Too many Cardinal Herods


Today the church celebrates the Passion of John the Baptist. The Gospel at Mass recounting that most lurid scriptural passage in which two men lose their head. One metaphorically the other literally. These men stand in stark contrast. John the Baptist a radical herald of a kingdom yet to come. Herod a herald and ruler of this fallen world.

As the drama unfolds we discover that the Baptist has nothing in worldly terms. Having lived his life for God he is now penniless and in prison. His crime to have spoken moral truth to power regarding the marriage of Herod to his brother’s wife. And yet despite his poverty and plight in human terms he is upstanding and proud. A courageous paragon of virtue whose integrity and personal holiness even the wicked acknowledge and admire; despite finding his words deeply unsettling Herod is mesmerised by him. John lived for Christ and his inner beauty shone forth for all to see.

Meanwhile Herod has everything in worldly terms. A palace, power, incredible wealth, his brother’s wife…and her daughter to dance for him. Yet despite holding the aces he cannot hold a candle to John. We learn he is morally compromised and pathetically weak. His problem is twofold:

I.  He is a slave to his passions; he cannot control his lust. This leads him to make rash promises and behave in a way he later regrets.

II. He is in thrall to the popular consensus: unable to stand up for what he believes because he fears offending his guests. It stops him from doing what is right and paves the way for violence and murder.

As I listened to the Gospel this evening I was struck by it’s relevance. Catholicism finding itself in crisis today precisely because we have too many Cardinal Herods and not enough Cardinal Johns! Which is to state huge and lasting damage has been dealt to Christian credibility because sinful bishops, priests and deacons have found themselves incapacitated by the exact same flaws as that scoundrel Herod.

Those unable to control their passions dealt the first and heaviest blow. How sickening to hear of so many depraved sins visited on children and adults alike. From the repugnant brutes who degraded innocent little children to pervy prelates who preyed on their seminarians. The caving in to lust by those in holy orders has created a scandal crying out to heaven for justice!

And it was the second flaw, fear of losing face in the world, that enabled these sinners to go unpunished so long. Too many Cardinals and bishops (even the present pontiff if whistle blowing Cardinals are to be believed) having efused to confront the excesses of an unhealthy homosexual subculture (which is at the root of over 80% of the abuse) because they put careers and the institution first and the divine law second. We might also consider the legion of modern bishops who, unlike the baptist, never speak moral truth to the world because they hunger for secular approval, seeming to care more for human politics and comfort in this life than the salvation of souls in the next.

Whatever your theological leaning there is no denying it is a terrible mess. It is high time then that people were held to account regardless of seniority. The brood of vipers must be removed and a new generation of authentic apostles recruited.

The current problems are beyond the pay grade of laity and priests. Pray then that God might stir the remaining men of God, from amongst the Episcopacy, into firm action. Enough with the banal and meaningless apologies drafted in the wake of abuse by lawyers! Enough of looking the other way and not holding people to account. Enough of soft retirements for wicked men funded by the cash of humble church goers. We need the true shepherds to arise and come to our aid. NOW is the time for new saints and martyrs to deliver us from the hands of wicked men. John the Baptist pray for us.

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17 thoughts on “Too many Cardinal Herods

  1. Today a leading US “shock jock” goes on trial charged with defamation by the father of an infant slaughtered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. The blogger and broadcaster in question has been peddling the conspiracy theory that the massacre was a fabrication dreamed up by the anti-gun lobby to curtail honest citizens’ Second Amendment right to gun ownership. He maintains that the Sandy Hook was “fake news”.
    Leaving aside the sheer imbecility of his claims, two points are worthy of note: first, that he has legions of followers and, second, so entrenched is US gun “culture” that even the slaughter of innocents has been “weaponised” to protect it from common sense legislation.
    In continuing to peddle the ludicrous canard that “eighty percent of the current problem” is due to a cabal of Vatican homosexuals you fly in the face both of fact and common sense.
    The Church has lost Ireland. Irish commentators noted that during the run up to abortion referendum Irish clerics were uncharacteristically muted – possibly deeming that any intervention might actually prove counter-productive. In Australia there are moves afoot to end the secrecy of the confessional by civil law. The Attorney General of Pennsylvania revealed this week that three further US states were about to initiate investigations into clerical abuse and several more were contemplating doing the same.
    As in the UK, these enquiries will grind on remorselessly for years – piling horror upon horror and eroding further the faith of the hitherto faithful. By the time the traditionalists and the reformers have finally ceased their bickering (if ever) they run the risk of preaching to near empty churches – reviled by many: respected by few.
    The attempts by – I sincerely hope – a small number of former Vatican insiders to weaponise the abuse issue is despicable. It ignores fact and, worse, it exploits and re-abuses innocent victims – in much the same way as the dead of Sandy Hook.
    You are entirely wrong to assert that there is little that priests and congregations can do. Catholics can stand up and demand transparency, civil justice and change. Priests can stop obfuscating, blame shifting and characterising ludicrous conspiracy theories as truth. Old Nick is having a field day.

