Friday, August 31, 2018

"The world stands by reason of the intercession of Christians" ~ The Apology of Saint Aristides

A modern Orthodox icon of St. Aristides.
Today is the feast of Saint Aristides of Athens. I’m going to guess, dear reader, that you have never heard of him. If that’s the case, then you are in good company, for I had never heard of him either until today. Aristides was a martyr of the 2nd Century AD. What little is known of his life may best be summarized in this passage from Saint Jerome’s On Illustrious Men:
Aristides, a most eloquent Athenian philosopher, and a disciple of Christ while yet retaining his philosopher's garb, presented a work to Hadrian at the same time that Quadratus presented his. The work contained a systematic statement of our doctrine, that is, an Apology for the Christians, which is still extant and is regarded by philologians as a monument to his genius.
The Eastern Orthodox proclaim Aristides as a martyr, saying that he was hung in Athens on September 13 of AD 134 (or 120), but there doesn’t seem to be any near contemporary documentation supporting this. His Apology was known in antiquity and the early Middle Ages, but was thought lost for a thousand years until it was rediscovered in Armenian and Syriac translations in the 19th century.

Emperor Hadrian.
The Apology of Aristides retains relevance to our own times and is well worth reading in full. In it, the saint offers a comparison of Christianity to the religious beliefs of the barbarians, Greeks, Jews and Egyptians. In the excerpt that follows, Aristides blasts the perverse tales of the Greek pantheon as the source of great wickedness, hinting at the early Christian belief that the pagan gods existed but weren’t actually deities at all, but demons. If the martyrdom accounts of the Orthodox are trustworthy, then it's probably not surprising that Hadrian and his courtiers had an extremely negative reaction to this polemical attack on pagan beliefs and the perverse sexual practices that often accompanied them:
“Because of these stories, O king, much evil has befallen the race of men who are at this present day, since they imitate their gods, and commit adultery, and are defiled with their mothers and sisters, and in sleeping with males: and some of them have dared to kill even their fathers. For if he, who is said to be the head and king of their gods, has done these things, how much more shall his worshipers imitate him! And great is the madness which the Greeks have introduced into their history concerning him: for it is not possible that a god should commit adultery or fornication, or should approach to sleep with males, or that he should be a parricide; otherwise he is much worse than a destructive demon.” 
In contrast, here is how Saint Aristides describes the belief of the Christians:
“…They know and believe in God, the Maker of heaven and earth, in whom are all things and from whom are all things…they do not commit adultery nor fornication, they do not bear false witness, they do not deny a deposit, nor covet what is not theirs: they honor father and mother; they do good to those who are their neighbors, and when they are judges they judge uprightly; and they do not worship idols in the form of man; and whatever they do not wish that others should do to them, they do not practice towards any one, and they do not eat of the meats of idol sacrifices, for they are undefiled: and those who grieve them they comfort, and make them their friends; and they do good to their enemies: and their wives, O king, are pure as virgins, and their daughters modest: and their men abstain from all unlawful wedlock and from all impurity, in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world…For truly great and wonderful is their teaching to him that is willing to examine and understand it….And I have no doubt that the world stands by reason of the intercession of Christians.” 
Reading the above, one can not help but be struck by how Aristides's words apply to our own time. Prof. Benjamin Wiker recently made the case that the scandals rocking the Catholic Church regarding the sexual abuse of boys and the softening of teachings on matters of sexual immorality more generally by Church leaders represent nothing short of the repaganization of West. To use Prof. Wiker’s own words in his article, From a Moral-Historical Perspective, This Crisis is Worse Than You Realize:
“The very men most authoritatively charged with the evangelization of all the nations are full-steam ahead bringing about the devangelization of the nations. In doing so, these priests, bishops, and cardinals at the very heart of the Catholic Church are acting as willing agents of repaganization, undoing 2,000 years of Church History.” 
When considered in the light of Saint Aristides’s words above, some 21st century bishops certainly seem to behave more like courtiers of Hadrian than colleagues of the ancient martyrs, and are indeed more enamored with the “great madness” of the Greeks than the “truly great and wonderful” teaching of the Christians. The prayer of Aristides which closes his Apology is also quite relevant to the travails of our time:
“Let the tongues of those now be silenced who talk vanity, and who oppress the Christians, and let them now speak the truth….Let them, therefore, anticipate the dread judgment which is to come by Jesus the Messiah upon the whole race of men.”
To read the whole Apology of Saint Aristides, click here.

