Fr. James Martin, S.J.: How do I stay in a church with sinful leaders?

"The Denial of Saint Peter" by Caravaggio, 1610. (Met Museum)

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This week we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. It may seem odd to celebrate a piece of furniture, but, of course, what we’re really celebrating is the important role of St. Peter, and all the subsequent popes, in our church. In this way, it’s somewhat similar to the Feast of St. John Lateran on November 9. That feast honors an ancient church in Rome, but we’re not celebrating the building as much as what it symbolizes. Both feasts are about the papacy. Now, thinking about the hierarchy these days, in light of the sex abuse crisis, can be difficult. We all know that some church leaders have committed both crimes and sins. Yet most Catholics remain in the church, even in light of sinful leadership. Still, our leaders have always been sinful, all the way back to St. Peter, who himself sinned by denying Jesus. It’s a hard thing to realize but every Christian who belongs to any kind of church belongs to a church of both saints and sinners, where the saints do amazing things and the sinners do horrible things. So one question this week might be: How do I stay in a church with sinful leaders? And perhaps more importantly: What role am I called to play in my church?

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Nancy D.
6 months 4 weeks ago

The question is, how can those who deny Christ’s teaching on sexual morality, and thus deny that God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Is The Author Of Love, Of Life, And Of Marriage, claim to be in communion with Christ And His One, Holy, Catholic, And Apostolic Church, when we can know through both our Catholic Faith and reason, “It is not possible to have Sacramental Communion Without Ecclesial Communion”, due to The Unity Of The Holy Ghost (Filioque)

Nancy D.
6 months 4 weeks ago

http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/motu_proprio/documents/hf_jp-ii_motu-proprio_30061998_ad-tuendam-fidem.html

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a8.htm

Every sin is a denial of Christ. It is one thing to be a sinner, to repent, serve one’s Penance, and be reconciled to Christ, it is something entirely different to deny that sin is sin, and thus deny Salvational Love, God’s Gift Of Grace and Mercy.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of The Holy Ghost?”
“Or know you not, that your members are The Temple Of The Holy Ghost, Who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? For you are brought with a Great Price. Glorify and bear God in your body.”

It is not possible to be “Glorifying God, and bearing God in your body”, while denying The Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception and The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

Al Cannistraro
6 months 4 weeks ago

In other words, don't think for yourself,don't think too much, go along to get along. Pretend.

Constance Averman
6 months 4 weeks ago

I agree that it is difficult to follow blindly and therefore remain blind to the revelation of God the Son, Jesus who knows God the Father and God the Holy Spirit and brings this understanding into the world through teaching, prayer and sacrifice. I pray that you will receive the gift of faith.

Robert Helfman
6 months 2 weeks ago

The Filioque is the theological proposition of the double procession of the Holy Spirit, from both the Father and the Son. In the Gospel of John the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father in the words of Jesus. The Roman church fathers decided that since all things belong to the son then the property of procession also belongs to the son, thus, "Who proceeds from the Father and the Son" in the Creed.
This had devastating consequences for the unity of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman churches, known as the Great Schism. This was the beginning of the breakdown of formal church unity which culminated in the Reformation. While the issues were different the principle remains the same: lack of fidelity to Scripture and Ecumenical Councils, the number of which varies depending on your view of orthodoxy.
No matter how you look at it a vision of the love of God that only includes your church and your limited view of that church betrays a lack of wisdom.
There. I think that is more civil and to the point.

Robert Helfman
6 months 2 weeks ago

This was posted 2x in error.

J Cosgrove
6 months 4 weeks ago

How do I stay in a church with sinful leaders?

It’s an easy question to answer why should anyone ever be a Catholic? It was taught to me and all my classmates in 16 years of Catholic education. So I suggest America, the magazines, provide concrete answers. it’s not hard. The reasons have been taught for centuries so do so again now. But you have to believe in certain things. The real problem is belief not sinful religious.

J Cosgrove
6 months 4 weeks ago

An interesting article from the NY Times on gay priests and the hardships they endure. http://bit.ly/2TXgiKQ

Tim Donovan
6 months 4 weeks ago

I know people of many different faiths, including my sister-in-law and niece whom I love who are Presbyterians, as well as several Jews and Muslims. I readily admit that I frequently sin despite my best efforts. I pray to the Holy Spirit each day for the gift of fortitude to remain strong in my faith and to be the best possible man I can be. I do go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation each month to receive forgiveness for my sins. I agree that all faiths have members who behave in both moral and immoral ways. As someone who has always been interested in history, I understand that throughout the centuries there have at times been some church leaders who have been particularly sinful. I try to keep in mind all the good that has been done by Catholics of different stations of life throughout history. Peter did deny Christ not once but three times. Jesus had told Peter during the "Last Supper" (Passover meal) that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed. However, after he heard the third rooster crow, Peter regretted his acts, "And he went outside and wept bitterly." (Matthew 26: 75). I believe that it's crucial to remember the words of Jesus, "...you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." ( Matthew 16:18). This is why I'm confident that despite even the most serious failings and sins of our church leaders, that Jesus will remain with the Church. We all face trials and tribulations, both as individuals and as a Church. However, God is merciful. We are bound to follow His laws, but when each one of us sins, we can and should avail ourselves of forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and make amends.