  2. I think you are absolutely right, Father Ed, to say “there is no denying it is a terrible mess”. What a dreadful summer it has been for Catholics! The Ampleforth and Downside revelations; Theodore McCarrick; The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report; an underwhelming papal visit to Ireland; and now the letter from Carlo Viganò. Surely this letter is the first time, at least during my life, that an archbishop has publicly called for a pope to resign. And the reports that Viganò is now in hiding as he fears for his personal safety make it sound like a story about the mafia rather than about the ‘societas perfecta’ that the Church claims to be.

    You have suggest categorising senior members of the Church as heroes or villains, ‘John the Baptists’ or ‘Herods’. But surely the problem is that even within the Church one person’s hero is another person’s villain. Some will regard Pope Francis as a ‘John the Baptist’ (after all he seems to have renounced much of the pomp and luxury associated with the papacy) and Viganò as a ‘Herod’. One journalist, for example, described the Viganò letter as “a mix of fact, fiction and venom”. But others talk of “Antipope Bergoglio” and clearly regard Viganò as a hero. Apparently a petition in support of his letter has already received over 5,000 signatures.

    With this level of internal polarisation it has hard to see how the Church can avoid a major schism in the near future. And with such a schism the church would also see a haemorrhaging of support and membership – this has already happened in Ireland.

    Finally a question, if I may. You write in your blog of “whistle blowing Cardinals”. I follow news about the Church fairly closely, but I have no idea to whom you are referring. Are you able to clarify?

      1. I think you have made two very important points, SteveG. (I would have responded to these in my earlier comment but I think our messages ‘crossed’ so I uploaded mine before I saw yours.)

        Firstly you are quite right to challenge Father Ed’s claim that “the excesses of an unhealthy homosexual subculture… is at the root of over 80% of the abuse”. It certainly is the case that more boys than girls have been sexually abused by priests and this may well be related to the fact that those with homosexual rather than heterosexual inclinations are perhaps over-represented among priests compared with the population as a whole. But I know of no evidence to suggest that the vast majority of Catholic abuse is down to a “homosexual subculture “. What about the huge amount of non-sexual physical and psychological abuse perpetrated on children and vulnerable adults by priests, brothers and nuns in Ireland? And what about Marcial Maciel, arguably the most notorious abuser of the 20th century? Yes, he abused boys and young men, but he also fathered children with at least two women, hardly the behaviour one expects from a member of a ‘homosexual cabal’.

        Secondly, I think you were right, SteveG, to question Father Ed’s statement that “The current problems are beyond the pay grade of laity and priests”. Surely such a statement implies an attitude of submission and deference to hierarchical authority – and it is precisely that attitude that enabled abuse and cover-up to continue unchecked for so long. I predict that if the mess in the Church ever is to be sorted out, this will happen from the bottom up rather than from the top down.

        Finally, thank you Father Ed for explaining that when you wrote “cardinals” (plural) you meant “archbishop” (singular). But we would both surely agree that the fact that the letter was signed by a single archbishop rather than by several cardinals does not in any way reduce its seismic significance for Catholics.

        1. The 80% is from the recent report. That was the proportion of cases that were male on male. And this pattern is not unique but sits with most other ghastly incidents globally. Just look at the recent schools scandals in England. Again male on male. And that is without factoring in the abuse of power when clergy hit on barely legal lads.

          1. Yes, you are quite correct, Father Ed, about the 80% figure – and I never challenged that statistic. Research does indeed show that boys rather than girls are the victims of about 80% of sexual abuse by priests. Interestingly this is quite different from the pattern of sexual abuse across the population as a whole, where “with the exception of physical abuse, the level of abuse experienced during childhood was more prevalent for females than for males across all abuse types” (to quote from a recent ONS report). What I do question is your assertion that “the excesses of an unhealthy homosexual subculture… is at the root of over 80% of the abuse”. Now there may well be such a subculture among certain groups of Catholic priests but the word “root” implies a causal link and I know of no evidence of such a link. On the contrary, research evidence demonstrates that sexual orientation is not related to the choice of abuse victim. For example, “the distinction between homosexual and heterosexual child molesters relies on the premise that male molesters of male victims are homosexual in orientation. Most molesters of boys do not report sexual interest in adult men, however” (National Research Council, 1993). Other research suggest that a majority of men who abuse boys are actually heterosexual, and of course the notorious sociopath Marcial Maciel was an example of someone who had heterosexual relationships with (several!) adult women but also abused boys. So the idea that homosexual men are more to blame for child sexual abuse than heterosexual men would appear to be based on prejudice rather than evidence.