Click for more info.
It is thought by some scholars that Saint Aristides is also the author of the ancient Christian work known as the Letter to Diognetus. This is another 2nd Century apologetical work which is otherwise anonymous but which bears certain textual similarities to the Aristides’s Apology.

The Letter to Diognetus is included in the brand new book, I Am A Christian: Authentic Accounts of Christian Martyrdom and Persecution from the Ancient Sources which will soon be available from Arx Publishing. Check it out!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Saint Monica, Patroness of Abuse Victims, Pray for Us!

“Go your way and God bless you, for it is not possible 
that the son of these tears should perish.” 
—An unknown African bishop to Saint Monica
Today is the feast day of Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine. This noble lady and archetypal Christian mother is the patroness of (among others) abuse victims, alcoholics, difficult marriages, mothers with wayward children, disappointing children, victims of adultery and victims of unfaithfulness.

Thus, she is quite a popular saint in our time and a particularly appropriate saint to commemorate today as the Church continues to be riddled with abusers and enablers of abuse even at the highest levels.

According to Augustine's Confessions (Book III, Chapter XII), Monica shed many tears while she prayed for her son's conversion from the careless and dissolute lifestyle he lived. Here is the above quote in its original context:
"And meanwhile You granted her [Monica] another answer, which I recall; by a priest of Yours, a certain bishop, reared in Your Church and well versed in Your books. He, when this woman had entreated that he would vouchsafe to have some talk with me, refute my errors, unteach me evil things, and teach me good (for this he was in the habit of doing when he found people fitted to receive it), refused, very prudently, as I afterwards came to see. For he answered that I was still unteachable, being inflated with the novelty of that heresy, and that I had already perplexed various inexperienced persons with vexatious questions, as she had informed him. "But leave him alone for a time," says he, "only pray God for him; he will of himself, by reading, discover what that error is, and how great its impiety."
Click here for more info.
He disclosed to her at the same time how he himself, when a little one, had, by his misguided mother, been given over to the Manichæans, and had not only read, but even written out almost all their books, and had come to see (without argument or proof from any one) how much that sect was to be shunned, and had shunned it. Which when he had said, and she would not be satisfied, but repeated more earnestly her entreaties, shedding copious tears, that he would see and discourse with me, he, a little vexed at her importunity, exclaimed, "Go your way, and God bless you, for it is not possible that the son of these tears should perish." Which answer (as she often mentioned in her conversations with me) she accepted as though it were a voice from heaven."
To read more, click here.

May the faithful shed just as many tears as we pray for the conversion of our dissolute leaders, for peace and healing for their victims, and for renewal of the Church.

