The scandals that rocked the church this summer continue to cause untold damage to holy souls. Yesterday I lunched at the local with Father Nicholas, to discuss parish matters, and the landlady asked, only partly in jest, if more filth was to be forthcoming in the church this week?

How terribly sad that, at present, the expectation of many is that the church endorses vice not virtue. One cannot overstate how damaging to credibility it is. I do not think our hierarchy have fully grasped how disgusted and appalled people are at present. And rightly so.

Once I made my personal feelings on the matter abundantly clear she made a salient comment. She pointed out that the abuse itself, however awful, was less shocking than the poor handling of it by those in authority. She expressed bewilderment and horror that supposed ‘men of God’ could not only cover up abuse and remain silent but that none seem to be suitably disciplined or punished. Father Nicholas and I could only sympathise and agree.

How can we help the hierarchy understand that accountability is essential to justice? That fair punishment for crimes must be administered if healing is to occur? In the wake of the first priestly abuse crisis in America the bishops assured the faithful it would be deal with it. Instead they elected a known serial sexual predator to lead the change and only reigned him in once it was clear he had molested children and not only the seminarians in his care!

There are no words to describe how damaging to episcopal credibility that is. None. Which means fresh sincere promises of remorse are simply not believed. Bishops you have lost the trust of your people. Meaning more handwringing and policies are of no use here. Only when the world begins to see you holding each other to account will you begin to reclaim even a shred of the trust that has been lost.

Many of our bishops are not involved in scandal. Indeed they are good and share our concerns. But when they remain silent and are seen to give each other a pass they are further enraging and alienating people. The bad eggs must not be seen to wriggle off the hook. The eggs must not be seen to be silent and inactive.

Consider McCarrick. Despite years of molestation he has only been removed from active ministry and stripped of the title Cardinal. Meaning he retains the rank of Archbishop!! What?!! Are we really to call him ‘your grace?’ That sticks in the craw! This man abused many and totally disregarded his vow of chastity and he should be defrocked…not allowed to see out retirement with a slap on the wrist.

Or consider Cardinal Wuerl, named multiple times in a report on abuse. He paid off producers of child pornography and enabled abusers to continue their sins. Inexplicably he remains in office and seems to be readying himself for a comfortable retirement and healthy pension. That is not good enough! It has to stop. It has to change.

Those complicit in abuse and cover up must be held to account and seen to be punished. Otherwise how are we priests at the coal face meant to encourage the faithful to take anything the church teaches seriously?

This sorrowful time of scandal will not diminish until we see perpetrators and enablers within the episcopate brought to justice. There are too many rumours and scandals surrounding the current pontificate. It is time the hierarchy took that seriously, put everything out in the open, forced resignations and deal with the matter once and for all.

Further stonewalling, silence and coverup will not do. Trust really is shattered meaning a ‘business as usual’ approach will not cut it. Come on bishops- we need you- it is time to stand with martyrs and saints and act as successors of the apostles and lot count the cost! This can’t be swept under the carpet so please, for the sake of the church, deal with it.

Which is to state that abuse is no longer the prime problem. As the pope recently said most crimes are now in the past and most dioceses now have robust child protection measures in place. The current crisis centres instead on the fallout – the fact that bishops are not seen to be holding themselves to the same standards as they demand of their priests and people. It’s time they swallowed some of the medicine that we might take seriously their promises to change. Those embroiled in scandal must be run out of office and stripped of their collars. Justice and mercy demands it.

Yves and Angel-Ann were married at St. Anselm’s earlier this summer and many of you will remember praying for them at Mass. They have kindly sent some photographs of the day. Weddings are, lamentably, rare occasions in the life of our parish so it was a wonderful occasion for all concerned. I really enjoyed it! The ceremony was conducted according to Divine Worship the special liturgy of the Ordinariate.

The wedding was a cosmopolitan affair with the universality of the Catholic church in evidence. Not only did we have a French groom and Indian bride, with family from both nations in attendance, we also welcomed guests from Sweden and several other countries too. They all lined up afterwards with confetti and there was plenty of smiling all round.

It wasn’t the only wedding being celebrated this summer. My only niece, Rebecca, was also married to a lovely young man named Jacob. They tied the knot in an Anglican ceremony, presided over by my father, at the church they attend in Chistlehurst.