            But I hope to end this discussion on a note of agreement. We both surely agree on the important points, namely (a) that the level of abuse and its cover-up in the Catholic Church has been a shocking scandal, and (b) that the Church at the moment is in a ” terrible mess” in your words. The Financial Times today has a headline: “The Civil War in the Catholic Church”.

            And I can appreciate, Father Ed, just how difficult this “civil war” must be for you, having made, if I understand things correctly, a by no means easy journey to join the Catholic Church.

        2. Thanks for your comments, Terry. I believe our responses were published simultaneously so we were clearly thinking along similar lines.
          I have previously urged Father Ed to read the testimonies of some of those who gave evidence to Australian Commission. He responded to the effect that he found such things too distressing. This is entirely understandable but for the fact that he continues to pontificate on the issue and to perpetuate an entirely false narrative crafted largely by those opposed to Pope Francis.
          I have no reason to believe that priests, nuns and the Church hierarchy have ever behaved in a radically different fashion. Even an edifice as rotten from top to bottom as the Church is being revealed to be, like Rome itself, surely could not have been built in a day. Clerical abuse is not new. The perpetrators and their protectors have simply been rumbled – and about time too.
          We both know that paedophilia is not, by definition, about gender preference. It is defined by the age of the victim. If we accept this fact as fact, the sexual orientation of those in the Vatican ceases to be relevant. Without this fallacy the conspiracy theory falls flat. Are we seriously expected to believe that all clerical “liberals” are limp-wristed effeminates and that all “conservatives” are testosterone-fuelled macho men?
          Is it not time for men and women of good faith, traditionalists and liberals alike, to set aside their differences and drag everything out into the open and deal with it appropriately? Only two of over three hundred Pennsylvania priests identified as paedophiles will face prosecution for their despicable crimes. For the others, the state’s statute of limitations has run out.

          1. I don’t think homosexual issue can be quite so neatly circumvented. One only needs look at Paglia’s vile mural, Cocos parties, Riccas record, and the extremely high prevalence of homosexuality within the priesthood to recognise that the dots join uncomfortably. As I have said before – the majority of homosexual priests are not abusers – but the majority of abusers are homosexual. And the dots between them all are joined. Too many abusers of the young were protected precisely because those in authority had too many personal skeletons to hide – as seen with the former Cardinal of Scotland. We also must see that a cardinal hitting on a seminarian is abusive merely in terms of power. If those seminarians were female university students and the cardinals professors- I assure you the reaction would have been very different. We do not need a witch hunt we do however need to remember that every priest took vows of chastity and celibacy and that the ignoring of this is at the heart of all the muck.

      2. I would seriously question Vigano’s motivation. He timed his so called whistle blowing to coincide with the Pope’s visit to Ireland.
        In my view he is a vindictive and cynical manipulator who epitomises the worst of Vatican power politics.

        1. What has he to gain? Nothing – and far from being a cynical manipulator he is, in truth, a senior and very respected member of the Catholic heirarchy. Enough of pouring scorn on the one who calls out abuse, enough of silence in the face of abuse, enough of politicising what is clearly a moral crisis. ENOUGH. I speak as a father and a priest. There is so much stench of rot at present that it cries out to heaven for justice.

          1. He has everything to gain if he can get rid of Pope Francis. Why did he wait so long before revealing his alleged conversation with the Pope?

  3. Have we had a pastoral letter from the head of the Church in England and Wales on the situation within the hierarchy and what the situation is here in relation to these matters? The silence seems to be difficult to hear anything concerning such grave matters? Where is the leadership…………..

  4. I think we’re ALL both John the Baptists and Herods from one degree to another. Remember, Our Lord to St Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan.’ And yet, at the same time, Christ clearly saw Peter as a man of God, too.

    1. Yes, Ed, I think you make an important point here. It is always a mistake to divide people into the unequivocally “good” and the unequivocally “evil”. And what causes huge human problems is if one then go on to suggest that the “evil” people belong to a particular subculture (e.g. “they are all Jews/refugees/immigrants” or “they are all homosexuals who indulge in unhealthy excesses”).

  5. Herod? He was a product of his times. As far as I can see, he behaved in a way which was fairly common for a minor Middle East potentate under Roman sufferance. Would not Judas be a better description for some folk?

  6. Sexual, physical and emotional abuse by clergy, religious and laity within the Catholic Church is the most evil, shameful and diabolical issue. All such incidents should be reported to the police immediately for them to investigate. There should be no preliminary investigation by ecclesiastical authorities because the innocent have nothing to fear.
    All those found guilty should be immediately reduced to the lay state if they are clergy of whatever rank. Religious should be expelled from their communities and laity immediately dismissed. They are entitled to the same forgiveness given to all in accordance with the sacrament of reconciliation but this does not mean that they should ever be permitted to return to their former positions within the church.
    The focus of care must be centred on the victims and their families without regard for the reputation of the church. When these policies are fully implemented then not only will potential abusers be deterred but the reputation of the church will ultimately be restored.

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