Why the Viganò Letter is Credible

Cardinal Gottfried Danneels (second from right) appears on the Loggia with
the newly elected Pope Francis in 2013. Danneels had retired under a cloud
for his audio-recorded badgering of a sex abuse victim.
The testimony written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has set off shockwaves. Not only does Archbishop Viganò name names of bishops and Cardinals who have covered up the sex abuse scandal, he directly implicates Pope Francis and calls on him—and his inner circle of Cardinals—to resign. To quote Archbishop Viganò’s letter directly:
“Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church and for bishops and faithful to act with parrhesia [that is, candor and the courage to speak the truth to power -ed.]. The faithful throughout the world also demand this of him in an exemplary manner. He must honestly state when he first learned about the crimes committed by McCarrick, who abused his authority with seminarians and priests."
Archbishop Viganò then provides the answer:
"In any case, the Pope learned about it from me on June 23, 2013 and continued to cover for him [ie, Cardinal McCarrick -ed.]. He did not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him and made him his trusted counselor along with [Cardinal -ed.] Maradiaga." 
These are deeply disturbing allegations and while we don’t yet know for sure whether they are completely true, we do know that they are credible. A very troubling pattern has emerged over the past few years which show that Pope Francis, at the very least, has put his personal imprimatur upon several prelates, including McCarrick, who have been disgraced over their handling of sex abuse cases or who have actively taken the side of the predators over the victims. These include the following:
  1. During the infamous 2015 Synod on the Family, Pope Francis personally appointed retired Belgian Cardinal Gottfried Danneels as one of the Synod fathers. At the time, he was advised to reconsider this appointment because, among other reasons, Cardinal Danneels had tried to cover up a sex abuse and was caught doing so in an audio recording. Also, to say that Danneels was an ineffective teacher of Catholic moral teaching would be a grotesque understatement [warning, the content at the preceding link is utterly vile.] Pope Francis ignored the advice and proceeded to appoint Cardinal Danneels anyway. Danneels also bragged that he had been a leader of the so-called “Saint Gallen’s Mafia”—a group of dissident prelates which had worked to undermine Pope Benedict.

  2. Earlier this year, Pope Francis defended the infamous Bishop Barros of Chile and attacked the bishop’s accusers. He insisted there was “no evidence” against Barros and said, “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will speak. There is not a single piece of proof against him. Everything is calumny. Is that clear?” However, it later emerged that Pope Francis had been advised by Chilean bishops not to appoint Barros in the first place because of credible accusations, but he had ignored this advice and proceeded to appoint Barros anyway. Francis only backed down afterwards when a firestorm erupted in Chile. He accepted Barros’s resignation in June of 2018.

  3. Cardinal Maradiaga, who is called out specifically in the Viganò letter above, is to this day considered one of Pope Francis’s trusted advisers. He even spoke at the recently concluded World Meeting of Families in Dublin. But earlier this year, Maradiaga evinced the same dismissive attitude toward an unprecedented appeal from seminarians in his native Honduras. A letter, signed by 48 seminarians, claimed that they were being victimized by a predatory homosexual cabal in the seminary. In response, Cardinal Maradiaga attacked the seminarians, calling them “gossipers” who wished to portray their fellows in a bad light. He also apparently attempted to protect one of his underlings, Bishop Juan Jose Pineda, who had been implicated as an abuser. However, in July of 2018, Bishop Juan Jose Pineda was forced to resign after the allegations of the seminarians proved valid beyond any doubt. Despite this, and the fact that Maradiaga has also been implicated in misappropriation of Church funds, he continues to be part of Pope Francis’s inner circle.
So sadly, there is a disturbing pattern of behavior here, and it is against this backdrop that the accusations in the Viganò letter become credible. The Pope’s behavior may simply be caused by a tragic ineptitude, gross naivete or a blind desire to put loyalty to friends ahead of the truth—frankly, I prefer that one of the above be the case. Though these above would be great and possibly disqualifying failings, they at least point to the potential (however distant) for reform emanating from the Vatican. There are, however, alternative explanations that are too horrific to even consider at this point.

We will have to see how events play out. To this point, however, I remain impressed by the words of Archbishop Viganò, who said in his letter:
“My conscience requires me also to reveal facts that I have experienced personally, concerning Pope Francis, that have a dramatic significance, which as Bishop, sharing the collegial responsibility of all the bishops for the universal Church, do not allow me to remain silent, and that I state here, ready to reaffirm them under oath by calling on God as my witness.” 
He, of all the individuals involved in these sordid affairs, at least sounds like a Catholic.

May God Almighty thwart the efforts of the prince of this world to corrupt the Church.