As I was not needed in a clerical capacity, and because my prime role for the day was being fabulous uncle, I opted for shirt and tie. The Tomlinson boys were also told to brush hair and shoes and make themselves presentable and they really came up trumps. Didn’t we look smart!

Meanwhile Jemima was on cloud nine having been chosen as a bridesmaid- indeed in the weeks running up to the big day my ears might have started bleeding from all the wedding chat she threw my way! Here she is pictured with her beautiful mother.

But my very favourite photograph of the day is undoubtedly the following. It shows the boys deep in conversation about cake. In truth it was an amicable moment, the boys love each other dearly, though the caption looks as though it ought to read- ‘Is that my cake? No! But this was your orange juice!!”

Do pray for married couples. How they need prayer and support now that we inhabit a society in which the traditional family is attacked on many levels. Yet it remains the place in which children can be raised in accordance with God’s will. And it remains a sacrament worthy of protection. How pleasing to see couples still opting for the church. May God richly bless them for the whole of their earthly lives together. Don’t forget you can click on the images to enlarge them.

This Sunday we shall be celebrating, a day early, the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, patron of the Ordinariate. Our celebration will be evident in the choice of hymnody and via special devotions offered, before the shrine of OLW, at the end of the 8am, 9:15am and 11am Mass. Do join us for the festivities.

The Sunday closest to the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham has been designated as a day on which a second collection will be taken, throughout the UK Ordinariate, in aid of the Clergy relief fund. This is important because priests do not receive an automatic pension but depend instead on these relief funds which are held by whichever diocese the priest is incardinated into.

Recently the Archdiocese of Southwark raised a seven figure sum to boost its scheme which is tied to ancient property investment in London. This is welcome news for Southwark clergy but not for those of us who, though we serve the diocese full time, are not incardinated members. We are not eligible for any of this provision and must look instead to our own Ordinary.

Monsignor Newton therefore has a huge challenge on his hands. He must develop a sick and retirement fund with no historic investments or significant help at his disposal. But it is a task which must be faced if Ordinariate clergy are to receive help in retirement or sickness. So please give generously. Blog readers can send a gift to ‘Clergy Relief Fund’ 24 Golden Square, London W1F 9JR. Might you also consider leaving something in your will? Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Pembury old church is a gem which was built almost one thousand years ago. In pre-reformation days it was pastored to by Norbertine priests and monks from nearby Bayham Abbey.

Today it is one of two Anglican buildings run by the one parish. A Victorian construction serves as the main church being situated by the village green; the old church, now cut off from the majority of the village by a main road, is used for occasional services and doubles up as a chapel for Kent College; the school Jemima joined this September.

This weekend the old church is hosting a flower festival celebrating the life of the poet Robert Browning, whose daughter was married in the church. And, as you can see, it really is an impressive one.

The displays were produced by various local groups, from the WI to the local primary school who placed children’s displays in Wellington boots! They were charming!

And thanks to Trudy- Saint Anselm’s also had a fine display to offer! This evening was the opening of the festival and we were treated to a glass of bubbly and nibbles. Jemima escorted me and ensured the crisps did not go stale!

Tomorrow there is to be a musical concert in the church and on Sunday the festival ends with a celebration of Evensong. A huge well done to all the organisers. A lot of hard work has gone into it and tonight was a resounding success.

The crisis in the church gets worse and everyone, save those implicated, must agree that the problem of clerical sexual abuse needs clearing up once and for all. Otherwise the church is going to lose every last shred of moral and spiritual authority for a generation or more. It is profoundly depressing.

Indeed the problem is now so profound that anyone using it to fight tired culture wars are part of the problem not the cure. Put bluntly the crisis must not be used by disgruntled Catholics to go after the Pope for political ends. But nor must fawning admirers of the pontiff suggest allegations of his involvement be ignored or downplayed in the face of serious allegation. What is needed is THE TRUTH. Followed by robust action no matter how painful.

For unless this cancer is expunged from the body of Christ it will continue to spread and cause damage. It is time for impartial investigation and total transparency. It is time for Catholics to stop weaponising this crisis and confront it together.

