities. To them I turn and say, again, I am sorry for what you have suffered and what you continue to suffer in your mind and in your heart,” he wrote.
The bishop was particularly candid in his assessment of the cause of those problems: “In the specific situations at hand, we are talking about deviant sexual — almost exclusively homosexual — acts by clerics. We’re also talking about homosexual propositions and abuses against seminarians and young priests by powerful priests, bishops, and cardinals. We are talking about acts and actions which are not only in violation of the sacred promises made by some, in short, sacrilege, but also are in violation of the natural moral law for all. To call it anything else would be deceitful and would only ignore the problem further.”
“There has been a great deal of effort to keep separate acts which fall under the category of now-culturally-acceptable acts of homosexuality from the publically-deplorable acts of pedophilia. That is to say, until recently the problems of the Church have been painted purely as problems of pedophilia — this despite clear evidence to the contrary,” he added.
“It is time to be honest that the problems are both and they are more. To fall into the trap of parsing problems according to what society might find acceptable or unacceptable is ignoring the fact that the Church has never held ANY of it to be acceptable — neither the abuse of children, nor any use of one’s sexuality outside of the marital relationship, nor the sin of sodomy, nor the entering of clerics into intimate sexual relationships at all, nor the abuse and coercion by those with authority,” he wrote.
Morlino said that McCarrick was guilty of abusing power “for the sake of homosexual gratification.”
“It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord. The Church’s teaching is clear that the homosexual inclination is not in itself sinful, but it is intrinsically disordered in a way that renders any man stably afflicted by it unfit to be a priest,” he added.
Morlino wrote to seminarians of his diocese that they should immediately notify him of any sexual abuse, coercion, or sexual immorality they might experience or witness in their seminaries.
“I will address it swiftly and vigorously. I will not stand for this in my diocese or anywhere I send men for formation,” he wrote, adding that he expects seminaries to address sexual immorality directly.
To the priests of Madison, the bishop explained his expectation that each one “live out your priesthood as a holy priest, a hard working priest, and a pure and happy priest — as Christ Himself is calling you to do. And by extension, live a chaste and celibate life so that you can completely give your life to Christ, the Church, and the people whom he has called you to serve. God will give you the graces to do so.” He likewise called priests to notify him of abuse or sexual immorality they might become aware of.
Morlino also wrote to lay Catholics, asking them to bring forward any instance of clerical sexual abuse or immorality they might be aware of. The bishop promised to hold priests and seminarians accountable to chaste standards of behavior, and to call for reform in the Church.
The bishop asked lay Catholics to “assist in keeping us accountable to civil authorities, the faithful in the pews, and to God Almighty, not only to protect children and the youth from sexual predators in the Church, but our seminarians, university students, and all the faithful as well. I promise to put any victim and their sufferings before that of the personal and professional reputation of a priest, or any Church employee, guilty of abuse.”
The bishop concluded his letter with a call to holiness and prayer.
“More than anything else, we as a Church must cease our acceptance of sin and evil. We must cast out sin from our own lives and run toward holiness. We must refuse to be silent in the face of sin and evil in our families and communities and we must demand from our pastors — myself included — that they themselves are striving day in and day out for holiness. We must do this always with loving respect for individuals but with a clear understanding that true love can never exist without truth.”
“I ask you all to join me and the entire clergy of the Diocese of Madison in making public and private acts of reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for all the sins of sexual depravity committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy,” he wrote.
He added that he would be offering a public Mass of reparation in the diocese and explained that on Sept. 19, 21, and 22, the traditional “ember days” of the Church, he would be fasting “in reparation for the sins and outrages committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy and I invite all the faithful to do the same.”
“Some sins, like some demons, can only be driven out by prayer and fasting,” he wrote.