May Jesus Christ, the Just Judge, bring down divine justice upon all of those who bring filth and scandal into the Church.

May the Holy Spirit inspire great saints to rise up and cleanse the Church.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for the faithful and encourage us during this tribulation.

Monday, August 20, 2018

"We live in a period of chastisement" ~ August 20. Feast day of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux preaches the Second Crusade at Vezelai in Burgundy.
August 20 is the feast day of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), abbot and doctor of the Church, and one of the greatest minds of Medieval Europe. Late in his life in AD 1146, Bernard was called to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. In the course of doing so, he gave a speech every bit as stirring as Pope Urban II's call for the original Crusade in AD 1095. Here is an excerpt from that speech, as recorded in The History of the Crusades by Joseph Francis Michaud:
You can not but know that we live in a period of chastisement and ruin; the enemy of mankind has caused the breath of corruption to fly over all regions; we behold nothing but unpunished wickedness. The laws of men or the laws of religion have no longer sufficient power to check depravity of manners and the triumph of the wicked. The demon of heresy has taken possession of the chair of truth, and God has sent forth His malediction upon His sanctuary.
Oh, ye who listen to me, hasten then to appease the anger of Heaven, but no longer implore His goodness by vain complaints; clothe not yourselves in sackcloth, but cover yourselves with your impenetrable bucklers; the din of arms, the dangers, the labors, the fatigues of war are the penances that God now imposes upon you. Hasten then to expiate your sins by victories over the infidels, and let the deliverance of holy places be the reward of your repentance....
Fly then to arms; let a holy rage animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the prophet, “Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood!” If the Lord calls you to the defense of His heritage think not that His hand has lost its power. Could He not send twelve legions of angels or breathe one word and all His enemies would crumble away into dust? But God has considered the sons of men, to open for them the road to His mercy. His goodness has caused to dawn for you a day of safety by calling on you to avenge His glory and His name.
Read the rest of Bernard's speech along with additional context here.

Sadly, the Second Crusade ended in disaster as the Christian princes could not cooperate effectively with each other and their discord gave the advantage to the enemy. Bernard bitterly regretted this failure and wrote an apology to Pope Eugenius III in the form of book called On Consideration. In this book, Bernard offers some useful advice for how an ideal pope should behave. Included among his admonitions is the following:
You ought not to be the last to know the faults of your household, which, as we are aware, is the experience of very many. Wherefore, as I have said, let another manage the rest, but do yourself see to the discipline. Trust that to nobody. If in your presence there is any tendency to arrogant conversation, or showy dress, stretch out your hand against such offences; be yourself an avenger of the wrong done to you. Impunity is the mother of audacity, audacity brings forth excess. 
Holiness becomes the house of a bishop, modesty becomes it, good repute becomes it; the guardian of all discipline. The priests of the household are either more highly esteemed than others, or they are the common talk. In the look, dress, gait of the priests about your person you should allow no trace of immodesty or indecency. Let your fellow bishops learn from you not to have about them boys with their hair curled, or effeminate youths. It is surely unbecoming for a bishop to go hither and thither surrounded by fops who wear the turban and use the curling iron.
Given the sad state of Church today, our bishops would do well to heed this good advice.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

"Prepare for Him a Bed of Coals" ~ Prudentius’s 4th Century poem in honor of Saint Lawrence

The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence ~ Engraving taken from
Shea's Pictorial Lives of the Saints.
Saint Lawrence is one of the most famous early martyrs of the Roman Church. One of the seven deacons of Rome under Pope Sixtus II, Lawrence found himself a primary target during the persecution of Christians under the emperor Valerian in AD 258.

Sadly, none of the close contemporary documentary accounts of the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence survived the subsequent persecutions of the Church, though his story was well enough known that the principal facts were passed on for 100 years or so via oral tradition. His story was again set down on parchment after the time of Constantine, the earliest surviving sources being a mention in On the Duties of the Clergy by Saint Ambrose of Milan in the late 4th century, a very brief epitaph by Pope Damasus from about the same time, and a homily of Pope Leo the Great in the mid-5th century.

