Anyone who follows Catholic news — or even the secular news — should be aware by now of the scandal surrounding Theodore McCarrick, former Cardinal Archbishop of the Catholic Church. McCarrick, one of the most recognized Catholic prelates of our time, is accused of sexually abusing both seminarians and minors.
McCarrick, of course, was a rather progressive bishop. In light of this, conservatives and traditionalists might have been tempted to chalk up his “proclivities” to his left leaning tendencies. That is, until the stories began emerging of similar problems in the famously conservative diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. Then, on August 7, Rod Dreher over at The American Conservative published an article claiming that, alongside the large group of Progressive homosexuals in the Catholic clergy today, there are a substantial number of conservative Catholics – both priests and bishops – who live actively homosexual lifestyles as well.
“The second tribe are Conservatives who live a double life. Outwardly they advocate for traditional Catholic teaching on homosexuality, but they also live homosocially (in the sense of socializing with other gay conservative priests), and some have gay sex. They therefore live in a state of cognitive dissonance.”
I think there is an important lesson in all of this, and that is that we cannot rely too strongly on any merely human individual to guide us, despite his apparent merits. No matter how good they might seem to be, people are always capable of disappointing us.
I think for example of the many traditionalist Catholics for whom actor Mel Gibson was all the rage when he was producing and directing The Passion of the Christ. He was a hero; an icon; someone in Hollywood who could actually be looked up to. And then he had his fall from grace with his now-infamous drunk driving arrest and later extramarital affair.
While I myself have hope for Gibson’s future and still periodically keep him in my prayers, the point I’m trying to make here is that the people we look up to can disappoint us. Several times in my own life I’ve been let down by my idols and role models. It can be rather disheartening but it shouldn’t come as a total surprise. After all, they have the same fallen human nature that I do.
Sometimes though, it’s easy to forget this. I can only imagine the level of confusion and discord that would result should it come to light that any of the deviant clerics referenced in Dreher’s article are well known and respected conservative Church leaders. There is a real danger that many disillusioned conservative Catholics would walk away from the Church altogether.
This is why it’s so important that we not place our faith in any mere man, regardless of his apparent virtue. Men can and do disappoint us. Only God cannot.
My gut tells me that the recently emerging scandals in the Church are only a harbinger of many terrible things to come. It’s crucially important that we place our trust in God rather than in men. Our Lord promised that he would be with His Church until the end of time, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. He clearly gave us this promise to encourage us and strengthen our Faith in times such as these.
Finally, let’s remember that, while we’re currently in a difficult situation, it is out of such times that God raises up His greatest saints. Let’s be those saints.