Friday, March 8th, it was announced that, as the result sexual improprieties, The Most Reverend Anthony J. O'Connell would be the second Novus Ordo Bishop of Palm Beach to offer his resignation in three years. O'Connell, of course, is not alone, and if it is permissible to quantify such things, his offenses do not descend to the same level of revulsion nor rise to the numerical magnitude of those committed or condoned by some of his peers. His victim's account does not sound much worse than his own, and he did have the integrity to face his people and the press, instead of disappearing into the night. Hopefully, those who joined him on camera Friday will remember to pray for him and for his victims (he alluded to the existence of a second young man) in the months and years to come. It was thirty years ago, he seems to be contrite, and to have done penance -- it is the Christian thing to forgive.
That we all sin, goes more or less without saying. And, normally, our own failures and contrition keep us from raising a critical voice. In the best of all worlds, bishops, priests, and seminarians would be as pure as St. Michael the Archangel -- but, unfortunately, we do not live in that perfect world. The sixth Commandment has been fragile ever since "the sons of Adam discovered that the daughters of Eve were fair." Yet, disproportionately, it seems that the stories we read are not just about occasional peccadilloes with Eve's daughters. More often, they seem to relate cultivated long-term, multiple occurrence relationships. And to make things worse, they are generally with Adam's younger sons. Instead of the sympathy that one might expect from a fellow sinner, the offences that make the newspapers all too often describe crimes that few people would be tempted (or could even be paid) to commit.
But, even still, one doesn't have to have, or even understand, an immoral addiction, in order to have compassion for those who do, or for those who are hurt by it. One can hate the taste of alcohol and be bored to tears by gambling, yet pity the drunk in the gutter or the man who shoots his rent money at the race track on pay day.
Curiously, though, sin, as such, did not seem to be of much concern to those who had something to say about this latest disgrace. Like other scandals in recent memory, the talk was more about regrets, mistakes and errors in judgment, psychological trauma, the numbers involved, and of course, the dollar cost of settlement. Discussion of sin, the offence given to God, the damage to souls, and the trashed vocation of the victim seems not to have been in evidence.
This lack of concern with sin says a great deal about how and why such outrages have permeated modern Catholic society. What ought to be on every Catholic's mind when we read about Bishop O'Connell and those like him is the question: "How did the Catholic Church allow such a state of affairs to develop? -- And why?"
Bishop O'Connell, knowingly or not, put his finger on the problem rather succinctly. The local paper reports:
What is missing from O'Connell's statement -- it was televised on the local NBC outlet WPTV - Channel 5 -- are words the effect that "it was back about 1970, and in those days we didn't know enough, we only had things like Masters and Johnson to work with." And therein lies the crux of the whole problem.
In 1970, Bishop O'Connell, everyone above him up to and including the Pope, and all those down past the seminarians to the proverbial "man in the pew" had much more than Masters and Johnson to go on! Jesus Christ and Saint Paul, Alphonsus, Augustine, Aquinas, Bellarmine, Borromeo, John of the Cross, a Theresa from Ávila and another from Lisieux, and only the Lord knows how many others. The problem is that in the early part of this century, those in charge began to purposefully discard the wisdom of the first nineteen-hundred years of Catholicism.
Over a hundred years ago, Pope Leo XIII exhorted a Church already beginning to drift to return to the Scholastic roots of its theology. If Pope Leo was gentle in his words, Saint Pius X put it in clear terms only a few years later: Modernism, the philosophy that holds that morality and doctrine (and just about everything) are determined by mass sentiment, feeling, and consensus is a heresy -- "modernism is" a heresy, indeed, "the synthesis of all heresies."
But Popes Leo and Pius went unheeded -- or, perhaps, more accurately, they were scorned by the burgeoning population of modernist theologians, priests, and bishops, who were quite full of themselves and their ideas about how they were going to improve the Catholic Church. Human pride -- the kind of pride with which men justify any and every kind of sin -- informed the teaching of the modernists. When modernism culminated in the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII had this to say in explaining why the Council would condemn no errors:
He could not have been more wrong. What was the pride swollen pipe-dream of a modernist Pope in 1960s has become the real life nightmare of the Catholic Church in the twenty-first century. Modernist man -- the "acting person" -- thinks he is so full of human dignity that he needs not (indeed, will not tolerate) the condemnations by God and His Church of that which is sinful. Indeed, there is no sin, no need for the Sacrament of Confession, and no "life-style" so sordid that the Church will expunge it from the ranks of Its leadership or from the schools in which It trains Its children and Its leaders. And, of course, Pope Saint Pius' Oath Against Modernism has been abolished!