However, the most detailed ancient account of the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence comes from a work by the Spanish Latin poet, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, which was written, most likely, in the late 4th century. Though obviously embellished, the key facts of Lawrence's martyrdom are clear through the interpolated speeches. Please enjoy these extended excerpts from the poem which formed part of Prudentius's larger work known as The Peristephanon or The Martyr's Garland. It is from this ancient poem that most of the unique details of Saint Lawrence's martyrdom are drawn.
Hymn in honor of the passion of the blessed martyr Lawrence
Once mother of unholy fanes,
Rome, dedicated now to Christ,
By Lawrence led to victory
You trample on the heathen rites.

Proud kings have bowed before your sword
And conquered peoples felt your sway;
Now pagan gods are made to pass,
Beneath the yoke of your empire.

Though savage tribes had been subdued,
The city of the toga lacked
One glorious title of renown,
The triumph over wanton Jove,

Not by Camillus’s stormy might,
Nor Cossus’ arms or Caesar’s power,
But by the bloody combat waged
By Lawrence in his martyrdom.

Embattled Faith took up the fight,
Of her own blood most prodigal;
For she destroyed death by death
And lost her life to save her life.

The Pontiff Sixtus, from the cross
On which he hung, saw at its foot
His deacon Lawrence weeping sore,
And these prophetic words he spoke:

“Let tears of sorrow cease to flow
At my departure from this life;
My brother, I but lead the way,
And you will follow in three days.”

The holy bishop’s dying words
Sure glory for his friend announced,
For Lawrence on the day foretold,
Victorious, won the martyr’s palm.

. . .

The prefect of imperial Rome,
The agent of an insane prince,
Athirst for money and for blood
Is driven by his greed for gold

To wrest the sacred shrines by force
Suspected riches lurking there,
The talents gathered in vast sums,
And hidden in their secret vaults.

He summons Lawrence to the court
And questions him on coffers filled
With massive ingots of pure gold
And hoarded coins in shining heaps.
The prefect then makes a long speech, enjoining Lawrence to hand over the Church’s treasures. Here’s the gist of it, along with Lawrence's reply:
“This wealth is hid in secret crypts
Of churches where the Christians meet,
And to despoil your dear offspring
Is deemed the highest piety.

“Bring forth the gold you have amassed
By force and evil trickery,
The hoarded treasures you now keep
Enclosed in subterranean vaults.

“The public welfare now demands
That you give up your boundless wealth
To fill the coffers of the state
And pay the armies of your prince.”

. . .

Untroubled, Lawrence made reply
To this perfidious overture,
And as if ready to obey
He gently nodded his assent.

“Our church is very rich,” he said.
“I must confess that it has wealth;
Our treasuries are filled with gold
Not found elsewhere in all the world.

“Not even high Augustus holds
Such wealth within his mighty grasp,
Though every silver coin forged
His image and inscription bears.

“Yet I refuse not to yield up
The riches of our Lord and God;
I shall display for all to see
The treasures that belong to Christ.

“However, one request I make:
Vouchsafe to me a short delay
That I may carry out my pledge
With greater ease and richer gain.

“I need this time to take account
Of all the goods possessed by Christ,
And then to estimate their worth
And reckon up the total sum.”
The prefect, in his greed, grants Lawrence three days to collect the wealth of the Church. Lawrence does this, but the wealth he collects is not exactly what the prefect had in mind.
He hastens through the city streets
And in three days he gathers up
The poor and sick, a mighty throng
Of all in need of kindly alms.
Here, Prudentius gives an account of the various infirmities of the mass of beggars Lawrence has collected. Soon enough, however, he must face the prefect again.
By now the fated day had come:
The cruel judge, insane with greed,
Commanded Lawrence angrily
To bring at once the promised gold.