Constance Averman
6 months 4 weeks ago

Amen.

mary ann Steppke
6 months 4 weeks ago

Tim Donovan thank you I needed to hear those exact words .today.

Lisa M
6 months 4 weeks ago

No one is worried about 'sinful leaders', we are fed up with lying, deceitful, cowardly leaders who are living a double life, or covering up for those who are, in total opposition to our Church. Bye bye. We've had enough, and it's not us who will be leaving the Church, it is the 'leaders', who have sold their souls that will be leaving. Let's pray, with Pope Francis that this summit will begin the purging.

Constance Averman
6 months 4 weeks ago

Amen.

Al Cannistraro
6 months 4 weeks ago

Fr. Martin: The question you ask in the title of this piece, and which is at the heart of your reflective meditation, is too narrow. Rather than focusing on discrete sins and peccadilloes of individual clerics, it might be more relevant to focus on living lives of integrity and authenticity, and how practical or even possible it is to live such lives under the current rubrics of the Church. Not just with respect to chastity (under any sexual orientation), but more importantly with respect to doctrine and historical beliefs promulgated under the "authority of the magisterium."

I suspect that actual beliefs and lifestyles vary considerably from the conventional version in many or possibly even most cases. So it's more than just a "sin" here and there.

The upcoming book that shines a spotlight on the purported gay Vatican subculture will shine a spotlight on just one sensational example of what I am referring to. https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2019/02/16/new-book-claims-gay-subculture-flourishes-at-vatican/ Certainly, many of those priests and higher are living libertine lifestyles at total odds with their conventional images. It's more than just "sins."

The problem, as I see it, is a stunning lack of integrity in the RC church that runs so deep and is so widespread that it brings the idea of magisterium into question. Modern minds find it all harder and harder to swallow.

Nancy D.
6 months 4 weeks ago

Our Call to Holiness has always been a Call to be chaste in our thoughts, in our words, and in our deeds, which necessarily requires that we desire to overcome our disordered inclinations, whatever they may be, so that we are not led into temptation and sin, but become transformed through Salvational Love, God’s Gift Of Grace and Mercy.
Although we do not choose all our relationships, we do choose how we are going to behave in those relationships. Love, which is always rightly ordered to the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person, as a beloved son or daughter, is devoid of lust. Any act, including any sexual act, that does not reflect God’s Love for the inherent Dignity of the human person, is not and can never be, an act of authentic Life affirming and Life sustaining Love.

Constance Averman
6 months 4 weeks ago

Amen.

Annette Magjuka
6 months 4 weeks ago

In the late 60's, my brother and sister used to get up early every Sunday morning to play music for mass. The bishop in our parish could be rude and dismissive. Yet they kept on playing music (for free). Every time they came home with a story about how this bishop spoke rudely to someone, or failed to thank people, my mom would say the same thing: "You are not doing it for him, he is a flawed human being. You are doing it for HIM (and the mass-goers). My mom was big on the "priests are flawed human beings, we are not to judge them, we are to worry about our own souls" argument. One Sunday the bishop changed his procession in, and my flute-playing sister was "in his way." She tried to move, and made a very quiet nervous sound. Bishop stopped the mass, and said, in the mike so everyone could hear, "How dare you laugh on my alter! I never should have let females on my alter! Get out!!" Humiliated, she left. She never played for mass again. My mom's teaching stayed firm: Yes, this was bad, but it is the bishop's issue, not God's. My mom's teaching goes a long way to allow one to stay in a church with flawed leaders. Her Catholicism was: follow all the rules, worry about your own soul. Don't look left or right. Don't judge others. Worry about your own soul. This sex scandal is different. It is complex. It is way beyond the individual injustices that any Catholic has when we interact with hard and fast "thou shall nots" and flawed, uncompassionate priests, or overly-strict nuns. This crisis involves a rot that has festered for generations. It involves the willful harm and cover up of children and the most vulnerable. It involves the priests themselves and the stunning hypocrisy of the church to accept the gifts of gay priests on the one hand, and to terrorize them (with outing) on the other. A simple "I'm sorry" will not fix this. And asking Catholics to stick around for more obfuscation, glossing over, simplistic explanations, or silencing of victims (refusing to extend statutes of limitations, etc etc)--this makes each Catholic complicit. Is the church willing to sell off all its assets and pay for the needed care of survivors? I seriously doubt it.. In fact, there has been a shifting of assets to PROTECT the church from paying out: MORE HEINOUS SINS. Those Catholics who take our faith seriously do not understand how to move forward, when the church is so dead set on protecting assets instead of ministering to human beings they have hurt. Saying that there has always been sin is not enough for this scandal. Sorry, Mom. I wish you were alive to hear what you would say now. But I am so, so glad you are NOT here, because what is happening now would break your heart in a million pieces.