Some will suggest that celibacy is the real culprit, as though the honest love of a woman can be equated with the perverted lust for young men -- so much for modernist respect for the "paramount dignity of the female human person and of her perfections" -- as though the alcoholic would stop ddrinking if we gave him chocolates. The predicament, in fact, seems to center around priests and candidates for the priesthood who have too little trouble with the prospect of abstaining from the relationship of marriage with an adult woman.
The problem of the modern Church is too much sexuality -- not too little! Has not the "serious necessity" that justified natural family planning been replaced with a blanket encouragement to practice "NFP"? -- Has not Pope John Paul II himself told us that: "responsible parenthood is a necessary condition for human love ... authentic conjugal love ... the principal activity and primary commitment of these programs is to foster human love"? -- or was that Margaret Sanger? Did not the Council, and specifically Paul VI, attempt to demote the procreation and education of children to a lesser role in the primary end of marriage? If "unity" now outranks "procreation," what new kinds of "unity" might there be out there waiting to be discovered by the "theologians" and "counselors" in our seminaries?!
Many strange things began to appear in O'Connell's 1970s. Under the guidance of materialist psychology priests and nuns gave up many of the safeguards that protected them from involvement with the opposite sex. The idea that souls might be lost or scandal given didn't enter into the minds of priests and nuns who just had to give up their religious habits and have apartments of their own; or had to travel about together unchaperoned, giving lectures on "alternative sexualities" or the demolition of church buildings
Many things went wrong in those years -- but how can modernist man claim that anything is "wrong" any more? Certainly a growing consensus favors permissiveness and "alternate life-styles" -- can the newspapers and the TV -- the organs of global consensus -- be wrong?! And who is to say that such behavior is beyond the "due limits" of Vatican II's Dignitatis humanæ, within which "no one is to be restricted from acting in accordance with his own beliefs"? Who in the modernist Church can claim to speak with authority about anything anymore?!
Was there a conspiracy of modernists? Perhaps. Certainly some of the literature that has Freemasons and Communists infiltrating the Church presents a compelling theory. In retrospect, it would be much more surprising to find that Josef Stalin made no effort to put "Anti-Apostles" into the hierarchy than to find out that he did. The A.A. numbers must be well above 1025 today, perhaps five or six digits. But the nature of secret societies is that they are ... well ... secret -- we may not soon know. But whether or not we know who caused the problem, we must act to solve it.
One might argue whether modernists are criminal or stupid -- the results we have endured will not be changed by the conclusion. None of what we are seeing today was not predicted years ago. One thing is certain: Vatican II is an experiment that has gotten completely out of control and must be shut down immediately. If anything good was done at that Council, it has become tainted by the overwhelming bad. It is past time to consider whether or not there ever was a reason to call the Council to begin with; past time to throw out everything that has happened in its wake -- and re-enact whatever good things might still be necessary.
The seminaries will require special attention and are, more than anywhere else, the place where things must be shut down, cleaned out, and started over. They are a primary cause of the "vocations crisis" and the pitifully few graduates which they produce are unlikely to be missed for the four or five years they will take to re-open. No man concerned for his own soul would want to spend any time in such a place. In his previous assignment as Bishop of Knoxville, O'Connell was fourth out of twenty in the nation, ordaining a "whopping" eight seminary graduates between 1997 and 2000.
Bishop O'Connell was careful to distinguish himself from the fund raising activities of the New Order Church -- in hopes that his scandal might not decrease the activities of his diocese. Quite the opposite is in order: To begin with, when the law suits get going, it will be the courts that decide the payments -- no Church funds will be immune, no matter what the donors' intentions may have been.
No one should be foolish enough to feel obliged to attend the Novus Ordo, and still less to contribute a "plugged nickel" to any Catholic endeavor unless he knows exactly how his donations will be used; that they will not go for left-wing social programs, sex education programs, or for lawyers to hush up the indiscretions of the perverts. Donation solicitors must be willing to certify under pain of perjury that their organization is harboring no known sex offenders. No bishop or priest who refuses or reneges on the Oath Against Modernism ought to get a penny.
Better yet, if you are not already doing so, support a traditional Catholic parish. See to it that your hard earned money finances only truly Catholic activities governed by the Church's principles of objective truth, morality, and sacred worship.