To him the martyr made reply:
“I pray you come with me and view
The wondrous riches of our God
Displayed for you in the sacred shrines.

. . .

The prefect deigns to follow him;
The sacred portal soon they reach,
Where stands a ghastly multitude
Of poor drawn up in grim array.

The air is rent with cries for alms;
The prefect shudders in dismay,
And turns on Lawrence glaring eyes,
With threats of dreadful punishment.

The saint, undaunted, answers him
“Why do you gnash your teeth in rage
At this unwelcome spectacle?
Do you scorn these as foul and mean?

. . .

“These poor of ours are sick and lame,
But beautiful and whole within.
They bear with them a spirit fair
And free from taint and misery.

“Your followers are strong of frame,
But marred by inward leprosy.
Depravity is halt and lame,
And sightless fraud is blind indeed.”
Lawrence continues in this vein and gives a lengthy speech which is very likely a poetic embellishment added by Prudentius, but perhaps containing a kernel of fact. He finishes as follows:
“These riches are now yours; take them
To beautify your lofty Rome,
To fill the treasury of your prince,
And your own fortunes to augment.”
The prefect responds, enraged:
“Do you imagine, slippery knave,
That this buffoonery you have staged,
This sanctimonious farce, this hoax,
Will go without due punishment?

. . .

“But I will see to it forthwith
That you will quit this earthly life,
Not by the short and easy route
Of sudden death, as you desire.

“I will prolong and stay your life
In pains and anguish without end,
And death in lingering agony
Will bar a merciful release.

“Prepare for him a bed of coals,
Lest raging flames that burn too high
May seize too soon the upstart’s face
And penetrate his inmost heart.”
The executioners do as they are told, and Lawrence is laid upon the fire. Prudentius describes how the odor of the martyr’s burning flesh smelled noxious to the heathens, but sweet to the faithful. Then, the poet records a literal example of gallows humor that has since been one of the traditionally recognized unique markers of Lawrence’s martyrdom.
When slow, consuming heat had seared
The flesh of Lawrence for a space,
He calmly from his gridiron made
This terse proposal to the judge:

“Pray turn my body, on one side
Already broiled sufficiently,
And see how well your Vulcan’s fire
Has wrought its cruel punishment.”

The prefect bade him to be turned.
Then Lawrence spoke: “I am well baked,
And whether better cooked or raw,
Make a trial by a taste of me.”
Lawrence then offers a very historically literate prayer for Rome, that the city in all its past earthly glory, may come to reject its pagan pantheon and accept the heavenly glory of Christ and His redeeming grace. At the end of his prayer, Lawrence offers a prophecy, probably invented or exaggerated by Prudentius who already knew the outcome.
“I see in future times a prince,
Adorer of the one true God,
Who will not suffer Rome to serve
The idols foul of pagan cults.

“The heathen temples he will close,
Wall up their doors of ivory,
And make secure their brazen bolts,
That none may pass their vile thresholds.

“Of bloody sacrifices cleansed,
The marble altars then will gleam,
And statues honored now as gods
Will stand, mere harmless blocks of bronze.”
This future prince is most likely Theodosius the Great who closed the pagan temples of Rome during the time when Prudentius was active. Prudentius then brings his hymn to an end, making the martyrdom of Lawrence the beginning of the end of pagan worship in Rome:
From that day forth the worship paid
To sordid pagan gods grew cold;
The temples unfrequented stood,
While people to Christ’s altars thronged.

. . .

The holy martyr’s valiant death
Of pagan temples was the end;
Then Vesta saw Palladian fires
Untended with impunity.

The Roman people, who were wont
The cup of Numa to adore
Christ’s sanctuaries now frequent
And hymn the holy martyr’s praise.

Illustrious senators themselves,
Once flamins and Lupercal priests,
Now kiss the threshold of the shrines
Where martyrs and apostles rest.

We see patrician families,
The parents, both of noble birth,
Their children dedicate to God,
The dearest pledges of their love.