Five things we do NOT NEED:

  1. Appeals for silence. This encourages sweeping under the carpet allowing abusers to wriggle from the hook. Silence is what every abuser in history desired from institutions and victims – for it enables abuse to continue in the shadows. Turn on the lights – call sin out- leave nowhere to hide.
  2. Mistaken victimhood. I was saddened that the Holy Father claimed the bishops are victims in all of this. They are not. They live privileged lives but have/or had solemn responsibility over us. Either they have done their duty or failed where sexual abuse is concerned. The victims are those who abused sexually. Call out the guilty and exonerate the innocent.
  3. Denial. The media refuses to connect dots between sexual abuse in the church and an unhealthy homosexual clergy subculture. This is understandable because the rainbow agenda is a sacred cow in the modern world. But it is not helpful in this instance given that over 80% of abuse was male on male. Let us agree that homosexuality is not the problem per se but that this problem does centre predominantly on abuse committed by homosexual clergy. The old habit of turning blind eyes to those ignoring vows of chastity must be dealt with. It is not only children who are victims of abuse as the Harvey Weinstein scandal made clear. Adults can be victims of unwanted advances also. Witch hunts must be avoided then but those involved called to account not excused.
  4. Instituional fidelity. A love for the church can lead to a protection of institution at cost to victims. This must end. Because further cover up is going to lead to decline not flourishing. So lets put it ALL OUT in the open that healing can begin and we can look to the future in hope.
  5. Stonewalling: If it becomes apparent abusers and protectors are in such places of authority that they are not accountable- it must be dealt with. Then it is time for Cardinals to act. For priests to act. For the laity to act. We cannot be held hostage by those not living out the Gospel of Christ. We must not simply give up if the process proves long, tiring and painful. Pressure must continue until the demonic elements are finally removed. Bad things happen when good people do nothing.

Five things we Do NEED:

  1. Faith in God. The presence of Judas should not derail us from love of God. We must hold together in faith and not abandon Christ as he endures another passion. Let us be at the foot of the cross. Let us look to the Stations and see the abusers and enablers as the ones whipping him afresh. They must be held to account.
  2. Impartial investigation. Sorry but the Pope’s council of 9 responding to accusations wont cut it. Not when over half are themselves linked to scandals and accusations of corruption. Not when the Pope is himself accused and  hand picked them. Any investigation needs outside impartial monitoring and involvement.
  3. Grass roots mission: Most are beyond the pay grade necessary to sort out this mess. But we can choose to support parishes where the faith is preached and lived. We can support and build up the next generation of bishops. Don’t get too bogged down with the grot above- rejoice in what is good locally.
  4. Write letters: Write to the bishop. Tell him how angry you are. Explain your frustration. Pressure must continue until the grot is sorted. Those in authority must hear, loud and clear, that the faithful wont tolerate any more of this behaviour. We give our money for the life of the church not to pay off abusers debts.
  5. Reform your life. When we are scandalised by sin in others we must learn to confront it in our own lives too. Make a good confession. Do penance. Start again with God and get your house in order. He is merciful and loving. Forgiveness is there- but not without accepting responsibility for our behaviour.

Pray then that this crisis will get sorted. Pray that true shepherds step forward and prove themselves men of God, not cowards, by driving out the wicked hirelings from amongst them. May they not put ambition or friendship ahead of the need for justice and truth. We need bishops we can trust. But we wont’ know who those are until on the other side of this crisis.

After such a grotty post yesterday I thought, in the interest of balance, today should be about celebrating all that is good in the church. Because aside from this awful crisis in the Vatican, which must be dealt with to maintain credibility, there is so much to thank God for- though it rarely makes the news.

Did you know that each and every day the Catholic church:

Educates more people…

Provides hospital care for more people…..

Feeds more people…

Clothes more people….

Shelters more people…

Brings healing and forgiveness to more people….

Than any other organisation on the face of the earth. Within our 1.4 billion strong church the vast majority of bishops, priests and deacons are hard working and decent men who love the Lord and sacrifice much to build up God’s kingdom on earth. A great many lay people regularly give their time, resources and gifts to the service of the church and find meaning and purpose and guidance for life. We have a magnificent heritage and a firm deposit of faith that endures in all ages. We have some of the most beautiful buildings on earth and can be proud of our contribution to Western Society.

In our own parish in Pembury, looking only at the last fortnight, there has been a magnificent response to our emergency Kerala appeal and people are returning to the pews from holidays with smiles on faces and much good will.

