Father John Lankeit, 2 September 2018, from the pulpit of the Phoenix Cathedral:
St. Ignatius of Loyola is the Catholic Church’s undisputed heavyweight champion
in the arena of discernment of spirits. He trained himself—or rather, God trained
him—to distinguish clearly between the workings of the Holy Spirit and the
workings of the Evil One on an individual soul. Ignatius summarized his insights in
his 14 Rules of Discernment of Spirits and, in the process, gave the Church one of
its most useful tools for advancement on the path to holiness. All 14 rules have something valuable to teach us, but it is Rule 13—in particular—that speaks so pointedly to the sorry situation we find ourselves in as a Church today—facing a scandal of sexual perversion in the clergy and a crisis of trust in the kinds of high-ranking churchmen who ran a culture of cover-up of abusers decades ago…and those who are obscuring the truth today.
The Church is not a merely human organization. It is an organism—the living,
Body of Christ (cf. Eph 1:22-23). And the Church need not behave like political
parties or corporations which go to great lengths to deny any wrongdoing in
their ranks…even when it’s obvious they’re guilty. It is precisely in admitting our
sin and, above all, our need for the Mercy of Jesus Christ that “he increases and
we decrease” (cf. Jn 3:30) and thus allow the Church to be what she is.
But some high-level churchmen today continue the “corporate cover-up” mentality
to save face, instead of taking the kind of “call it what it is and repent” approach
that would have saved the victims from needless suffering. And some extremely
high-level churchmen are still at it—not hiding more abuse—we pray to God—but
certainly hiding the truth…and refusing to face the problem in the current crisis.
This culture of secrecy shields—among other things—a homosexual subculture
which reaches the highest levels of the Church and stretches to every corner of
the globe. This secretive culture also keeps hidden the true intentions of very high-ranking prelates in the Church today who, judging by their own words and actions, seek to change the Church and her teachings in radical ways.
Something needs to be clarified here. I just used the word prelate, but it’s a good
bet that some, if not many of you, may know its meaning. Prelate is a broad term
that refers to high-ranking clergy in the Church—and includes bishops,
archbishops, cardinals and the pope. So, it’s a time saver to refer—a homily
shortener!—to all of these churchmen at these levels…as prelates.
Another clarification is necessary here. While there have been too many priests
who sexually abused many males as well as some females—after all one abuser is
one too many—the vast majority of priests are not abusers. In fact, most of us
really do strive to be good priests…and a smaller percentage really wants to be holy.
The same is true for higher-ranking churchmen. When we say, for example that
“the bishops” covered for a disgraced former cardinal, or covered for predator
priests, we obviously don’t mean all bishops. As a matter of justice, we must not
tarnish the reputation of faithful bishops who are just as devastated and shamed
by this crisis as we are, and who are truly committed to ushering a new era of
accountability and purity into the Church.
At the same time, when we speak of complicit bishops, we are certainly referring to
those prelates—who were—and some who still are—unwilling to face the real
problem at the heart of this crisis…and do something about it.
Sixteen years ago, when the US Bishops established a zero-tolerance policy to deal
with abuser priests, many of the good priests said:
“Oh, that’s just great! We priests are on the hook. But where is the
accountability for the bishops?”
Now that the putrid predatory behavior of a former American Cardinal has
been exposed to the light of truth—the light of Christ—it is no longer just faithful
priests and laity who recognize the problem among the prelate class.
This foulness is visible for the whole world to see, and only an imbecile or an
ideologue would even think of dismissing the crux…and magnitude…of the
problem now. But make no mistake! This is not a repeat of 2002. This is new territory!
Much good has been done to protect the vulnerable from sexual predators in the
clergy since 2002. But very little, if anything, was done to purge the prelate ranks
of bad apples—and everyone now sees with crystal clarity!
What was exposed in the McCarrick case was pure evil.
The fact that it was exposed is a great gift, an act of mercy, from God himself, to
rouse us out of our spiritual stupor and to call the Church to genuine conversion.
Now…let’s consider why St. Ignatius’ Rule 13 is so important for us at this time. In
this rule, Ignatius exposes one of the Devil’s favorite ploys to enslave a soul in
secrecy and sin. Here’s part of the text of the 13th Rule:
“…when the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the
just soul, he…desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one
reveals them to one’s good confessor or to another spiritual person, who knows
[the Devil’s] deceits and malicious designs, it weighs on [the Devil] very much,
because he perceives that he will not be able to succeed with the malicious
undertaking he has begun, since his manifest deceits have been revealed.”
