Saturday, May 8, 2010


The media must remember, in viewing how Rome responds to crisis, that our Church is not used to the flow of modern media time frames. It predates TV and the internet and radio and newspapers, the telephone, the telegraph, pony express, even the printed word.

There always have been scandals, and every few centuries, failure (as there has been failure) leads to purification.

How did the Church deal with sexual violations centuries ago?

At the Council of Ancyra in 315, strict penalties -- solitary confinement, fasts, isolation, and supervision -- were demanded for any cleric caught having relations with a minor.

In 1049 Saint Peter Damian wrote to Pope Leo IX, recommending zero tolerance. According to one expert on abuse, the saint taught that any priest caught in such an act should be stripped of his clerical office. This finds its way to us through a 2001 review of past procedures called De delictus gravioribus penned by none other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Why past policies were not re-implemented is a mystery. It was Pope Adrian VI, the last non-Italian Pope before John Paul II, who formulated a courageous mea culpa. Adrian VI had assumed the Throne of Peter after a string of questionable popes and for his two short years as pontiff was basically charged with cleaning up the mess.

Addressing himself in 1523 to the delegates of the Imperial Diet at Nuremberg, points out Italian writer Antonio Socci, in The Fourth Secret, the pontiff, reacting to the Reformation, said, "We freely acknowledge that God has permitted this persecution of the Church because of the sins of men, and in particular of priests and prelates. The Hand of God has not, in fact, been withdrawn; He could save us; but sin separates us from Him and prevents Him from hearing us. All of Sacred Scripture teaches us that the errors of the people have their origin in the errors of the clergy...

"Each one of us," he went on, "must examine himself much more severely than will God on the day of His wrath. We must all consider ourselves committed to do this because the entire world thirsts for reform."

The schism caused by Luther was a grave wound from which it still has not recovered, and much of Europe was set against Rome -- as we see great antipathy to Catholicism (especially in England) in our own day. Chastisement is often fashioned with human hands.

Sacking. Fire. Assassination. Those were the scourges Rome faced in the 1500s, but also that decade was the appearance of Mary in Mexico -- an event that turned an entire region of the world strongly Catholic.

"It was precisely Guadalupe that gave birth to Latin American Christianity," Socci has written in The Fourth Secret. "It was not born of ecclesiastical projects (which, on the contrary, were being met with hostility from the indigenous populations), but from the initiative of Heaven, manifested through Mary.

"Precisely at the moment in which the Church in half of Europe was being mutilated by a heresy that, among other things, was profoundly hostile to the Holy Virgin, the Madonna gifted to the Church an entire continent in the world. The apparition happened -- notice the coincidence -- on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which in those times was celebrated on the 9th of December, not the 8th). This is the Feast of the Woman who crushes the serpent's head."

Will an event attached to the Blessed Mother soon cause a similar renewal? Crisis often invigorates Catholicism.

Will it be from this region -- or perhaps Africa -- that salvation comes to the modern Church?

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