All of which is to state that God is, as ever, active. He can be found in all churches where people worship with sincerity, in all the acts of kindness and love offered in his name each and every day. He is there amongst the poor and the suffering and there for all who call on his name. The faith has not changed and any who follow it authentically can and will find grace. There is much to be thankful for. We must never forget that.

A lengthy, unpleasant and challenging post follows. But I think it needs to be said.

The Catholic church is suffering crisis, perhaps its greatest since the reformation, with righteous anger directed at the hierarchy regarding (yet more) revelations of predatory abuse following fresh investigation in America. The crisis goes to the top this time after a highly reputable Archbishop then blew the whistle on an alleged active gay lobby within the Vatican. The most serious allegation being that Pope Francis rehabilitated Cardinal McCarrick, despite knowledge that he was a predatory homosexual and part of the lobby, and only disciplined him (softly) once it became apparent his deviancy led him to interfere with children as well.

Earlier this year a book was released called the Dictator Pope; it was a profoundly difficult read because, if only ten per cent is true, it also points to evil at work within the Vatican. The central claim being that a homosexual lobby operates at the highest levels of the church and is embroiled in multiple scandals sexual and financial. The book alleges this lobby, under a self imposed guise of a “Mafia”,  even manipulated the last conclave to ensure the Papacy would protect them. It chimes with what Vigano is now claiming.

I would love to disregard such accusations as conspiracy…I sincerely hope it transpires that they are false.  But with so much smoke warnings of a fire cannot simply be dismissed with integrity. ‘Move along, nothing to see’ doesn’t hold up to scrutiny within the present climate. Not with 1000 fresh victims in less than a handful of dioceses, according to the latest report, and over 100 clergy guilty of deviant behaviour. Not with bishops colluding in abuse and others covering. So, with or without help from on high, we must get to the truth no matter the cost. The cancer in the body of Christ needs ripping out. If a lobby exists it must be held to account. But does it exist? If so who are they? And who protects them? Without greater transparency and accountability from the Vatican it is hard for us to know anything for certain.

What follows represents my personal fears and nagging questions in the face of these allegations. Some fears may be unfounded and fuelled only by speculation and rumour, please God that is true. But ponder the crisis we must for every fresh revelation suggests that “something seems rotten in the State of Denmark (the Vatican)” to (mis) quote Hamlet. And we who love the church must be ready to respond.

The Pope seems to keep rotten company

Even if the book is shown to be conspiratorial rumour the Holy Father does seem to choose questionable friends within his inner circle. At his election he chose to appear on the balcony with Daneels, who like McCarrick was rehabilitated by the present regime despite being mired in scandal. Then there is Paglia, who removed every orthodox member of the JPII commission for life and family and replaced them with those friendly to the LGBT cause, also mired in scandal. Or ponder the man Pope Francis appointed to clean up corruption within the Vatican Cardinal Maradiaga, who, it turns out, has scandals of his own. Cardinal Cocopalmeria is another close advisor again linked to newspaper scandal.  And then there is Ricca, given much responsibility by Francis despite having been embroiled in numerous scandals. I could continue linking. But you get the picture. Meanwhile those faithful to Church teaching have been alienated and frustrated. Could it be because a gay lobby is pulling the strings in the Vatican? The number of scandals like those above certainly makes one pause for thought before denying it out of hand.

Other questions then surface. Why is the Holy Father surrounded by men whose sanctity seems questionable? Why are so many of his inner circle implicated in homosexual scandal in particular? Why are those who push the homosexual cause, like Fr James Martin, elevated instead of disciplined for preaching a message contrary to the Gospel? There are only three possibilities. 1. Pope Francis is part of the lobby. 2. Pope Francis has reasons for protecting the lobby. 3. Pope Francis is a  poor judge of character. None of which is good news for the Church.

What cannot be denied, except by the dishonest or delusional, is that a deviant form of homosexual lifestyle lies at the heart of the abuse crisis. It is different outside of the church but within it 80% of victims were post pubescent males. Let that sink in. This article makes the point . One begins to see why Francis must answer his accusers. Did he knowingly rehabilitate McCarrick or not? Is he part of the problem or its cure? Evasion of that central question will get us nowhere but only add to the problem.