The way this typically plays out in an individual soul is that, after a person commits
a serious sin, the Devil then assaults the person with lies…like these:
“You can’t tell anyone about this. What will they think of you? Everyone will
know you what a horrible person you are. You certainly can’t tell Father—even
in Confession—because he’ll remember what you did and think about it every
time he sees you. You have to keep this quiet!”
If we’re honest with ourselves, we can probably all recall some sin from our past
that we were ashamed or afraid to confess. But once we humbled ourselves and
confessed it in the Sacrament of Penance, we felt immense relief and peace, as if
the weight of the world were lifted from our shoulders.
Psalm 32 sums up this dynamic of sin and mercy beautifully:
Happy the man whose offense is forgiven, whose sin is remitted. O happy the man
to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no guile. I kept it secret and
my frame was wasted. I groaned all day long, for night and day your hand was
heavy upon me. Indeed my strength was dried up as by the summer’s heat. But
now I have acknowledged my sins; my guilt I did not hide. I said: “I will
confess my offense to the Lord.” And you, Lord, have forgiven the guilt of my sin.
Now, St. Ignatius didn’t invent this discipline of exposing our weaknesses and
failings to the Light of Christ. This idea goes all the way back to the Evangelists—
the writers of the four Gospels. They didn’t hide the defects, foibles, faults and
sins of the Apostles when they wrote the Gospels. How many times do we see St.
Peter—for example—acting overconfidently, aggressively rebuking the Lord, and
then denying Jesus—as predicted—so that he was reduced to a weeping mess?
And Jesus still made this imperfect and fragile man the first Pope!
The Evangelists did not whitewash the weaknesses of the Apostles in order to
make the Church look better to outsiders. Rather, by presenting the Apostles
honestly, with all their shortcomings, they merely demonstrated—without a
shadow of a doubt—that the Church’s ability to weather any storm, and to survive
any assault—whether an inside job or an outside attack—is a confirmation of
Christ’s promise that the “gates of hell will not prevail” (cf. Mt 16:18) against his
Church—not even when the Church is manipulated by bad prelates and priests.
The Church’s indestructibility over the past 2 millennia proves Christ’s
This lesson has clearly been forgotten or disregarded by a small but influential
faction of prelates who insist on diverting attention away from the real roots of this
crisis today with self-serving smokescreens. Decades ago, while the serial sex abuse was being perpetrated by priests, the rationale of some high-level churchmen for burying the filth…and pressuring victims into silence…was “to spare the Church from scandal”. If there’s one undeniable lesson to be learned from that foul practice, it’s that if you try to sweep evil under the rug in order to maintain appearances, it will eventually surface in a much more scandalous way…to the greater humiliation of the Church.
Sixteen years ago—either because the bishops were afraid of being called
“homophobes” by correctly identifying the central issue in the abuse—male on
male predatory behavior—or, in the most egregious cases, because some of these same bishops were—themselves— either acting in an evil manner or covering for those who were—the bishops denied that the majority of the abuse was male on male predatory behavior, and instead blamed pedophilia—the abuse of children who have not reached puberty. But the facts are irrefutable: 81% of victims were male—most, if not all, beyond puberty. If the bishops keep denying the obvious, they make it look to a pagan world as if reason is actually incompatible with faith. The numbers don’t lie, even if the spin doctors do!
There are prelates in the Church today who sow confusion and doubt and then
refuse to clarify their stance on issues of sexual chastity and sin, even when
asked—directly and publicly—to do so. There are other prelates who, when confronted with the urgency of the current crisis—and the Holy Father’s exclusive authority and ultimate responsibility to discipline and even remove corrupt bishops—say that the Holy Father has higher priorities than eradicating this evil—such as “talking about the environment and protecting migrants”. God help us! With all due respect to the American Cardinal who spoke these absurd words—the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, not the Commissar of Climate. The fact that a prince of the Church refuses to take seriously the righteous anger of the laity simmering just below the surface and dares to suggest that progressivist political agendas are higher priorities for the Spiritual Head of the Catholic Church, than eradicating a spiritual cancer that has consumed innocent bodies and souls in the House of God, shows just how unfit and unserious certain prelates are about bringing about the needed reform.
Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel to the Pharisees—quoting the Prophet Isaiah—in
words that could just as easily be directed to the clueless cardinals, bad bishops
and perverted priests:
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people
honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they
worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.” (Mk 7:6-7)
Thankfully, this deeply ingrained tone-deafness in the highest ranks of the Church
has now been exposed for the whole world to see. They literally can’t hide their
ideology anymore, and clergy and laity are demanding answers—clear answers.
Here, however, we—clergy and laity alike—have to be utterly realistic about the
true costs of the needed reform that so many of us are calling for.
The root cause of both spiritual…and sexual abuse is: Dissent from—and
disobedience to—the dogmas and doctrines of the Catholic Church.
The scandal began—and is being perpetuated—by dissent from…and disobedience
to Christ. Sexual perversion in the clergy—be it homosexual or heterosexual—is
the rotten fruit. The cause is infidelity to Christ and to the Church he founded.
My brothers and sisters, here’s the bottom line:
We need to stop the pandemic sexual abuse, by killing its roots before it can
grow. To stop sex abuse means eradicating the spiritual abuse that so often
precedes it…and develops into it.
And so, each person—ordained or lay—must ask himself or herself:
If the good bishop in your diocese—who is really serious about reform—has to
remove the pastor from your parish because that priest is deliberately abusing the
liturgy; or because he’s either sexually active with males or females; or because
he’s a homosexual activist; or because he tells you that women should be
ordained; or that there are any genders other than male and female; or that the
Church needs to permit birth control; or any of those other poison teachings that
corrupt the young and the unsuspecting, you must answer this question:
Would you stand by your bishop if removing such a spiritual abuser meant that
your parish would have to shut its doors for lack of another available priest to
replace your disgraceful pastor?
Because that is the magnitude of this contagion in the Church!
Many spiritually abusive priests are quite aware that their bishops are caught
between a rock and a hard place—that there are real consequences for a good
bishop if he takes such a traitor to Christ out of circulation in order to protect
the souls and consciences of the faithful.
The spiritually abusive priests could conceivably say to the average bishop:
“I know that you know that if you remove me, you’re going to face a backlash
from the people I have malformed in the faith, so I dare you to! Go ahead and
make your move…and face the full brunt of such a decision.”
Such a priest simply does not care for the good of the souls entrusted to him!
He’s willing to use them—to use you—as human shields in this spiritual war to
protect himself from the consequences of his infidelity to Christ…to the Church
…and to his flock, because so few—if any—of these False Fathers have ever
encountered a bishop with that kind of resolve—the kind necessary to really clean
Do you, then—my brothers and sisters—demand of your bishop something that you
will then turn around and condemn him for if his actions cause a hardship for you?
Our good bishops need assurance from the laity that you won’t abandon them if
they make the excruciating decisions necessary to Cleanse the Temple.
On the other hand, for those members of the laity who willingly support and
encourage dissenting priests and enable their spiritual abuse, while at the same
time condemning the cover-up of sex abuse, I offer you some food for thought.
If you enable the evil spirits of dissent and disobedience to hide in your heart,
then—spiritually speaking—you are just as complicit as bishops who enabled the
agents of evil—the pervert priests— to hide in parishes and to continue to consume
the bodies and souls of the vulnerable.
If you condemn the abusers and enablers—after doing essentially the same things,
spiritually—then you condemn yourself, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans:
…you have no excuse…whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing
judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the
very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who
do such things. Do you suppose…that when you judge those who do such things
and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? (Rom 2:1-3)
In 1976 at a Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, Cardinal Karol Wyotyla—the
future St. John Paul II—issued a warning:
“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation
humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American
society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are
now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of
the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. We must be prepared to undergo great trials
in the not-too-distant future; trials that will require us to [make] a total gift of
self to Christ and for Christ. Through your prayers and mine, it is possible to
alleviate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it.”
In light of the recent Grand Jury bombshell, it’s rather eerie that the future Saint
spoke those words in Pennsylvania, isn’t it?
In our own day, in our own Church, we are faced with this very question:
Which will you choose—the Gospel or the anti-Gospel?
The Church established by Christ, or the Church corrupted by faithless
prelates pretending to be friends of Christ…and fathers to the faithful?
Your choice will show how serious you are—or are not—about first purging evil
from your own heart…and then helping to purge it from our Church.
Because the future of the Church, and the good of the whole world—not to
mention the eternal destiny of your soul—all these depend on which side you do