The pontiff once with chaplet crowned
Is signed now with the cross of Christ,
And, Lawrence, to thy temple comes
The vestal of the Claudian house.
Thus we see how about 130 years after the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, and about 80 years after the last persecution in Rome, the Christian religion now reigns supreme in the city.

Click for info.
The full poem of Prudentius on the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence is well worth reading. The above excerpts were taken from the English translation of Prudentius's Poems, Volume 1, done by Sister M. Clement Eagan in 1962 which may be found in this excellent edition published by The Catholic University of America Press. I highly recommend purchasing the entire book (if you can find it), filled as it is with Prudentius’s late 4th century poetical take on the ancient martyrs, many of whom are known to us only from his accounts. Other poems from the Peristephanon which have appeared on this blog in the past include the Martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul and an excerpt from the Martyrs of Calahorra.

Click for info.
More about Saint Lawrence and many other early Christian martyrs may be found in the forthcoming book, I Am a Christian: Authentic Accounts of Christian Martyrdom and Persecution from the Ancient Sources. This book is due at the end of August 2018. If you have enjoyed my posts about the saints and martyrs of antiquity and the various persecutions endured by the Church in late Roman times, this book distills a good number of the authentic accounts in one place, beginning with the earliest martyrs and proceeding through the soft persecution of Julian the Apostate. It is history that every Christian ought to know but is sadly neglected in modern education.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Shepherds and millstones

"To execute is inadmissible!" 
The shepherds cry perched on corrupted thrones.
Their declaration's oddly risible
as angry flocks are searching for millstones.

Our Catholic bishops have had nearly 20 years to clean out the rats nests that have grown up in the chancery offices of the various American dioceses. They have failed, and failed miserably.

Indeed, to characterize the nonfeasance (and in some cases, blatant malfeasance) of the American bishops as merely failure seems an understatement. Sixteen years have now passed since the bishops' conference in Dallas during which the problem of homosexual abuse in the parishes, schools, and seminaries was directly addressed. But the bishops have fixed nothing. Instead, some of them have taken a somewhat different tack in recent years, mounting a public relations campaign to help normalize and welcome those who actively engage in homosexual practices which were, are, and always will be acts of "grave depravity" which can never be approved.

Worse, it is now revealed that a Prince of the Church, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick—a man who played a key role in drafting the weak and ineffective Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in Dallas in 2002—is himself an abuser of young men. In this light, it is perhaps not surprising that the bishops exempted themselves from the above guidelines.

Now that McCarrick is formally and publicly disgraced, his brothers in the episcopacy have piously disowned him, claiming that they didn't know of his taste for young men. For some of them, at least, this claim is simply not credible. It seems evident that some or even many of our shepherds may entertain tastes similar to "Uncle Ted." The laity can be forgiven for harboring such thoughts as our bishops have done little by their words and actions to dispel the idea.

Our Lord was very explicit about the fate that awaits those who lead young people to sin and destruction:
"It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones." [source: Luke 17:2]
I am certainly not the only one who sees irony in the fact that the Vatican saw fit to release with fanfare this very week an unprecedented change to the Catechism which declared the death penalty "inadmissible". That this change contradicts millennia of Church teaching is, depressingly, unsurprising. The motto of our present age seems to be: "Tota confunditur Jerusalem." [source: Acts 21:31]

As the corrupt bishops have shown little taste for reform, and no inclination to resign—even when clearly engaged in activities which are sinful and destructive of the Catholic faith—it falls to the laity to act. Will enough answer the call to do battle? The first step, I think, is prayer, lest our actions end up being more destructive than salubrious:
Let the devout cry out to God for justice. May our Lord Jesus Christ, the Just Judge, purge His Church of the abominable corruption that has infected it. May He lance the boil of perversion, heal the wounds of the injured, and drive out the legions of satan who have entrenched themselves in our sacristies. Save your flock, O Christ, from the wolves in shepherd's clothing.