And what a problem! Not least because the majority of homosexual clergy are not abusers but the vast majority of abusers were homosexual. Not least because, within the present culture, homosexuality has become a golden calf never to be criticised or questioned! Nevertheless we must investigate and know the truth. Is Pope Francis committed to ensuring priests adhere to vows of chastity? And is he committed to rooting out the unhealthy subculture at the heart of most abuse cases? Because, make no mistake, numerous heads will need to roll if this problem is to be sorted and not just brushed under the carpet. Strong leadership is needed.

Lessons have not been learnt

It is here further concerns arise. For despite much episcopal hand-wringing and countless apologies, the response of hierarchy, to date, suggests a tendency for institutional protection over transparency persists. The following three responses, each wrongheaded in the face of abuse, having been too much in evidence since the ‘Vigano crisis’ broke:

APPEALS TO SILENCE

When asked about Vigano’s accusation Pope Francis stated he would “not say a word”. This silence in the face of credible accusation is wrong headed even if the intention may be holy. What I think should have been said instead is ‘I plan to look into this very seriously upon my return to Rome.” For silence is the pernicious cloak under which every abuser operates urging victims to keep ‘our little secret?’ Silence is what got the bishops into this mess in the first place as they attempted to sweep grot under the carpet and move abusers on. It will not do. And claims by unquestioning supporters of the current papacy, that silence is somehow saintly and Christ like, have therefore angered me. Never is silence the correct response where sexual abuse is concerned. Never!

ATTACK

The Holy Father got into hot water earlier this year for attacking the victims of abuse in Chile, instead of listening to what they had to say to him. To his credit he later made a grovelling apology. So it is bizarre and deeply concerning that attacking and investigating the reporter of the abuse (Vigano)- instead of investigating the abuse itself- was the first knee-jerk response of team Francis. So much so Cardinal Vigano has gone into hiding for his life whilst none of his claims have been answered.

Now any member of child protection services will tell you this practice of demonising the whistle blower is the last thing that should happen when somebody finds the courage to come forward. And even if Cardinal Vigano were a bad man, as it happens he is deeply respected by many, it would not mean his account was false.

It strikes me the investigation has been all in the wrong places. Instead of going after Vigano the decent thing to have done would have been to hand over files and launch a public and impartial investigation. And given that McCarrick has now been exposed as something of a Jimmy Saville for the church – shouldn’t the men he personally chose for high office, like Cupich and Tobin, be thoroughly scrutinised also? But instead they seem protected. Cardinal Wuerl, mentioned multiple times as enabling the abuse in the recent report, still in office despite loud calls for his resignation. Despite the fact that, being over the age of 75, the Pope could have pulled the plug on him weeks ago. One senses a circling of wagons not a healthy response to revelations of ingrained and systematic abuse.

POLITICISING AND EVASION

Since the scandal broke those seeking to protect the Pope from his critics have attempted to politicise the debate. They insist this is merely a calculated ‘right wing attack’ designed to bring down the papacy. It does not wash. Not with the sheer number of victims in so many different countries and across all theological spectrums. Undoubtedly those unhappy with the current regime will shout loudest but I assure you it is not a love of tradition or theological nuance that is angering most people in the pews. This is a matter of simple decency and it is not good enough to deflect our attention via politics on this one.

Nor should we be told the Pope has more important things to concern himself with. That is simply not true. Nor do distractions about Vigano and the Pope’s historic meeting with divorcees help matters in the slightest. None of that is salient to the point in hand. Only one question matters..did Pope Francis knowingly rehabilitate a known sexual predator or not? Or put another way- is he capable of sorting this crisis out or not? Can he and his close circle of advisors be trusted or not?

To conclude: 

I don’t regret becoming Catholic. Ours remains the true church (compromised though it may be by wicked men) nor is the faith itself brought into question by abusers blatantly not living by it. But I am despairing of the present situation and praying the hierarchy would clean up the mess and stop defending the institution at all cost. Dare I suggest the credibility of the church and her moral authority over the next generations depends upon it?

Dear Holy Father and bishops- please listen to those who are questioning, not out of a displaced sense of loyalty, but out of love and concern for the church. Please hold sinners to account and give us holy men for the future.

And we who have little by way of power must pray and keep up the pressure. We must demand answers for the sake of our children and credibility. It is time to be counted as an extraordinary gauntlet is laid at the feet of the Vatican; tell us- who are the sheeps and who are goats? And how do you plan to sort out this mess?

We have had enough of words without action. We cannot continue as before. I continue to pray for Pope Francis daily and continue to respect the office he holds.