Constance Averman
6 months 4 weeks ago

I am sorry for your family's personal negative experience with a Priest or Bishop. I too, once had my parish Priest publicly ridicule and scorn me for being late for choir after the Mass had started. I toughed it out and remained in the choir and continued to go to Mass. I beg to differ in your conclusion, "And asking Catholics to stick around for more obfuscation, glossing over, simplistic explanations, or silencing of victims (refusing to extend statutes of limitations, etc etc)--this makes each Catholic complicit." The reason is that members of the Church do not make a choice to be involved in a crime or illegal or questionable act. We depend on our leadership to follow scriptural instruction on how to deal with repeat offenders. (Mt: 15-19) We ought to apply this in our personal relationships, including within our own family, in order to assert right from wrong in how to tell when outside help is required in correcting the criminal mind. The Pope has ordered transparency and Diocese all over the world are providing the names of criminals and how they have been removed from Holy Orders and laicized. What a shame. Now if we want to talk about complicity we can discuss the complicity of parents dealing with domestic violence who protect their evil sons from discipline by outside criminal authority which would remove these sociopaths from their families and would protect the other children in the family.

Mister Mckee
6 months 4 weeks ago

"Still, our leaders have always been sinful, all the way back to St. Peter, who himself sinned by denying Jesus. "

BIG difference, Fr. Martin between lying to save one's skin as Peter did, and covering up/protecting/enabling clergy who raped children!!!

Constance Averman
6 months 4 weeks ago

With all due respect the BIG difference is not in the sin but in repentance for sin. Compare Peter to Judas Iscariot. Peter lied, abandoned the divine Son of God Jesus and then mourned and repented his sin of denial (brought on by threat of death). Judas Iscariot betrayed the divine Son of God, Jesus (brought on by greed) and then ranted and raged against Got the Father about money matters and Jesus' divinity before he despaired and killed himself. Judas did not seek God's forgiveness, he refused God's forgiveness and Peter did not. The criminal Priests who confess their crimes, repent, accept God's forgiveness and reform their lives are still going to have to face the outside secular criminal system's justice as well as be laicized or removed from public service to our community by our Church leadership. This is happening right now as we speak on this forum. Pope Francis is demanding a purge of all criminals in our religious community and we are to pray for this purification of and reconsecration of our religious to God.

Lisa M
6 months 4 weeks ago

This article is another example of 'just not getting it" . I pray to God for a miracle this week, that somehow, those whom have been entrusted with teaching our faith can somehow open their hearts and recognize the suffering they have caused by their actions and inactions, and turn over a new leaf, or have the decency to leave. I would be in full support of offering a program that helps facilitate a transition from priesthood to ordinary citizen, whereby they have financial assistance until they can get on their feet, but with that, those who choose not to own it, and continue to live a life of lies and deception, when found, are out and on their own.

Constance Averman
6 months 4 weeks ago

I stay in my Catholic Church for a sense of belonging to the faith community established by God the Son, Jesus. I live an enlightened life due to the profound revelation of God the Father's love for me, a woman living in a man's world. I had the most wonderful life as a child up to the age of 11, simple, easy, beloved by my family and Church. I was surrounded by love. I had a terrible experience throughout my teenage years dealing with sexual domestic violence. It brought my safe, loving and protected life crashing down around my ears. Some could describe me as having survived by the skin of my teeth. The older I get the less I need to answer the question 'why' of it all and replace this with a confident 'why not?'. In Confirmation training we are told to go boldly through life as warriors for Christ. I fought ferociously for the right to be a Christian throughout those teenage years and several times since for other violent situations in my adult life. Now the sex scandal comes to light when I am a senior citizen of the U. S. The world does not accept Christianity. Period! As Christians we must remain strong in our confidence in the divine Son of God's promise of truth, trust and love. When we are attacked by outsiders or from within the challenge remain the same to completely rely on God the Father to send God the Holy Spirit to intercede for us, expose the evil that corrupts our nature and protects our faith from diabolical destruction. We see that pro-choice Catholics are being consumed by this diabolical destruction in their denial of God the Father. We must understand what being a warrior for the sweet, divine Son of Mary means as we are called to pray and take action commensurate with our vocational station in life. When in doubt, pray. When in need, ask and seek counsel. When frightened, call on the name of Jesus. Jesus tells us to go in Peace! Say, Amen.

Rick Bauer
6 months 4 weeks ago

Father Martin, before God and Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, you need to repent from false teaching on the subject of homosexuality. I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ, as a fellow Catholic cleric, to repent. If you would like to meet and study the biblical witness on this matter, I will meet you anywhere, anytime, and study it out. If I am wrong, I will repent.

Some 80% of the church's problems are due to violations of vows of chastity and to homosexual activity on the part of clergy. You are giving aid and comfort to their activities.

Deacon Richard Bauer

James M.
6 months 4 weeks ago

Sinful leaders are not an intolerable problem.

Leaders
who are supposedly priests of Jesus Christ
who offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice
“in the Person of Christ the Head”
who are ordained to the office of bishop
in order to teach, rule, and sanctify the Faithful committed to their pastoral care
within a Church
that claims to be One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic
that claims to be the Immaculate Bride of Christ

and who nonetheless
do not protect the Faithful
but have done and beeen all the heinous, criminal, inhumane, anti-Christian things that Catholic bishops have been in recent years:
these men are orders of magnitude worse than mere amoral secular politicians, because they have presided over, neglected to punish, or even committed unconscionable crimes against the very people it was their sacred duty to protect.

The evil of clerical paedophilia was known to the US bishops 70 years ago; Paul VI was informed of it. So neither the Popes nor the US bishops can truthfully plead ignorance of these crimes.

The bishops have comprehensively destroyed their authority. They look more like the commandants of Nazi concentration camps than like successors of the Apostles. It is morally impossible to take seriously the ridiculous and nightmarish notion that men like that are qualified to be pastors of Christ’s flock. It is not remotely good enough to say - truly enough - that all of us are sinners. The point is, not that bishops, like the rest of us, are sinners, but, that their behaviour makes their claim to authority, and the religious claims that are the source of that claim, unworthy of belief.

Is one Judas Iscariot not enough ? St Peter wept for denying Christ three times - have they ? I see no sign of repentance - only of being sorry to have been found out. Sorrow that one has been found out, is not repentance. Why does that even need saying ?

Dr.Cajetan Coelho
6 months 3 weeks ago

Leaders and followers - are all human, fragile and mortal. We need to pray for the well being and good health of all these fellow mortals on journey to our cherished destination.

Robert Helfman
6 months 3 weeks ago

If you want a church without sinful leaders none exists. It is the degree of malfeasance that has brought people to tears or fits of rage as well as more moderate responses.
There are some good articles online recently including one on how Gospel music helped clarify the author's Catholic identity.
As long as there are people who can write like this there is hope for the future of the church in spite of the many challenges and obstacles she so deservedly must face.

Nicholas Clifford
6 months 3 weeks ago

I usually agree with Fr. Martin, but this time I’m disappointed. We’re talking about two very different kinds of sin here. Peter’s in a crowded, packed (in every sense of the word) hostile courtroom where even the slightest indication that he even approves of Jesus is enough to put him in mortal danger. We can understand his human weakness, we can even condemn it if we wish to be self-righteous, but first we must ask ourselves how we would have behaved. (I know what my answer is, and I’m not proud of it).

Entirely different, however, is the case of church leaders who cover up sin, or look the other way and pretend not to know when others (particularly children) are being victimized, is sheer hypocrisy, a much less attractive human trait. Peter, whatever his other faults may have been, does not seem to have been a hypocrite. But many others — popes, bishops, etc. etc., have been. And how much license should we give to hypocrites who pretend to teach by word, by example, the truths of Christianity?

I suspect that many who manage to remain Catholic do so in spite of, not because of, the quality of the leadership. I m afraid our leaders all talk as if Christian teaching and Catholic teaching are somehow separate. But if the two ever seem to conflict, as in covering up clerical sins against children, guess which side carries the day.

Robert Helfman
6 months 2 weeks ago

Self-deleted.

Robert Helfman
6 months 2 weeks ago

Silencio.

Robert Helfman
6 months 2 weeks ago

Silencio.

Robert Helfman
6 months 2 weeks ago

This is funny. I posted it once and here it is three times. Rather than edit these out blame it on the computer I am using in the public library, away from home. God bless us all, everyone.

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